Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Multiple Symptoms and the Visible Real: Culture, Media, and the Displacements of Vision by Sudeep Dasgupta

The mass-mediated fascination with traumatic events, the proliferation of images of disaster and horror, and the shifting relationship between the subject and the object of the eye in contemporary visual culture form the locus of this essay’s investigation of the symptom. Symptom-formation, as Freud points out, can have a crucial visual function in that the zone in which the initial cause excites the body is displaced onto another zone of the body – “the formation of the symptoms takes place in regions of the mental apparatus which are more remote from the particular centres concerned with somatic control.” He goes on, a few lines later, to note, “in scopophilia and exhibitionism, the eye corresponds to the erotogenic zone”. Ocularcentrism becomes the obsessional repetition and the substitute satisfaction of this displaced zone of the eye from its original site of disturbance; opticality is reconfigured in its excessive function through visual plenitude. This displacement will be analysed in the media coverage of natural disasters. Both the media’s active solicitation of “raw witness footage” and the modalities of the scopophilic drive to view death and destruction function as the “mechanisms of symptom formation” through which the Real emerges as the excessively visual cause. These two dimensions – the active solicitation of scopophilia by visual culture’s fascination with disaster and the displaced functioning of the eye in the viewing subject – will be analysed in their contemporary historical formation. more...


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