Desire: Pathology and Gaze Author:Lu Mingjun Date: 2011-12-01 Size:
The most appropriate way to discuss the birth, growth and internality of ‘desire’ is undoubtedly through art.

The most appropriate way to discuss the birth, growth and internality of ‘desire’ is undoubtedly through art.

The complexity and uncertainty of desire itself determines that we can never endow it with a relatively stable definition, which, however, does not prevent us from perceiving, realizing, prying or probably understanding ‘desire’.

Actually, ‘desire’ is about the experiment of man. It does not merely refer to the physical perception or physiological drive, nor can it avoid history or knowledge, particularly the reflection of the real social, cultural and political situations. Therefore, the ‘desire’ here does not mean the physical or physiological lust and needs in a narrow sense, but psychological and cultural perception in a broad sense.

The understanding of desire from the natural physical urge to the socio-cultural psychological realization forms ‘spirit’ as what we usually call it. Though not equal to ‘spirit’, ‘desire’ has something to do with it. Generally speaking, ‘desire’ is pessimistic, and ‘spirit’, optimistic. But in real life, we can hardly distinguish between the two. Most of the time, they share the same basis in both physics and ideas. In spite of occasional displacement, these two definitely do not contrast with each other; they could even be regarded as ‘neutral’ here. Only from this perspective can we really carry out the experiments and exploration of it. Otherwise, we might survey it with a pair of political, cultural and ethical colored glasses; let alone examine it in a relatively objective aspect.

‘Desire’ or ‘spirit’ in the physical sense, has something to do with brain science, neurology and psychoanalysis (philosophy), which belongs to the logic of modern western science. But in Chinese traditions, it puts more emphasis on the consideration of ‘heart’ or ‘man’s heart’. “Mind dominates character and sentiment” of the Neo-Confucianism in the Song and Ming Dynasties means exactly the same. It is right in this sense that the differences and displacement between ‘desire’ and ‘spirit’ become more obscure. Thus, the experiment of the birth and growth of ‘desire’ is not only a physiological experiment and analysis, but also the exploration of the innate absurdity and possible tension of the ‘heart’ or ‘man’s heart’, which serves as a spiritual approach from the discussion of the birth, configuration and functional expansion (such as reform, dissolving and sublimation) of ‘desire’, to the reflection of the ‘mutation’ (such as temptation, hatred, delightful sensation, anxiety, depression, fear and loss, etc. ) as well as its social, cultural, political structure and historical roots. It is in the sense of ‘heart’ and ‘man’s heart’ that ‘desirability’ and ‘non-desirability’ bear more than a kind of pathological concepts in the aspect of modern science, but cultural, historical and ethnical discourse just as the following picture shows:

The diagram above includes the revelation and implication of the reality as the basic train of thought of the research plan on ‘Desire—Pathology and Gaze’.

If ‘desire’ were autogenetic and spontaneous, then, the cleaning and understanding of ‘desire’ itself in psycho exploration (or psychoanalysis) serve as the denunciation and suppression of it. This behavior implies the explanation of ‘desire’: nature or disease? Nevertheless, whatever the result might be, it reveals itself that psycho exploration itself is not ‘neutral’ (though ‘spirit’ embodies ‘neutral’ to a certain extent). Even if ‘desire’ contains complicated social cultural elements, ‘psycho exploration’ stands unavoidable. But on the other hand, the value orientation of exploration moves ‘desire’ from one ‘cage’ to another, which is to say that finally ‘desire’ and ‘psycho exploration (medical treatment included)’ build a ‘prison’ for themselves. That is why Gilles Deleuze questions ‘psychoanalysis’.

We must not flinch from the assertion that the liberation of ‘desire’ concerns the liberation of man, or ‘man’s heart’. Of course, its liberation cares about the cognition of ‘man’ and ‘man’s heart’ instead of endowing the natural function of ‘desire’ with a justifiable basis, or paying attention to the original and empty survival state. But ‘man’s heart’ can be understood and explained. Therefore, the experiment of ‘desire’ aims not only to liberate it, but more importantly it aims to realize ‘man’s heart’.

Modern art unfolds a new possibility for the experiment of ‘desire’, and also sets up an open channel for the realization of ‘man’ and ‘man’s heart’. Here, gaze or watch obviously seem to possess the function of ‘psycho exploration (psychoanalysis)’. To be different, psychoanalysis starts from pathology while modern art in its gaze and watching emphasizes the liberation of ‘psycho exploration’ from the perspective of pathology (or medical treatment) and its control, which re-constructs gaze and the politics of gaze. Thus, the transfer of subject underneath liberation lies in the re-construction of the subject and its nature or heart rather than the dispersal of it, which follows how to bring the physical ‘desire’ back to the ‘heart’ of the subject.

Of course, art or its watching and gaze is a part of the birth of ‘desire’. That gaze or watch intervenes into the core of ‘desire’ manages to re-acknowledge the justification of ‘desire’ itself and endow it with open space or natural ways, not aims to disintegrate or denounce it. Moreover, the experiment of ‘desire’ of gaze functions as the production of a watch mechanism as well as the birth of a new politics of discourse. Beside, gaze and the parallelism, displacement and tension of the psychoanalysis tells us the complexity and uncertainty of ‘desire’ itself, which is also the difference between the ‘desire’ of gaze and the ‘desire’ of the psychoanalysis.

Different from the psychoanalysis, gaze or watch does not belong to the medical treatment, which doesn’t mean that it has no medical functions; it then reflects that modern art possesses the nature of intervention, continuity, variation and construction. This experiment in turn discusses how modern art goes beyond the boundary. It is thus clear that this would hinder the creation of the artists, but actually on the contrary, artists are free to bring their works into play in opener experimental space.

I believe, the illustration above forms my reason and drive to plot the research plan of ‘Desire—Pathology and Gaze’.

Finally, to say more than is needed, this plan never aims to expose the physiological awareness and physical perception of the artists in the course of creation. On the contrary, it attempts to liberate ‘desire’ from this superficial, shallow and narrow understanding as well as realization, to ‘desire’ itself, which, as an open concept, refers not only to the physical aspect, but also psychological, social, political, ethnical, historical and cultural aspects, etc. This signifies that ‘speaking of desire is regarded as indecent’ in our daily life’ is not due to the problem of ‘desire’, but to our problem in the cognition of it. Therefore, this research plan emphasizes the deep thinking and introspection of desire and its psychosocial, cultural and political meanings rather than the physiological awareness or simple enlargement. So, the so-called ‘pathology’ here doesn’t serve as the moral judgment and psychotherapy, but the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of it, and the approach to new awareness and introspection through experiment and cognition.

Those different discourse, perspectives and views exposed by the research plan have already composed various kinds of watching ways and gaze logic. This could be regarded as the experiment and discussion of the language of art, rather than the thinking and introspection of ‘Desire—Pathology’, which is not only the focus of this research plan, but also an angle of the experiment of discourse.

[Editor] 马西