Archive for December, 2010

The Mirror Stage

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 by pauljohnwhite



The Mirror Stage

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 by pauljohnwhite

Jacques Lacan’s paper of 1968 ‘reflects’ upon the process of self-perception. Lacan’s argument is underpinned by the idea that the literal act of reflection is formative of the ego. Merleau-Ponty’s idea that consciousness is confirmed by reflection – ‘seeing itself seeing itself’ – Lacan instead stressed the fact that my first recognition of myself in the mirror is in fact a willed misrecognition, or meconnaissance: I am seduced by identification with the external impression of myself as a coherent, autonymous totality – when in fact I am fragmentary and incomplete. The reflection in the mirror does not confirm the certainty of our self-identity; instead, the reflections destablise the ego’s fragile veneer. It is unpleasant, even disturbing to see the reflection of a reflection of myself, and stare into eyes that are certainly not anybody else’s, but which do not feel commensurate with ‘me’.

Alistair Maclennan

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 by pauljohnwhite

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While some fellow contemporaries believed that art should pursue ideals of beauty and exclude the ugliness of civil war, Maclennan felt his work could not avoid such horrors. He was compelled to refer to everything he experienced and commenced a series of inter-relating actions about art and daily life that would communicate directly to fellow citizens. 

On a day in August 1977 MacLennan dressed himself in black for work as usual, hung a dartboard round his neck, and veiling his head and body with polythene walked from his house in loyalist east Belfast via Royal Avenue to the art college. 

‘Target’ addressed a number of obvious and critical social and cultural issues, central to which was the vulnerability of the individual as an ordinary citizen and in this case, his role as a performance artist within a tradition-based art school which was, at this time, mostly hostile to his work. 

During this period Maclennan developed sustained works that pushed the parameters of personal endurance and performance. These were invariably undertaken in the nude. He obscured his identity and his personality by applying primal substances such as flour and soot to his body. During most of these performances Maclennan went without food and sleep. They ranged from 12 hours in duration to 144 hours or six days and six nights. 

These multi-dimensional works had their origins in drawing, but here the drawer was also being drawn, that is, he was an integral component in the process of making an artwork. The space in which the work took place was being gradually altered or ‘actuated’. The drawer/performer was facilitating qualitative decisions, modifying, deviating, resolving insights and possibilities within a carefully prepared space. 

Whether a dirty, disused factory or a pristine art gallery, the space was meticulously and subtly altered to create an exact ambience to contain Maclennan’s slow and deliberate rearrangement of elements and items. 

Maclennan’s ‘actuations’ were given ambiguous titles such as: ‘cant can’t’, ‘chin to inch’, ‘knot naught’, ‘slow lows’, ‘words sword’. Puns that played with the sound of words rather than their literal meaning only. Titles were intended to provoke the viewer into a personal interpretation and involvement. Items with ambiguous meanings were deployed:

• A black coat – a tramp or an ordinary working man.
• Dark glasses – a blind person or a disguise.
• Fish – Christian symbol, when left uncooked emits the stench of decay.
• Earth – fertile substance, creativity and place of internment.
• A butchered pig’s head – a human surrogate and accuser or witness.
• A prosthesis – invalidity and victim.
• Stainless steel bowls – operating theatre or ritualistic vessels.
• Burnt-out cars – wrecked lives and destroyed personal bubbles.
• Black balloons – joyous celebrations, death and the hot air of falsehood. 

One ‘actuation’ involved Maclennan sitting in a small greenhouse, a symbol for the artificiality of culture, slowly blowing up black balloons until the interior was so stuffed with inflated orbs that he could barely breathe.


Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 by pauljohnwhite