THE GOLDFISH VARIATIONS
No one to date has correlated the issue of architecture’s inherently political unconscious in a way that connects to matters of perception, virtuality, or sites created by folk ritual, religion, the arts, or popular culture — sites that, on account of their liminality and relation to the uncanny, have resisted theoretical description. The allegory of the atlas as a compendium of human knowledge is well known. Where the ideological function of knowledge corresponds to the atlas’s “zenithal authority,” the phenomena that are invisible to that authority call for an “orthogonally” shift to a “horizontal” viewpoint able to access phenomena that resist ideology. In the terminology of Mladen Dolar, the ideological subject is succeeded by the “psychoanalytical subject.” This essay shows how this subject can be defined cartographically and analogically, combining themes of the uncanny, liminality, the political, and the unconscious within a single notational system.
The expression “reversed predication” is not common. It is used in the field of symbolic logic to define complex conditions of negation. There are two key places where reversed predication, under a different, more general application, plays a key role: (1) George Spencer-Brown’s non-numerical calculus (Laws of Form, 1969), as applied to the “sorites” of Lewis Carroll, and (2) Slavoj Žižek’s idea of Jacques Lacan’s “master signifier,” as a reversal of the roles of cause and effect. Eventually, the logics of these two applications blend. This short essay aims to show how that might happen. [Advisory: this is rough going.]
THE SLOW ARCHITECTURE OF RUINS
The style of inquiry that begins by asking what relation architecture has with some other topic or medium has already left out an important question, a “first question,” whose absence allows, and in a sense is necessary for, the emergence of a second question. One such second question is: “What is the relationship between architecture and film?” The standard procedure would involve showing how architecture is an important part of film history, construction, and reception; and/or how film has influenced architectural design, use, and perception. These are all interesting issues and, as history has shown, proof that the second question’s method promises, for the academic theorist or historian, a near- infinite range of research opportunities. Add geographical and time-period differences to the basic second question and you have a vast, uncluttered research terra incognita where no explorer is likely to step on some other explorer’s toes. The cost of travel in this domain is, however, the loss of the original structures by means of which one modality had been implicitly contained, in some form, within another (e.g. cinema contained within architecture, "AC"); or how the container-contained relationship could be reversed, even at the cost of apparent historical anachronism.
ASKESIS AS INVESTIGATION
Askesis is about “sense of place” in ways that place is deployed within narrative and pictorial contexts. The Lacanian correlation is the figure of hysteria. The subject, who possesses knowledge without knowing it, has lost a valuable object but in fact self-concealed it (the plot-line of the reputed first mystery novel, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone). Knowledge is cast in the form of a journey that distinguishes itself from utilitarian (projective, “zenithal”) movement by “integrating the goal into the aim” (horizontal travel), converting geography into an intentional symbolic system (kenosis). Sense of place “opens up” a space, which is to say it “dimensionalizes” (or re-dimensionalizes) a given space to realize an optional path identified with this kenosis and the recovery of the lost object, a remainder/surplus. Objects within the field defined by hysteria convert to “partial objects,” hybrids that are either subjectively objective or objectively subjective. They may be (1) objects “killed” by a positivistic drive to objectivity that nonetheless retain an enigmatic subjective remainder or (2) subjects “automated” to a fated end by a hidden remainder, a curse or drive. [Advisory: this is a short work-sheet employing diagrams of Lacanian discourse.]
Slavoj Žižek has proposed (Tarrying with the Negative, 274) regarding the four Lacanian forms of discourse as characters encountered in a single work of art. The dramatic relations between the characters thus allow for stages of dramatic development that, correlated to the relations connecting the discourses, reveal a new level of discursive experience. The new values required by organizing the discourses themselves as a series (master, hysteric, university, analysis) — authenticity and consistency — play out as the discourses “rotate” 360º. The dynamic between the inconsistent, inauthentic Master-as-discourse and the inconsistent but authentic Hysteric is, for example, one of authentication. Whether this authentication is successful or failed or in itself inauthentic is an open matter. The Hysteric “obverts” to the symmetrically opposite condition of the University: both inconsistent and inauthentic, as if the Master’s bad faith had been carried forward. The final turn of the screw is the revenge of truth, in the form of Analysis, on the false positions of the Master. The Master’s inauthenticity and inconsistency are dissolved by the authenticity and consistency of Analysis. It is as if the system of discourse itself is an example of the famous Lacanian “gapped circle,” with the square-wave result that the gap is either comedic or tragic, a “retroaction” that fuels the previous stages with a negative presence (i.e. a metonymical “absence” resonating at a distance), a distant tune in the head of those who will bring the work to completion, just as Richard Hannay in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps remembers a dance-hall tune that draws him into a final confrontation with “Mr. Memory.” Another Hitchcock film, Vertigo (1958), is used as a confirming example. [Advisory: this is also a sheet of diagrams.]