what lacan said re: architecture

st louis empty frame

‘Architecture… like painting… is organised around emptiness.’

Jacques Lacan, Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960 (New York, Norton, 1992) pp135-36 (condensed).                                                                                                                                                                                Lorens Holm, photograph of downtown St. Louis, 1990.

Emptiness = when the motel says ‘no vacancies’.

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3 thoughts on “what lacan said re: architecture

  1. Preface.

    I am trying to carefully go line by line and did not get beyond page two.

    The preface begins with a binary, architecture/objective: psyche/subjective, as well as an invitation to ‘enter.’ Enter into a practice, but enter also implies a spatial engagement, which I argue is implicit within architecture and psychoanalysis, both produce space and are produced by a particular spatial arrangement, but yes, ‘entering’ is a good place to begin.

    The starting premise is Lacan and the proposition that ‘architecture, like painting..is organised around emptiness.’ Emptiness, loss, absence are bracketed in the same set. In entering this space we encounter the field of Lacanian desire. (There is an article but I cannot remember the name, which takes issue with equivalence between emptiness, loss, absence. Also Deleuze challenges the assumption that lack = desire. But let us not get distracted by this and get to the argument).

    I am not sure about the movement from ‘architecture, like painting..is organised around emptiness’ to the assumptions that ‘space is linked to the visual image’ but I do like the proposition upholding this is “I am photo-graphed.” I like this proposition a great deal – photo-graphed, like blog-graphed, mobile-phone-graphed, internet-graphed, like techno-graphed. Yet this is not the direction Lorens is pushing/pulling us back into the Lacans visual field.

    “The subject in the visible is itself an effect of the visual field. The visual field is not simply the view of the viewer, his/her spatial experience. It includes, paradoxically, the spatial experience of others”

    From here Lorens introduces the field of the Other elaborated by the observation that Lacan devotes a great of thought to the question of how we see, perception, and the consequences this has for understanding. The visual field is linked to the Freudian drive.

    This implies an optical model as a way of structuring the psyche. A ‘returning’ to the Freudian method includes an engagement with the optical metaphors existing in Freud.

    Field of Other (as visual) / drive. I am interested to see the development of this?

    Field of language – unconscious structured like language in the structural Lacan, moves into ‘anti-oedipal’ field, the names of the father, in which papa Joyce makes a ‘litter of the letter’ (to quote R Klien). A very different kind of language comes into being, a writing, a kind of bla blah. What happens to the visual field in the late Lacan (the unconscious as drive, Joussance), this takes precedence over a symbolic ordering.

    The method of the text is introduced, we will compare different optic schemes, starting with Brunelleschi and Lacan.

    The act of viewing involves a specific kind of framing and screening.

    The spatial arrangements of the elements, frame, need to be understood. The one Lorens points to are the visual relationship between viewer and Baptistery. I do not know what Baptistery is. Ok, looked it up, the part of a church used for baptism, a building next to a church, used for baptism.

    This frame, spatial arrangement, using one kind of Lacanian interpretation, is a linking of baptism, building next to the church to the process of viewing. It is a rite of passage, initiation into the Name of the Father, hmm?

    The spatial arrangement between viewer and Baptistery orders perspective.

    The subject functions as the screen upon which the image is projected.

    The screen is triangulated between a focal point of representation and an absent object of desire, more a position than an object. That is what subjectivity is, a distributed array of screen and positions, a modernist planlibre.

    Wow, Lorens is moving through the argument quickly at this point, or maybe I am slowing down in my understanding. Let me retrace what I have understood.

    1. The act of viewing involves a specific kind of framing and screening. I like this.
    2. The spatial arrangements of the elements, frame, need to be understood. Yes.
    3. The visual relationship between viewer and object viewed are privileged. Ok, fine, Foucault would be interested in the discourses framing the object allowing for the object to surface, but that is another method or different application of this method.
    4. The subject functions as the screen upon which the image is projected. Bit of a jump here from the previous point. From viewer and objected viewed we now have the concept of subject and a particular way the subject operates, as a screen upon which the object/image is projected. So the assumption is the viewer is the subject but if we are photo-graphed, then it is more complicated. I like the assumption that subject functions as the screen upon which the image is projected but would like to question how Lorens uses the concept of subject here in relation to the viewer and object viewed. I would be inclined to see subject as including both subject/object. It links with the argument above that the spatial experience of others” “The subject in the visible is itself an effect of the visual field. The visual field is not simply the view of the viewer, his/her spatial experience. It includes, paradoxically, the spatial experience of others” My emphasis would be on the object viewed as a technology effect on the viewer, less as an effect of effect of been structured by the field of the Other.
    5. The screen is triangulated between a focal point of representation and an absent object of desire, more a position than an object. I think I see what Lorens is trying to do, he is trying to impose, use, Lacan’s triangle symbolic, imaginary and real. This is introduced a) point of representation b) absent object c) position of the object. But let stick to the terms used. A) Firstly, it is to emphasis, the point at which representation happens. Point = trait, trace? That re-represents a present. B). Secondly, absent object, fading of the object due to any representation only ever been an imitation of the thing. Kant. C)
    6. That is what subjectivity is, a distributed array of screen and positions, a modernist planlibre.

    So we have moved from Brunelleschi to the modernist plane. We are told Lacan did not use the word plane but he “uses it as a thinking machine for thinking through problems of subjectivity. Similarly, we assume Brunelleschi apparatus was a machine for working through problems of space.”
    I was taken aback by the introduction of the term apparatus and especially the term machine and was left wondering if Lacan ever used this term? If yes, would like to know the reference. Does Lorens want to reference Deleuze? Similarly does the plane reference the names of the plateaus.
    Let me pause here, a mid point in the preface. I need to go to my spin class and thereafter grapple with trying (failing probably) to place this on the blog. I shall also see if I can invite you to the blog.

    • Dear Eric,

      Just a quick historical note, a note about the history of this book. About the Baptistery. Many years ago, I noted that the diagram that one could draw of the mirror stage (1940ish), and the diagram that Lacan published of desire in the visual field (1964), is almost identical to the diagram that one could draw of Brunelleschi’s invention of perspective (1420ish): showing the relationships of viewer, object, and picture. The book is an extended attempt to explain this extraordinary convergence between post-war theories of subjectivity and the renaissance understanding of what is still today regarded by architecture as the spatial canon. So… the Baptistery: Brunelleschi’s first picture, his first view, was a view of the Florence Baptistery from the portal of the Florence Cathedral. This is the primal scene of architectural space, and if you want to know what spatial subjectivity is, or at least how the spatial art of architecture treats the subject, so I reasoned, you have to go back to the scene of the crime. The Baptistery is in a sense just a circumstance, Brunelleschi could have done his first picture elsewhere, but every circumstance has meaning for the subject.

      Hope this helps,

      Lorens

  2. For Eric or whomsoever thinks it with you, in your last paragraph in your blog no. 1 that the term ‘plane’ does not appear in Lacan’s teaching. Try p. 273, S11, Eng. Ed: the crossing of the plane of identification. Would this term not indicate that a topology is being associated with the concept identification?

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