Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
9 Surface Encounters: On Being Centred, Decentred and Recentred by the Works of Do-Ho Suh
If criticism can be defined as providing a commentary (for some a judgement, for others a discriminating point of view, for others yet, a response or perhaps even a point of departure) on a cultural work – art, literature, film and architecture – then criticism always has ‘an other’ in mind. The key task of criticism might be considered then as providing an answer to the question: how does one make a relationship with another? In thinking about the position of the other in criticism and psychoanalysis, the work of psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche is illuminating.
For Laplanche, the message imparted to the subject by the other (for Laplanche the ‘mother’ or ‘concrete other’) is an enigma both to the receiver but also to the sender of the message: he says these ‘messages are enigmatic because […] [they] are strange to themselves.’2 This first inscription, according to Laplanche, does not require a translation ‘it is a pure and simple ← 185 | 186 → implantation’.3 These enigmatic messages are elements of perception, they do ‘make a sign’, but a sign whose signifier does not need to be transcribed, since it is already a ‘signifier to’, in other words this is a signifier to someone rather than a signifier of something.4
In Laplanche’s view, some aspects of the adult’s enigmatic message to the child are translated, while others are excluded and repressed, becoming unconscious.5 In his account, repression – the negative side of the translation of the enigmatic message – produces dislocation:6...
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