THE MIRROR, THE MATRIX, THE OCULEIE
mirrors & media
the imaginary : what exists beyond the mirror.
This includes production, labor, value, everything through which an objective world emerges and through which man recognizes himself objectively. A subject is deciphering himself through her works, finalized by his shadow, reflected by this operation mirror. This is the construction of a productivist ego.
The index (particularly the photographic index) was important for early Surrealists in forming a representation of their relationship with the mirror, because photography was an indexical account of the mirror stage (trapped light). This fixation with the mirror theoretically took us away from object-love and keeps us trapped in ego-love (as exemplified in Vito Acconci’s Airtime discussed by Krauss). But ego-libido is the first stage of psychosexual development so that object-love may occur- so essentially if someone can’t develop the ego-libido necessary to care for themselves and present themselves well, they cannot enter into the network of relations that is object-love. Successfully achieving ego libido within the abstracted space of the internet, ie, being able to self-present as an artist and showcase oneself, is important if you want to transcend your geospecific location and into a larger, globalized network of social and artistic exchange. The hazard of narcissism is becoming fixated upon the surface of the mirror rather than passing through it.
In the media matrix
In the corporate marketer’s office cubicle or the SEO content developer’s writing desk, the body decays, while the mind and spirit are redistributed into the realm of exchange, transmuted, commoditized, ossified, and archived. Really the only ontological pathways out of this confinement are through wires and through the oculeie.
Is it in human nature to truly be social animals? Do we actually like spending time with other people without a cushioning, protective, critical distance? In most urban environments, the matrix is fully operational, and we delight in the visual pleasures it offers.Take for example, cafes. We purposely join together in the social space of a cafe in order to be around people, separating ourselves into individual tables where we can work quietly, while simultaneously being irritated by anyone that knocks into our table or sneezes in the vicinity. The wonderfulness of the cafe is about seeing other people and being seen in the face, which is a source of both pleasure and shame. Your life becomes meaningful to them, and their’s to you. If you haven’t cut your toenails for three weeks and show up in Birkenstocks, you get the twangs of shame that force you to cut your toenails and be less of a schlepp-o next time. The opticon of the cafe is beneficial!
Sight is the pleasure sense, at least for me. More pleasurable than touch even- maybe. Certainly more pleasurable than hearing, which is often psychically grating, and smell, which is almost unilaterally gross, regardless of what it is. Anchovy stew stock, wet socks, cooking beans, all disgusting. I wonder if sight is more delightful because it has a distanced, intellectual pleasurability- without the occassionally grating qualities of intimacy. However, if it’s pleasurable affection that creates no meaning, it’s probably not really love.
Freud’s theory of sexual development
auto-eroticism -> narcissism -> object love
This was the idea that a person moves from narcissism, or self-love, to love of another. The Imaginary closes the distance between self and other, according to some. Language, touching, and art also close the distance between self and other. The child comes into a world of linguistic conventions that they have no role in shaping. Their sense of history only comes with the full acquisition of language.
Do we bypass language entirely through aesthetic representation of ideas?
Artists enter the pre-existing matrix of painting language
Film photography as an index of light [ Krauss, Rosalind E. The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985.] isolates a moment within a succession of temporality. Captioning photograph signals a disruption in the autonomy of a sign. The difference between art critic and art historian- one deals with the present, the other deals with the past. Fauvists unchained color from its natural resting place, objects. They departed from replicating an object, to making its ontology felt. Poetry unchains music, sound, and meaning- to give them the freedom to make life felt instead of explained. This process replicates the origin of language, of understanding something’s ontology and creating a sonic sign to indicate it in a form that mirrors the content of its speech. In a way, some (in particular sonic) poetry can be identified as a regression of language by pre-existing standards or qualitative metrics (such as SEO ‘crawlers’, or grammar software, which can’t differentiate quality poetry from ‘bad content’), despite being progressive in their innovations of form and meaning.
Passing through the oculeie, passing through the mirror
Being able to see through the lens of our own eyes, look past the materiality of objects, of screens, of language- to use language not just to talk, but to express the life of the spirit- these are basic, essential aspects of human exchange.
THROUGH THE MIRROR AND BACK AGAIN:
OMNIVISION & NARCISSISM
Krauss describes the medium of video as narcissistic and regressive- a return to the mirror stage. I feel that the psychological phenomenon of video, or of personal media, is not in the recognition of self in the mirror (narcissism) so much as the reflection of the network’s recognition of self. It’s the effect of seeing oneself reflected within the network. It’s looking through the silver on the back of the glass and seeing the original you with new eyes. Whose eyes are the original eyes? How far can the transmission go? You can see them seeing you, but can you see them seeing you see them seeing you? Can you see them seeing you seeing them seeing you seeing them seeing you seeing them seeing you seeing them seeing you?
We are looking through our own eye into the pool of collective consciousness, and seeing ourselves literally reified within it. There is pleasure in the reification. There is simultaneous mortification and exultation at entering the collective. One’s own posts appear in the public feed, and we become Stars of the News. Is this really ‘narcissism’, a 1-1 relationship with the self? I see it more as a 1-infinity relationship with the world, and vice versa. Is this narcissism or is it more like, infinicissism… omnicissism… isisicissiccissm…
Self-as-image is primary alienation. Narcissism had an origin in materials (silver-backed glass), because the eye can’t see itself without media or another, but those materials exacerbate a pre-existing psychic condition. Eyes don’t make a person a voyeur, the psychic condition of voyeurism does. Likewise, manifesting a reflection of yourself does not manifest narcissism, but the psychic condition of becoming transfixed by the image of yourself does.
‘Most people think of subject-matter as what Meyer Schapiro has called object-matter, ie that people confuse what a painting is about with what is in the painting’. -Barnett Newman (unknown origin of quote)
Materials have the capacity to hold the self. Trying to have real conversations in the space of the internet is very interesting, because most platforms don’t manifest depth. The fear of public humiliation and the lack of space to articulate large numbers of words prevents people from engaging deeply on social platforms. Perhaps because these media aren’t tools of narcissism like a mirror would be, they are a megaphone with which you can shout into a public echo chamber. I do feel some people are less capable than others of moving beyond ego-libido into object libido, but that’s not unique to the realm of the internet.
I also feel that our need for affirmation is too great, and it cripples our ability to speak truth. You come to a paradox where the need for social affirmation manifests an inability to relate on a truthful and direct basis. We flutter at the surface, pleasing and agreeing in lockstep with the flux of cultural trends. Even slang (“on fleek”, “big mood”, etc., onset so rapidly that individuals leap to use the phrases at the instance of their coming into usage, to indicate their status of belonging and their cultural normalcy. The nature of this problem is that it exacerbates itself by affirming boring and robot-like behavior, and not facilitating complex linguistic functions, individuality, original thought, and depth of meaning.
Social performance within the glass labyrinth of social media.
Some people question whether or not corporations profiting off of our social relations by our performance of friendship on social media is a harmful phenomena. On the other hand, Mies Van der Roe once described the glass house of modernism as a moral awakening that our society well needed. We all live in a glass labyrinth now, and the labyrinths are all owned by corporations that oversee our interactions and preferences. Advertisements blink and flash. The library is buried in a weird, crusty hallway down a forgotten wing, and it requires a password. The password costs 200,000 dollars. Bikini babes parade around a pool; the beach club sells candy-colored sedatives. Your matrix of desires is highly designed.
Social media is an omnidirectional visual matrix
In a theoretical situation, there is a female voyeur in a m-f-f menage a trois, who interrelates themselves in the dual exchange through the empathetic / vicarious experience of both participants’ mannerisms, pleasure, neuroticism, shame, projection of self. The voyeur is defining who they are sexually by difference between themselves and the other woman. For example, if one man asks both women to perform a sexual act, the other watches casually, with critical distance. She apprehends herself by who she isn’t, and also sees herself through the eyes of the man who apprehends both women. This is not wildly different from the psychological processes that unfold on a daily basis within the visual matrix of urban life, or on social media- even in such quotidian activities as reading in a public space, riding the train, or purchasing a cup of coffee.