Journal Entries

29 Mar 2022

24 Jul 2021

27 Aug 2021

3 Sept 2021

22 Aug 2022

23 Sept 2021

Emphasis 1

The margin contains dates of journal entries, dates of subsequent interventions, and indications of points of emphasis that  may help the viewer-reader follow the development of thinking

Emphasis 3

3 Apr 2022

18 Aug 2021

7/13 Jul 2021

Emphasis 5

8 Jul 2021

10 Aug 2021

Emphasis 7

18 Aug 2021

19 Aug 2021

30 Mar 2022

Emphasis 8

30 Mar 2022

31 Aug 2021

Emphasis 10

11 Sept 2021

12 Sept 2021

31 Mar 2022

21 Sept 2021

31 Mar 2022

A note on how the work might continue

3 Apr 2022

 1 Aug 2021


Emphasis 2

5 Apr 2022

8 Aug 2021

6 Jul 2021

(start-date of research)

The footnotes on the right provide more detailed  content in relation to that with which they're linked. essential reading.   

11 Jul 2021

7 Aug 2021

30 Mar 2022 


11 Aug 2021

12 Aug 2021

Emphasis 9

2 Sept 2021

Emphasis 11

Emphasis 4

Emphasis 6

30 Mar 2022

30 Aug 2021

31 Mar 2022

The question of screen in Lacan's theory of the scopic drive is discussed in greater depth below, (journal entry 12 Sept). 

31 Mar 2022

1 Apr 2022

Emphasis 12

I am now coming into the research somewhat after the summer of 2021, when the research was conducted. Whether it's possible to engage in dialogue between oneself as artistic agency, and one’s mediums and habits developed in accordance with them and a particular place, and to be aware of a sense of responsibility in relation to that, may be considered the research question. Such a question is in any case implicitly set, but how such setting is assumed to be within oneself can be discussed with recourse to psychoanalytical theory and related philosophy. The choice of place on this occasion is a space that's broad enough to apparently not be contained by surrounding urban structures and is un-useful – cannot be traversed – except in terms of looking through it towards a vista. I'm referring to such a space as void, which spans from the balcony wall of my third-floor flat across a disused builder’s yard. In journal entries (1 Aug, 12 Aug), I state that what is coming through, however, more clearly to me than usual, is ambivalence towards authority. 

The unfolding of creative agency, mediums and habits in relation to the chosen place constitutes the development that will in retrospect be more indicative of Findings. Retrospectively, my role as the research’s artist-author is different with regard to whatever may emerge as Findings than that of the viewer-reader. What I’m now about to do, following this Preliminary, is to re-enter the research with modifications that attempt to improve the communicability of the questions. That these should be and remain as questions is a consequence of consideration not only of void space, but this in relation to ambiguity towards a psychic position that might otherwise bring clarity; the conjoining of these two factors of which – void space and questions of oneself as subject – I’m conceiving as a matter of responsibility. 

While my habitual medium is combined drawing, audio-visual recording of the process, and reflective-academic writing, I’m not, as one might deduce from what I’ve said above, a specialist on the question of responsibility. The research therefore unfolds in relation to a context where a certain kind of responsibility towards the void might take place. When one looks across such a space, which is really quite ordinary, how might one phrase a reaction in terms of one's habitual artistic medium? Having said this, there's often give and take in relation to medium, where the process could be as much considered a shirking of responsibility. It’s interesting that the choice of void as an invisible motif automatically bodes the question: Responsibility towards what? Shirking, in this context, suggests avoidance, yet in the middle of the latter word is the word void, its implication of absence of which means creating a void. Ambivalence towards authority, which may also be construed as holding responsibility in question, is therefore explored in terms of void space. In the garden of the Serralves Museum in Porto near where I live, I recently saw an Anish Kapoor mirror glass sculptural sphere-section of a much larger sphere that absorbed the reflections of all of us facing its convex side beautifully, but for speckles of rain tinged with clay, apparently blown over from the Sahara desert, which betrayed the illusion. This is what I would hope to obtain, differently from Kapoor, but for the effect on his work of the latter contingency: the illusion, and simultaneously its betrayal. The viewer-reader may therefore gain the feeling that the research is a cooperative venture between my handling of the medium and contingent factors relating to its own near autonomy, as determining the research’s course. At this retrospective stage of the research, I can say that I have found something in obvious terms as a visual-material piece of work, but less obviously, let’s say, in terms of insights that course through. The purpose of the strategy of giving Emphasis to certain points throughout the presentation in the margin – the first of which is above – is to indicate likely insights to the viewer-reader. Such movement is what has transpired in terms that I could not have anticipated in relation to the opening gambit; that a void space viewed across a disused builder’s yard might provide a research question concerning responsibility.

While I’m re-entering the research after its conclusion in terms of a finitely formatted piece of work, where this should in a sense be more of a Closing, the viewer-reader will be taking this as their first introduction. What has changed with such a strategy is that the authenticity of the first draft has become a more strategic account. Paradoxically, such strategy involves its own degree of responsibility; the exercise of a further degree of discernment on the research’s content in expectation of the interlocution of the viewer-reader. This allusion to writing as itself a demonstrative medium, when the research is ostensibly visual, keys into the substantially written of the research, in a sense willed, as one of a habitual suite of mediums, but otherwise a necessary narrative of a medium such as a drawing that traditionally manifests as still-image outcome. How drawing is a useful medium through which to explore responsibility is that during its process the formal and conceptual situation can be very open, and held open, on this occasion like a feeling of ambivalence that drives this research, not as a negative factor so much as a reflection of an innate aspect of the human condition.    




Ambivalence towards Authority (+ entry 12 Aug)

The void is neither here nor there until I position it, and then of course it can hardly be termed void. Almost a month has passed since I wrote a first journal entry for the research, of which this is a revision because I feel I now have a stronger starting-point than at first, but this of course renders void much of the starting work! There are by now several matters of the project, which goes without saying to myself. How much the reader should know to bring them up to par is, itself, a question implicit in the research. This is difficult in a form of practice that's mostly reflexive – done for oneself. Fighting against, to and for myself:

Here I'm stating what by now I've worked out is the issue of responsibility I'm dealing with in and as space: ambivalence towards authority. Into the void space, which I'll be attempting to draw, is this personal key question. How does such ambivalence manifest in and as the research? 

The means is an approach to drawing that challenges some of the conventions of the medium's practice. How this can be, is through my tendency towards indexical use of the medium that would ordinarily be constructing the pictorial space in response to the observed actual space, for which I as the work's artist-author have, as it were, to stand by my word. What the word can do, more readily than the drawings, is articulate the process through and as which I take responsibility, but this does require reading. Reading about is not the same as reading as. The research will oscillate between being itself and being about itself, where the former will veer towards the drawing practice and the latter to the writing.

Having said the above, there should be a sense conveyed to the reader, already, that the writing also embodies the artist-author's creative endeavour – writing, therefore, as itself part of artistic research.  

Concerning responsibility in an individual sense and of particular relevance to the artist, of whatever persuasion, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (2016: 47) states: 'One is only responsible within the limits of one's savoir-faire. What is savoir-faire? It is art, artifice, that which endues a remarkable quality to the art of which one is capable, because there is no Other of the Other to perform the Last Judgement, At least, so say I'.

This quote from Lacan not only suggests almost a burden of commitment that the artist takes on board for the work that they do, of which time is the ultimate judge, and in the meantime the strengths of their contributions are in process, but that at the end of the day whatever feel to be one's spirited contributions can only ever be forms of artifice. 


Coordinates and Trajectories

The four coordinates on the periphery of the site, at least what I've suggested I'm looking at in the larger drawing, align with the circumference of an oval that I've indicated in the sketch. This artificially fixes the oval, whereas the space under consideration more naturally just peters out, ceasing to be relevant. What is relevant is an area of identified void space that in Levinas' terms might be 'the whole interval, the whole abyss'. This is a question relating to the gaze; that whatever we look towards and that looks at us can be imbued with otherness.

Right: Conceptual sketch that determines centre of the void space where the left-inclined diagonal trajectory should intercept the middle of where the base of the facade joins the back of the tin roof, but doesn't in either of its two visualisations

Video transcript sections where I say what I also need to explain... 



But the point about this is with this, configuration . . . which is my, responsibility, from the Levinas point of view, begging calling and, reminding me, of this, face-to-face situation. Myself and the Other, which I’m saying is this, drawing as it’s taking shape. Err, the proximity, the nearness, and the duality, me, and it, me, and it, in this case....

Levinas talks about the image, of the object, relevant to the Other–– that’s relevant to the Other not so much the object itself in this case, but the image....

So, this, idea is to, um . . . structure this as an image, er created as an image, and, the point about–– which moves on to maybe to, Lacan, with the sense of, what Zizek calls the ‘blind spot’, within the object–– something, that’s in the object, according to him, more than, the object itself, and Lacan himself refers to, the, the object-a in this case it’s the object-a, the small object, the object-cause of desire, in Lacan–– Lacanian theory....

He’s incalling, calling it the ‘excluded islet’, so it’s interesting this, this void space that I can’t get at, with this configuration...

Interesting playing on, you know, the sound of the word islet, ah, could easily, easily, be, understood as vision, rather than, something more to do with a territory.....

And then the third of the theorists, on this question of Other, Foucault, er, his idea of the ‘heterotopia’, which is a real site, more visib–– more, more physical, more tangible than, than, Levinas implications Lacanian implications. A real site, which in some way represents, okay, but also challenges contests, or, inverts, the situation, and it affects the, surroundings . . . the surroundings in this case being these suburban, these these, blocks, housing blocks apartment blocks, this side....

But the point the–– the key as I say is, in terms of, what I’m suggesting is my, focus of responsibility, which begs, calls and reminds me, is this void space, in the configuration at the moment, literally the void space of the paper, between these, images painted on news-print.


The ‘blind spot’

Ever looking for the father figure, so say I, if only then to dispute him in subtle ways. I find Levinas too vague; the 'face-to-face' of the Other, with nothing tangible that triggers the gaze; the 'Mystery'. Lacan (2016: 63), on the other hand, even makes light of his own fatherly role, by way of its acknowledgement, when he states of his analytical trainees that 'they suppose me to know', the latter of which is an important clinical assumption of the analysand towards the analyst in a Lacanian psychoanalysis. Responsibility is insisted by the medium, not least here and now, with an obligation I feel to clarify a certain point, a reference whose origin I assumed was in a comment of Zizek (10 Aug) concerning the object a's 'blind spot' – although Lacan (ibid: 70) was the first to make this point: 'There is a centrifugal dynamic of the gaze, that is to say, one that starts off from the seeing eye but also from the blind spot'. Then Lacan says something about what he terms 'space in the image; firstly that space needs a container (my term) to be so called, and then the crucial point that the object a is just one-such container, but as such, '...the object is ob, it constitutes an obstacle to the expansion of the concentric imaginary', that is, the englobing imaginary'. (By 'imaginary' Lacan may be referring to the pre-linguistic psychically structural phase that he terms the Imaginary, concerned with identity formation indissolubly linked, at that time, with the desire of the mother.)













I love this; Lacan's charitable, this dad! The point in and of the eye that sees, is in a sense the point of the optical pyramid as conventionally visualised of optics, and concentric expansion is how the pyramid opens out to include the ever-greater visual field. However, what is in the way – similarly to Levinas, in this respect, is the object, which is a nuisance inasmuch as it limits one's apprehension of the psychical imaginary space as the image; this idea of the image as intangible, ungraspable yet sensed as an important something. There's more than convenience in this reference: the lack of correspondence of the left-inclining trajectory in my collage drawing is to a certain point, which has helped me define and is contained within what I'm calling a void. While this has been obtained through a visual and material process in relation to a medium and working methods, the ever-closer analogy that I seem to be suggesting is to a point of interest, and its expansion out, in Lacanian theory. The lack of tangibility of the space works in relation to Levinas's view of the Other as infinitely mysterious but nothing materially specific, and is the locus, as it were, of my responsibility. However, the latter phenomenon is achieving a more tangible sense inasmuch as the Lacanian object a, which is the harbinger of the truth of one's desire – if it could ever be got at – is sufficiently diagrammed in its explanation and often literally in topologies, for me to pictorialize in visual-material analogous terms. But the one does not follow the other: I would suggest, or I'm at least hoping, that theory can oscillate with practice, an aspect of this particular artistic practice being to necessitate the use of and respond to theory.                 

3. Camera lens's calibration

Screenshots from a video clip, Responsibility 2, to show four issues concerning responsibility in relation to void space 

1. Smeared obstacles

4. Indexing the void

X-ray (video clip, 04: 41mins)

To show how binocular looking at the distant motif, rather than particularly at the transparent-plane smears that I'm making that relate to the motif, results in semi-transparent looking through the smears, as an, often unnoticed, facility of visual perception

This is a precarious point in the work, due to the present condition of painting as a medium, not just my own painting, as surface-based as much as spatial-determining. The reader may here have noticed an error, not only in terminology but indicating a digression in the terms of the project itself, through my having referred to this present question as a matter of painting rather than drawing. It may be noticed in the first of the four frames that I'm trying to draw, and later to draw with paint, but the printing of the back of my hand onto the plane with oil paint has perhaps tipped the balance towards painting. The conditions can be as precarious as this, where rather than drawing or painting the latter becomes an integration of each. The fact that such a consideration has emerged through an act of indexing my hand through printing further iterates the plane, in this case the plastic sheet over the newspaper collage, which also implies that the surface on which the latter rests is solid resistance. The latter may also inhibit the tendency for the green ovals to read spatially, let alone as a kind of space within the work that's indicative of void. The chances of succeeding in the latter are negligible, but as a drawing- and painting-based artist one works with the ambiguity between reflected and conceptualized intentions and the reflexive basis of such a practice. Such reflexivity is increased further by my tendency to index, to allow the signifier to ride, as it were, through strategies that indicate the presence of elements, in this case my hand, without needing to represent. Of course, in this instance the hand has come out readable, but this is incidental to an activity that's concerned with registering its presence. What I now have to try to do is push the hand as an image back into the work's space, the space that I'm calling the void space across the builder's yard, given that I'm hoping that the physical plane, the plastic sheet that substitutes for the window plane, will float as the work's pictorial plane. This expectation will bring the physical/pictorial plane in its binary ambiguity into line, to an extent, with the mirror as a physical entity and a phenomenon, similarly as described by Foucault. (See theoretical note 10 Aug.)             

Responsibility towards the Void details, to show crumpling of tablecloth paper and how the green shapes' delineations do not align with contours in clear plastic's final stretching  

I have spent the day reading through and taking notes from the chapter 'Of the Gaze as Objet a' of Lacan's Seminar XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, to see that the enticing terms from Lacan, cited by Price (2019) in his article, mainly come from 'What is a Picture?', the fourth section of Lacan's chapter on the scopic drive. I've learnt that the object a, the mysterious something of the object to which one is attracted beneath one's conscious awareness more than the object, is the gaze itself, of the scopic drive. 'The objet a in the field of the visible is the gaze' (ibid: 105).

I note that Lacan (1981: 106-7) articulates that the artist is not completely controlled by the gaze; the gaze that oscillates with the screen that is also the metaphor that blurs and disrupts the clarity of the image. Judging by a diagram that Lacan provides (ibid: 106), the artist seems to be looked at by the gaze from behind what he terms a 'mask'. To what extent this mask is one’s own projection of a need to disguise the gaze coming from the object, is a question I would have. Where this mask, nonetheless affected by the projection from behind and through it of the gaze, becomes an image – in the middle between the artist looking and their gaze, as the oscillation between image and screen – the artist is able to ' with the mask as that beyond which there is the gaze' (ibid: 107). Such playing is in effect to defuse one's transfixion by the gaze – my idea here – as to how one might arrive at a sense of ‘closure’ of the work. Lacan (ibid: 114) states: 'If a bird were to paint would it not be by letting fall its feathers, a snake by casting off its scales, a tree by letting fall its leaves? Lacan then refers to this as an '...act in the laying down of the gaze'. The painter does this with the brushstroke: 'Let us not forget that the painter's brushstroke is something in which a movement is terminated' (ibid: 107). Lacan’s use of the word act in its broader sense can mean the acting on and in psychoanalysis and its contexts – the context in this case being painting – where the subject of the seminar is how the human subject will continue with whatever it is about their gaze while aiming to manage it better.  

Lacan (ibid: 115) also refers to the artist's 'picture' as '...a battle scene... something theatrical, necessarily created for the gesture'. The gesture is that of the artist's brush – or other applicatory medium – that is perhaps under the spell of the gaze for the duration of the work, until one could imagine the same gesture disarming the gaze and laying it to rest. However, in Lacan's thesis one cannot be that easily disembroiled. Lacan (ibid: 117-8) states: 'The gaze in itself not only terminates the movement, it freezes it.... is a question of dispossessing the evil eye of the gaze, in order to ward it off.... At the moment the subject stops, suspending his gesture, he is mortified'. Lacan’s (ibid: 115-6) explanation as to why the eye should be evil is that it is filled with ‘voracity’: ‘…the envy that makes the subject pale before the image of a completeness closed upon itself’. 

While the above comment on Lacan’s complex thesis explains to an extent why it is that I feel a sense of withdrawal, as it were, from the piece of work, Responsibility towards the Void (entry 12 Sept). Not only this: such withdrawal leaves the work with its own voice complete – if I can introduce such a metaphor in the context of discussion of the gaze – when I'm left with the same question as came into play during the work, of whose voice it is and where it comes from that is so disquieting; artwork that harnesses the voice feeling an at once fascinating and excruciating activity. 

In my defence, I'd say that while I've been compelled by the builder's yard as the motif of the research and have produced work that's as much about the yard as the space that ranges over it, my preference has been to at least try to respond mainly to the space. This conflated ratio, however, has enabled me to oscillate in what I feel is a productive state of ambivalence. Is this the nature of the gaze, for me? Is the object a the concern with orientation? This is the area of responsibility towards myself with which I feel it necessary to do battle – and I can argue does concern authority. Lacan (1981: 83) refers to the artist's sense of 'morality' in relation to the gaze, which is similar in a way to responsibility in the terms through which I’ve explored it as the generator of the research. While I’ve offered my involvement in my own closing visual work, Responsibility towards the Void, as possibly indicative of the topic of Lacan’s seminar, the work ambiguously rests between painting and drawing, when as drawing there will be much less likelihood of its ‘definitive closure’. However, as I've suggest above (top of the journal entry, 12 Sept), this single piece of work should not be considered a summation of the research, in which case the research itself, in its visual and textual content, linked embedded content, and formatting, is more appropriately the work, which continues beyond its present manifestation as a project. 

Two sketches of indeterminate space, each reproduced in three different photographs. Black ink and coffee on paper,

with black Dermatograph pencil on clear plastic overlay  

Responsibility towards the Void: 

Researched through drawing, language and theory


Drawing 1 of the site. Ink, pencil, Dermatograph pencil and tracing paper overlay + re-working with the addition of white acrylic paint, 70 x 50cm, 2021

I owe it to myself to try to draw the space of the site to convey as space, rather than by default by focusing on material elements within the space – yet how to do this, within the limitations of the medium? While the right stage of the drawing may arguably look more complete, the question that remains in the balance, and therefore at least with potential, is stronger in the left and earlier state, where I was fighting against the tendency to merely suggest space through arrangements of forms. While research is necessarily open, each initiative is towards resolution.

Somehow – this may be everyone's experience – one looks across space as space, in which swifts may circle, as though one's eyes were themselves flying in the drift-and-flick rapid momentum of the optic nerves, alerted to here and there without alighting. How does one encapsulate this in and as a drawing? This is my particular sense- towards the drawing as the focus of a more general sense of responsibility.

The drawing, while drawing, has called to mind the question of determining evidence: responsible positions as visual-material anchor points, shapes and motifs, some of which are discernible, albeit cursory, and near abstract when they approach representation. The latter are cursory in order that they don't overstep an aggregate sense of overall. The question of space, when I've chosen to project my reflection or have found reflected towards me on what I consider a void, is perhaps best suggested in the areas of blurring of the drawing by a tracing-paper overlay. These areas need to be released and float forwards – but how? It's a quiet formal problem in this sense, within a fairly conventional approach to drawing practice. The problem, held in the balance as an open question, does require deflecting oneself from the idea of the eloquent outcome. The permissibility of drawing to be incomplete is one reason for its present suitability. 


It is of course possible to establish coordinates across the space, linking near and far points. If the ledge of my balcony wall is taken as eye level, then it aligns exactly with the base of the top window set into the wall of the facing building. However, I have to stoop to see this, whereas from my standing position while drawing I'm looking considerably down into the space, which is in a sense what makes it noticeable as such. Between them, however, are gaps that in their mobility are not necessarily crucially linked to such points. I would want to cite theory of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1996) in this respect, where he introduces his understanding of the Other in the context of death. Hand (ed) (ibid: 55) explains that 'the alterity of death' also means 'the alterity of another person'. Is it possible to pull philosophy into the simple formal frame of reference of a visual sketch? I have to try to make it so, in a spirit of hope that something substantially relevant to the question of responsibility will emerge. Levinas (ibid: 43) has already suggested that the Other cannot be seen: 'The other's entire being is constituted by its exteriority, or rather its alterity, for exteriority is a property of space and leads the subject back to itself through light'. What Levinas means by 'light' may involve equating it with both sensory perception and ontology. Levinas (ibid: 82) does also state of the 'face of the Other' that it '...goes beyond those plastic forms which forever try to cover the face like a mask of their presence to perception'. 

I need this; that it's really a redolent space that's gazing back at one, despite one's almost inevitable recourse to the image – but how can the image be much less stated, if not unstated, and not just appear cursory? The two versions of the sketch above, despite their sketchiness, are a stab at this.  

Gap or void

What I'm thinking is that however fixed are the coordinates, I have to let go of them when I look away, and during the intervals before returning to them what's between is not an in-between so much as a gap or void that recedes to that which is yet to be coordinated. Levinas, in the following quote, refers to the 'whole interval' and the 'whole abyss' when he defines the Other as that which is between the present and death:




Sketch 2 of the site, mapping a subjectively chosen perimeter, and the sketch digitally overlaid on sketch 1, 28 x 21cm and variable dimensions, 2021

Determining the Void Space (video clip, 8: 27mins)

Showing the action camera attached to the front of clear plastic goggles, a digital simulation of how the camera appears in one's vision when the goggles are worn, and the entrance/exit portal seen in relative darkness, in which a phantom appeared

Screenshots from a video clip, Responsibility 1, to show three kinds of disparity manifesting void space 

1. Eye-level point of focus

2. Depth of space

The lens of the camera is ranged to the right of its black-box housing, and what appears to me when looking though the goggles at the scene in front of me is registered by the camera either to the left or right on the horizontal axis, and frequently below on the vertical axis. It would be difficult to compensate for this disparity in what seems to be due the camera's calibration, but in the meantime it's a third instance of void space.  

2. Blur

Responsibility 2 (video clip, 17: 28mins)

Above-referenced video clip to show continuous occurrence of smeared obstacle, blur, screen, and indexing the void 

I need to take a leap into the void, at this point. The collage drawing (entry 24 Jul) gave me a vertically distorted image, larger than sight-size as I stand at the balcony, while the image traced onto the window pane, as shown in the above video and screenshots, is of horizontal dimension and much smaller. When – due to my having traced onto clear plastic – the latter is overlain on the former, there's considerable disparity. It is this disparity that I'm proposing is the void space given in and through the drawing process. Links delineated between the motif's key coordinate points are the main indication of such space, and, as in an instructional visual, the bubbles drawn onto the visual – opposite – suggest that the trajectories between the coordinates occupy zones.


This is it: I'm responsible for a subjective means of determining a space that has emerged out of my engagement with a place and space in artistic material terms that has given me something equally subjective, and as such unreadable in the symbolic sense on the drawing, and as a key component of its aesthetic. In a word, the semiotic – in this case to mean what one is attracted towards doing for one reason or another that impacts on and obfuscates logical and communicable sense – rules the drawing.


As for colour? Bottle green is perhaps my earliest colour memory, the colour of the front door of the house in which my parents lodged when I was still a baby, seen a few years later when my mother would have visited her former elderly landlady. This same colour now appears, coincidentally, on the metal-frame structure of my flat's glass conservatory, from which I view the builder's yard.              

Screenshots of a video recording of the process of bringing my hand image up from behind the work's subsequent layers to the topmost layer

 How these references play out, similarly to playing with, is the concluding controversial point that both indicates a region of responsibility and, because of its unconscious basis in the Freudian-founded psychodynamic sense, is not that which one can in any direct sense be considered responsible. The 'artifice' with which one plays is through inflections of language – taking the visual-material medium to work as a kind of language – of which one cannot be in complete control, even to the extent that such inflections from time to time may, as it were, run riot. Kristeva (1997: 32-39), a psychoanalyst and linguistic theorist who acknowledges the precedent of Lacan for her theory of language (ibid: 39), divides language into the interplay of 'symbolic' and 'semiotic', where the latter, which is the domain of the unconscious, intrudes into the former. Even in the mildest, unnoticeable sense, Kristeva's derivation of the semiotic is that it concerns enunciation. This suggests that one may make the choice, which is itself a question of responsibility, to give rein to elements of apparent autonomy of the language – in this case, of the medium – and thereby relinquish control and in this sense give some latitude to one's feelings of responsibility for one's actions. One both is and isn't responsible; it's a question of void, which may convey even just the mildest sense of interference of enunciation as a resulting feeling of awkwardness, felt only in oneself and/or noticed by others. Considering the closing visual work, above, such actions are subject to the filter of a visual-material medium that is arguably conveying a reasonable extent of the 'semiotic'. Kristeva (ibid: 35) defines semiotic as '...distinctive mark, trace, index, precursory sign, proof, engraved or written sign, imprint, trace, figuration'. While Kristeva is referring to language as such, these nouns are a gift to the possibility of transmutation of the semiotic into the visual-material medium. Such tendencies of this particular work, where indexical elements could be considered obfuscating its image basis with the Lacan's theorised 'screen' as constituent of the scopic drive, have complicated an intention to explore the question of responsibility where the visual artwork was to be the conveyor of the endeavour.



























A consequence of such complication is that it now seems to be a compounding of indexical signifier elements that provides the key analogy to what I've stated in the research as a certain sense of ambivalence towards authority, when authority in and as language in Lacanian theory is the domain of the Symbolic, of the three psychic structural registers Imaginary, Symbolic, Real. The semiotic level of language, in Kristeva's terms, permeates that of the symbolic, which can undermine it, and as indication of the gravity of this instinctual basis of language Kristeva (ibid: 35) equates it with Aristotle's 'chora', the 'nonexpressive totality formed by the drives and their stases in a motility that is as full of movement as it is regulated', which would seem to be another way of describing the Lacanian Real.        


As is the wont of coincidence, an email notification of the 'Lacanian Compass Express' has come through on the day of this journal entry, on the same webpage of which is a link to a paper by Adrian Price (2019) from Vol. 4, Issue 6, which discusses the question of Lacan's theorised scopic drive that is elaborated in his Seminars X and XI. Theory from Seminar XI has been the key Lacanian reference in my research (journal entries 10 Aug, 22 Aug), particularly what I deduce from the Seminar XI reading as the difference, yet interaction, between the 'image' and the 'screen' of the scopic drive. 

Price considers Lacan's theory in relation to ambiguities of the picture-plane of North American painting of the 1960s', and the photographs of Bernd and Hiller Becher. What is immediately useful of Price's article, for me, at this late point of the research, concerns the consideration of Lacan's theory of the scopic drive in relation to the picture plane, the latter of which Price cites Steinberg in the context of 60s' America as terming 'flatbed'.

Price also cites Lacan on his term 'tableau' used in the context of painting. In both cases, 'flatbed' and 'tableau', the implication is of regard for the horizontal implication – sometimes its actuality when one is working – of what is conventionally the vertical of the picture plane. It may be argued that the picture-plane is automatically an issue of painting- and drawing-based artwork (see journal entries 30 Aug, 11 Sept). In the Lacanian application, the picture plane alternates as the reflection to the artist of the gaze as one’s psychic subject – Price refers to the 'shed object' –through the filter of the Other. The artist simultaneously takes up this 'gaze-object' – I would say through the work’s process and in a sense re-possessing the gaze-object – only to allow it to 'fall... directly upon the surface' as 'discarded objects'. What may be considered the metonymical signifier of this sense of subsequent appropriation of the subjective object and its simultaneous dismissal – Price cites Lacan on 'rainfall from the painter's brush' – is characteristic of application of the artist's medium in all its variety. While liquid paint and ink will run, due to the force of gravity, 'rainfall' could as well metaphorically mean the controlled autonomy of collage, the up-and-down and other varied direction of indexical gestures, and in my case the finger-applications of oil paint, smudginess, scraping and scuffing. The iteration of the surface, despite the expectation that one's strategies will result in the articulation of space, is often a paradox of painting and drawing with which, it may be said, one has to live.

Price cites Lacan on his metaphor of the 'shed skin' of the artist, as their own subject that has 'fallen away'. The Lacanian theorised gaze involves a sense of loss and lack, where one's engagement in the process of making the work is not without question. The Price reference suggests ambivalence of artistic identification, then both of these may confer with responsibility as the key question in the context of my own artistic practice as concerning ambivalence towards authority (1 Aug, 12 Aug), authority being that against which one battles. This reference to Lacan's scopic drive further suggests that the painting- and drawing-based artist's engagement is with the middle ground, literally and metaphorically, between one's looking and the gaze projecting back from the region of the object/s. In this case such middle ground is considered through the research as the space from my balcony wall to the culminating facing wall of the builder's yard. As already summarised, this has also been through reference to Levinas's notion of 'face-to-face with the Other, and Foucault's evaluation of the mirror's materiality working in cooperation with its propensity to reflect illusion.


If I scroll through the presentation, I see that I’ve identified eleven points of emphasis, some of which are newly written sections of content that has emerged over the last couple of days in consequence of my own re-edit. What I was trying to do was to suggest to the viewer-reader how the research was developing, while not substantially altering a process that unfolded as I, and it, went along. I state a few weeks into the research that I’d realized that it was about ambivalence towards authority, and despite expecting that I’d mostly reference Levinas, I've succumbed to  Lacan because I've been reading him for much longer. Taken at face value, one would think Lacan’s comment that the best the artist can offer is a form of ‘artifice’ would spirit one away from him, both because of its suggestion of limitation and that artifice is, itself, ‘spirited’, hence representing a sufficiency of belief. However, it is, as Soler suggests of the unconscious (see 19 Aug, 30 Mar 2022 intervention), a matter of 'belief' when, similarly to some approaches to artistic practice, the matter is highly suppositional. Formally, my ambivalence towards authority is at this time represented by a motif, the void space across the disused builder’s yard, that I feel I can’t much articulate without honing in on objects  – unlike the swifts that so successfully circumnavigate – which is not, strictly speaking, dealing with space.   





































The means by which I address the question of the hermetic has taken me to the tension that may always exist around reference to psychoanalytical theory; i.e., that the debate that one sets up, and has between oneself and the work, is itself somewhat psychoanalytical. One works with one’s existing knowledge, in this case relating to a creative practice and one’s accrued experience in that connection, and reads one’s work in terms of the riddle, or puzzle, that it represents in terms that move it a little further forwards. The further forwards, at this time concerns the possibility that one can consider the question of responsibility through artwork. Another difference is that such consideration is offered out to the viewer-reader for their reaction and interaction, whether positively or negatively, in terms of which that they themselves might not have thought. Again, ambiguity towards authority, especially since, inasmuch as the presentation is at the level of research, it’s a body of work still in process and, further to the analogy of psychoanalysis, hasn’t yet arrived at a terminating point. 

There’s not only a difference between objects and the imagery that they compel, but a key image, albeit illusory, that hovers in front of everything; the imploded rectangle of the action camera. This is an ambiguous image, not least because the viewer-reader can never know what it is that obstructs any view with a smear, but also an image of ambivalence. I stand a step or two back, in effect, from really instating it because it’s an illusion; of course there’s an object there in front of my eyes, but it’s imploded sense is illusory: while I feel a degree of responsibility to show it, I’m reluctant to take ownership. The question of illusion, of participating in it while seeing and sensing in various ways its artifice, is the fascinating point made by Foucault about mirrors in the context of ‘heterotopia’. How I’ve been approaching the void, trying to navigate it like the swifts but never being under any illusion that it is or can be just space, has been heterotopic.

The signifier basis of artistic practice, especially when it involves viscous mediums that index and leave traces, is one of the reasons why, without self-consciously modelling and forming the image, one can only ambiguously and ambivalently skirt around the idea of representation, and tries to make more of what one does have available than merely one component of signification. Again, the imploded rectangle of the camera is so useful, because the smear of oil paint, swollen line of ink, or two parallel lines at roughly a centimetre apart that represent it, is paradoxically near how it looks. Yet this intrusive or obstructing image stands for something more than the semiotic signifier basis of language, of which one category of evidence is index. More accurately, it’s not so much image, in Lacanian terms, as a mysterious something that need not and probably should not in any case be visible, which obfuscates the clarity of the image in a psychic sense. This is another instance of how authority is called to question, and I make the point that this obfuscating metaphor is at the same time challenging the responsible position I've placed myself in to try to draw the void space.       

Lacan (2018: 149) alludes to Picasso's famous remark when he states: ‘…the only way to avoid being mistaken is to start from the finding, to question oneself about what was there – if so wanted – for the seeking’. Arguably, the advantage of seeking, which is more appropriate to the idea of research, is that as a process it keeps one in the middle of one’s artistic activity, and with that, the implication that the achieving of artefactual outcomes is less important than how exploration can enable one to look at whatever is under consideration. However, one’s work and identification with it accrues, such as has happened with the present research, and in this sense one does have material on which to reflect. In this respect, the new additions to the research, the Preliminary, the Emphases content, and now the Closing, perform the task of questioning what can be found in the research as a form of seeking. If this is but more reflection on reflection, then what the latter proportion does is to relegate the former to more provisional material. Part of the hermetic inclination is due to the referenced theories’ emphasis on the individual human subject, yet certainly in the theory of Levinas (1996: 82), one’s sense of responsibility is towards the Other reflected in one’s neighbour: ‘The Other becomes my neighbour precisely through the way the face summons me, calls me, begs for me, and by so doing recalls my responsibility and calls me to question’. My 'neighbour' may here be considered the viewer-reader, the void as the motif under consideration – albeit a sense of absence – having moved now to that of the research as a process of searching, eclipsed by decisive new circumstances that concern viewing the latter in terms of likely findings. Yet always the emphasis shifts to potentiality; even by re-positioning the catalyst for consideration of responsibility towards my ‘neighbour’, in Levinas’s terms, I’m offering this as a point of speculation. In psychoanalytical terms, this would be the oscillation between analyst and analysand in the process of finding from amongst what was there in the first place. I’m aware also that the more useful material for consideration has shifted to that of the text as comment as the question of responsibility, as well as comment on. This is also an advantage of approaching one’s creative practice as research, despite Picasso’s point and Lacan’s reiteration. The more writing approaches being a creative practice, the more one can equate a continually developmental process as research.

The viewer-reader may sense that I'm starting to work increasingly with the interface between visual and language-based practice. If a new sense, or position to take, of responsibility has emerged from the research, it has been around this idea of interface. The motif, the void space viewable across and including the disused builder’s yard, the exploratory visual artwork in response to it, the referenced theory, and my attempt to position the writing of the research as itself an iteration of the question it attempts to explore, are each derivations of the idea of interface. What doesn’t suit this idea to the same extent is to have come back into the research with the intention of highlighting Findings. 


Bohm, D. (2002) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. (First published 1980) London; New York: Routledge 

Deleuze, G. (2004) Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. London; New York: Continuum

Foucault, M. (1984) Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, Architecture /Mouvement/Continuité/October, 1984; (“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967 Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec) (Accessed 15 July, 2021)

Hand, S.(1996) The Levinas Reader. (Ed. Seán Hand, first published 1989) Oxford, UK; Camb. Mass. USA: Blackwell

Hansen, M, B, N. (2016) ‘Appearance In-Itself, Data-Propagation, and External Relationality: Towards a Realist Phenomenology of Firstness’. Back issue: ZMK Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung 7/1/2016. pp.45-60. Hamburg: Verlag 

Kristeva, J. (1997) The Portable Kristeva. (ED. Kelly Oliver) New York: Columbia University Press

Lacan, J. (2016) The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII. (Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller) UK: Polity

Lacan, J. (2006) Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English, (Trans. Bruce Fink, first published in English 2002) New York; London: Norton

Lacan, J. (1981) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psych-Analysis. (Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller; Trans. Alan Sheridan, first published in translation 1977) New York; London: Norton

Lacan, J. (2018) ...Worse: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. (Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, Trans. Alan Price) UK: Polity

Lacan, J. (1999) On Feminine Sexuality The Limits of Love and Knowledge: the Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX. (Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, Trans. Bruce Fink) New York; London: Norton 

Levinas, E. (1996) The Levinas Reader. (Ed. Seán Hand, first published 1989) Oxford, UK; Camb. Mass. USA: Blackwell

Price, A. R. (2019) '"A Certain Descent"; on pictorial planes and the screen of alterity' Lacanian Compass Vol. 4. Issue 6 (no pagination)

Accessed 21 Sept., 2021)

Soler, C. (2014) Lacan – The Unconscious Reinvented. London: Karnac

Yarbus, A, L. (1967) Eye Movements and Vision. (Accessed 12 Sept., 2021) 

Zizek, S. (2006) The Parallax View. Cambridge Massachusetts.; London: MIT Press





Psychic Portal (+ 19 Aug)

The key tool, the enabler, in a sense, of the project, is an action camera that I wear attached to clear plastic goggles worn over the eyes, which records the drawing process, and spoken monologue and any other relevant sounds while drawing. This tool, which implodes to a thin black rectangle, seen as such by me, but nobody else, has by now taken on a degree of psychic import.  


'From out of the portal, which made me cry out in fear, was a monster, the dimensions of the portal, straining to get out, but itself trapped in the space of its own creation. It's this last clause that I need, which is telling – trapped in the space of its own creation'.  

A sentence from my second voice-over of a video uploaded as the chronological entry 18 Aug, below. 

Sketch 1 of the site, ink on paper, 28 x 21cm, and same sketch 1 with digitally montaged photos, variable dimensions, 2021

Responsibility as a problem of artistic form, as an acting out or through in visual-material terms, the philosophical question of one's self-obligation towards the Other, concerns how to progress from observation of things in space to indicate space pictorially, to a better indication of space itself. Sketch 2 of the site, below, which is a tracing paper overlay of Sketch 1, above, concerns the mapping of a subjectively chosen perimeter coordinating with four circumference points and one centre point. This sketch digitally overlaid on Sketch 1 with digitally montaged photos, starts to indicate the depth of complexity towards the hypothesis that what I'm suggesting in and by the project can in fact be achieved. 

Psychic Portal (video clip, 14: 03mins)

An Instructive Nightmare

A nightmare in the fantastical void in which such things belong, itself pertaining to the question of void, and therefore also relevant to this research, stole into my experience during what might otherwise have been hours of undisturbed sleep between 17th and 18th August. Into that night presented a monster, a phantom in the portal of entry and exit between the utility room and kitchen of my flat, such a doorway perceivable in acute perspective from my bed. The above video clip includes a description of this, and offers a way of thinking about the nightmare's content that links it to the thin imploded black rectangle of the action camera that's perceivable to me – but me only – when I'm drawing and simultaneously video recording. I'm referring to the camera's rectangle formed optically – an illusion only – by the disparity between each of my eyes as they binocularise their views, respectively, through the clear plastic goggles supporting the camera by makeshift means on the front as they look either side of what is in fact a small box, square in shape. While I adopt this optical image often enough as a motif for drawing, I need always to qualify such an image on the drawing by describing it in the recording as something that I see but not the viewer, and me neither as the video's viewer after the recorded event, except in drawn reproduction.


What was held in the doorway, between utility room and kitchen, was a monster image as if trapped in the portal's two-dimensionality, neither moving forward nor backward, in a position, I suggest in my notes read as a second voice-over of the video, of un-resolve; authority's un-resolve, I deduce; my own un-resolve,  the question of responsibility to myself.

This, in a sense, is a phantom just sufficiently tangible to reflect the Other to one, to bode the question of responsibility as itself a question; the 'face-to-face of the Other', to cite Levinas (1996: 82), that cropped up in the form of a nightmare. But a nightmare that came with a sense of foreboding; a reading retrospectively applied within the time-span of a day. Foreboding, or, it may be hoped, mere warning, as often happens to one through such experiences and encounters with otherness. What I'm alluding to is something more important than playing with artistic project material, is an encounter with the Real transported to the Symbolic, as it may be explained in Lacanian terms. It remains to be known if the chance offered by the phantom is coincidentally that of foreboding or warning, but in the meantime the image of entrapped authority, pending its resolution within myself, as I interpret it, offers a way of reading the imploded rectangle of the action camera as a psychical 'blind spot', a certain something, forever ultimately indeterminate, that’s inside something more than that thing itself (paraphrasing Zizek, cited in journal entry 10 Aug). The possible predictive power of the nightmare's phantom or hallucination has, due to an aspect of experience during the day of the 18th August, eclipsed its usefulness as project material that I suggest in the second voice-over of the video, but whether as foreboding or warning, it has in a sense positioned the material of the project as research material, as itself by nature unresolved.                 

Towards a Larger Visual Work

The eye-level point of focus, indicated in the video clip as the end of the axis from the camera where it attaches to the transparent plane, the window-pane of glass, moves as my head moves because the camera, attached to clear plastic goggles in front of my eyes picks up any and all such movement. As a fulcrum, therefore, the end of the axis remains true to the transparent pane, which is seen to be there even in its transparency, rather than to the point of focus. As a space that I cannot determine, the glass pane that at the same time seems to push out into from its material point in space, this may be said to be void.   

Grammar-check doesn’t like this, the idea that the phenomenon of over there can simultaneously be over here, yet it’s the Foucault take on heterotopic space, the space of a place that positions one at-once there as here, the quintessential object and means of which is the mirror.












I fail in this respect: I have declared the responsibility I shoulder to try, but the glass pane will always present a space between me, as a corporeal body that I reach through, and it, and even if I’m up against the window there’s its resistance, which indexes the void.





The latter idea is a breakthrough, if only to realise that this is what one does in any act of painting or drawing on a flat plane; smears and blurs the objects that populate space and make it meaningful in terms by which such space can only ever remain ambiguous, even in the most realistic of manners. The void is in this case reversed, mirrored in effect, by drawing in paint that causes such image making to be heterotopic. That which one would wish, in this case literally, to break through, is actually in all the three referenced theoretical senses up against one as an obstacle that one meets half way. The aim is, however, lopsided, in that one always needs – where need is the material inevitability – a distance between oneself and the plane and, in so having, the pull is towards the pictorial plane from which one pushes back from the surface plane. The oscillation of one’s objective and subjective interests are forever out there as image and screen, in the Lacanian sense, as the acknowledged invisibility of the mirror’s plane in the Foucault sense, and ultimately in the Levinas sense as one’s responsibility to try to tackle, if one is interested in image-based presentation on the two-dimensional plane – simultaneously pictorial and surface-based – and its inevitable own oscillation with possibilities of the third dimension. 

If I can convey a sense of lifting the surface of forms within the space of the yard sufficiently from their delineations, I might be able to convey a sense of release from them of an in-between. This sense of gap might then be analogous to what in Lacan is a split between oneself and the Other, and in Levinas the mysteriousness of the Other of which one is in relation, without its being anything tangible such as a person or thing.


' the picture, something of the gaze is always manifested. The painter knows this very well – his morality, his search, his quest, his practice is that he should sustain and vary the selection of a certain kind of gaze'. Lacan (1981: 101)  

Each of two sketches reproduced three times as three different photographs.

The sketches are comprised of four levels of indeterminacy, three fixed and one active, the active level of which, albeit subtle, is shown in three states. In each case, the first level is an observational drawing of the disused builder's yard in black ink, trying to emulate how saccadic eye movements behave, desisting objects' structure as much as possible, and integrating a curvy dimension into the linear accents on the basis that air circulates. The second level is Dermatograph pencil on a thin clear plastic overlay, where I'm thinking of the air currents circumscribing space, but with a continuity of line similar to the trail of swifts. The third level is a pool of dilute coffee applied between the paper ground of the ink drawing and the plastic overlay, spread by slight pressure of my hand on the plastic. Once this had dried, the fourth and active level is formed by the variable reflections of light on the plastic, recorded by the camera. Inasmuch as each of the procedures exerts, within limits, autonomous behaviour, and in that sense is its own authority, my mode of cautiousness towards the mediums as means of exploring the idea with which I've been working, void space, is arguably another way of expressing ambivalence towards the idea of authority that the mediums demonstrate. I'm responsible for the result, of course, but exert judgment based on the sketches' relative lack of determination.

Responsibility towards the Void. Painted drawing on newspaper attached to tablecloth paper, with clear plastic overlay and oil paint, 92 x 123.5cm, 2021

What is the tie between two instants that have between them the whole interval, the whole abyss, that separates the present and death, this  margin at once both insignificant and infinite, where there is always room enough for hope? [....] Relationship with the future, the presence of the future in the present, seems all the same accomplished in the face-to-face with the Other. (ibid: 45)

The research's videos need not be watched from beginning to end – this is the viewer-reader's choice – as they may be somewhat ponderous. This is inevitable in order to convey the drift of my thought in relation to its execution, but is a kind of thinking that also emerges from the drawing and indicates the drawing's speed. What I do spend time on, is transcribing the speech to preserve and convey its enunciation, believing that my speech pattern, which is congenitally disfluent, is made more so by the involuntary negotiation that occurs between drawing and speaking, when each is vying for prime place. This also gives me a kind of linguistic version of the drawing, which I've explored in other projects. An example of such disfluency can be seen and read below (see 10 Aug). The videos do, however, convey aspects of how and why the drawing (see 12 Sept) was made in relation to the topic of the research.   

The above point concerning the difference between what only I see of the object, the camera, albeit in the illusory sense of an imploded rectangle, and what both the viewer and I see after the recorded event, is that we in the latter sense see only the resulting image, or not even that; the image disengaged from its origin and seen as something else, which is the manifestation of an illusion. I wonder if artistic research explored in an integral sense with psychodynamic theory that one cannot but feel from the position of the subject, even if only slightly, can be a means of scrutiny of reflection. The psychoanalyst Colette Soler (2014: 40) refers to ‘...the unconscious as supposed... essentially tied to belief’. Would the viewer-reader go along with this as a possibility of artistic research?         

3. Screen

The Lacanian obfuscating screen of psychic import that intermingles with image and spoils – I’m inclined to say – the assumed 1st-person clarity of one’s vision. (The assumption that one controls one’s vision is so strong that if it does not appear good enough, one resorts to glasses or seeks medical treatment.) Lacan referred to the screen as a constellation that emanates from the object, the result of one’s unconscious projection onto and into the object, and causes it to be other than itself, as if something’s there in it that's sensed rather than seen; a disquieting psychoanalytical take on what in Levinas is a 'Mystery' connected with goodness. 

In retrospect, I need to qualify a little what I've said in the previous paragraph. I'm not suggesting that I should take signifiers, especially the indexical kind and as mere components of signification, to be ends in themselves, and that I need not be concerned to communicate. Having deleted more detailed theoretical content from the presentation, I need now to bring at least Lacan's theory of the scopic drive back into the fray. The scopic drive concerns the reciprocity between the big Other and the gaze. Perception is constituted by Lacan as experientially subjective as well as biological, in which a psychically orientated  ‘stain’ or blur projects from the gaze and spoils the clarity of the object, perceived as an image. How the stain oscillates with the image and spoils it is termed by Lacan (1981: 93) as a 'screen' – although this is due to his adaptation of the 'lucinda', the gridded frame onto which the Renaissance artist plots the coordinates of images as illustrated in Durer's woodcuts. Image and screen might therefore almost be considered an antagonistic pair, physiological and psychical, vying for position. This is key to my own perceived usefulness of the indexical signifier, inasmuch as it does often literally stain, smudge, scratch and blur, etc. Due to Lacan’s theory of ‘the mirror stage’, where it's proposed that human identity is developed from an illusionary distinction between one’s self and one’s mirror image as the other, by extension the sense of self-reflection can be invested, albeit at the psychical unconscious level, in otherwise separate and unrelated people and things. This sense of investment of oneself in separate phenomena gazing back enables one to theorize an otherness of the gaze, an estrangement of oneself from oneself that's informative at the level of the subject in psychoanalytical theory, as also in theory of Levinas and Foucault.   

What's called to question by Lacan's theory of the scopic drive is the assumed clarity of visual experience; one’s ability to observe sharply, quickly, and in detail, and to scan and respond to cues picked up peripherally – with or without glasses – and how the aggregate of a variously involuntary activity with conscious and unconscious intent is better termed perception than mere observation. Lacan (1981: 74) terms this sensory facility concerning sight that's also considerably subject to psychical factors, the ‘scopic field’. Lacan (ibid: 73) states of the relationship between the eye and the gaze: ‘… something slips, passes, is transmitted, from stage to stage, and is always to some degree eluded in it – that is what we call the gaze’. Lacan (ibid: 74) refers to the secrecy of the aspect of the gaze that concerns the stain, and suggests that we will never be able to understand this phenomenon ‘… from the grasp of that form of vision that is satisfied with itself in imagining itself as consciousness’. What the gaze contains, termed by Zizek (2006: 17) the ‘blind spot’, is in Lacanian terminology (2006: 83) a ‘privileged object’ that represents the cause of the original desire, forever unknown to one, which may be sensed but is never clearly seen – to use this verb in its passive sense to suggest both vision and knowledge. 

Here's the point: I'm suggesting that the imploded rectangle of the action camera (see  journal entries 18, 19 Aug) is a stand-in secret object, rendered in my drawings as an image, of which the signifier status of the smeared oil paint – variously also crudely applied ink and line – is not only just about as much as I can do to represent it, but suits its status. Kristeva's theory of the semiotic basis of language, and its conveyance through and as signifier, not only theorises by what means the imploded rectangle, the secret object – as a camera, also a seeing object – is constituted, but has emerged out of Kristeva's theory. My attempt is quite authoritative, in a sense, yet I'm working with an idea that automatically calls authority into question – the obfuscation of the image by the interference of the psyche – and to convey to the viewer-reader how responsibility is challenged by this through the metaphor of trying to draw the void across the builder's yard.    

Writing in the context of jouissance, in Lacan the psychical implications of enjoyment, Lacan (2018: 152) refers to the '...esoteric aspect of jouissance as '...merely the savoir faire of making a face'. I felt I understood this notion of spirit today when at a Miro exhibition at the Serralves Museum, Porto, with work that had no external reference except via occasionally very abstracted associations, its enjoyment of which depended on one's responsiveness towards work that was for and of itself. It occurred to me that I'm not trying to do this, and instead, commensurate with the spirit of research, am holding open a process of searching rather than finding (see Closing, 1 Apr 2022). Work of course completes, I would hope perhaps even with a sense of savoir faire, but completion is not paramount to the process.  

I can intervene here with the advantage of some new reading concerning the question of communication, especially since the research is mostly addressed to myself. To build on the unconscious context suggested by the referenced theory, the point I wish to make is that I might oscillate, in a manner of speaking, similar to both analyst and analysand in the latter's analysis. Some of the exposition's viewer-readers may feel the same in relation to their own research. What Lacan (2018: 134) says of the analyst is that '...he is determined by a discourse from which he has long originated, and this is what is analysable', and that '...he has to intervene in [his subject's] discourse by procuring for him... an additional signifier'. While ordinarily the debate would be between me, and the medium, as with more traditional approaches to artistic practice, I'm on this occasion offering the addressing of the question of responsibility in the context of the space to the viewer-reader on the basis that they will come back with their own interpretation. Insofar as the viewer-reader is then the interlocutor, the roles will have been reversed and I will be given, in a manner of speaking, the 'additional signifier'. (See Closing for some clarification of this.) While this mostly cannot actually happen, in effect it will have happened on the basis of the research having been placed in the public domain. This is a new question that the research has given me, which I hope to address in Closing: On what level does the research reach out to communicate when it orientates around a signifier – like swifts encircling the space for no apparent reason other than the sheer delight of flying – which would only one among several components that may or may not be contributing to signification? 

(See Emphasis 10, below)

In a paper published in 1984, first delivered as a lecture in 1964, Foucault (1984: 3-4) distinguishes the space of two kinds of ‘site’, ‘utopia’ and  ‘heterotopia’. While by site one can think more obviously in terms of locations comprised of three-dimensions, what Foucault (ibid: 3) terms ‘heterogeneous space’, utopian and heterotopic spaces have a ‘curious property’ of space in relation to site in that they ‘[…] suspend, neutralize, or invent the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect’. Foucault’s mention of the ‘internal space’ of ‘dreams’ and ‘passions’ in this context, therefore, also suggests a degree of proximity to considerations of Levinas and Lacan. Foucault (ibid: 3) contrasts utopias, which are ‘[…] sites with no real place’, with heterotopias that he claims are ‘counter-sites’, sites that are real, but are ‘[…] simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted’. The example Foucault provides of the structure of a heterotopia is the mirror.

In respect of the mirror, the clay-tinged rain that had splattered Kapoor's concave mirror mentioned in the Prologue was an example of a contingent medium itself challenging the mirror's illusionistic capacity. The research is here perhaps an example in practice of the challenge of a psychical form of reflection on one's own work, which has, built into it, scrutiny or critique, which repeats points made concerning responsibility in Emphasis 4 (+ journal entry 19 Aug).      

Something interesting occurs to me that amounts to a significant additional intervention, if this is permissable at so late a stage as CLOSING. I'm already pleased with the wordplay in Preliminary between shirking, avoidance, and how void, in the middle of avoidance, both names as if it were solid and references absence. A second linguistic detail that bodes a question is whether it should be disused builder's yard, or builder's disused yard, as I'm not sure whether, or for what reason, the yard appears disused. The builder, by whom I mean the owner of the business, I assume would be the boss, here represented by the equipment of his profession. It's hypothetical – all to do with my reading of circumstances – but things are still on-going in the yard because since last summer a key object, in many ways an obstructive object towards what I'd been trying to do, has disappeared; namely the green-blue containers – and some other equipment. Authoritative representations are issues to me whether they're present or absent, as long as they were there in the first place. (Of course, the light changes, the swifts are only present at a certain time of year, and there's a worse idea that the space could be re-built.)

The latter point suggests a subtle distinction between the window being utopic, in Foucault's terms, rather than heterotopic, which depends on whether or not I remain aware of the window's frame and its greater context. Occasionally in life I've walked into windows unaware, which does constitute what I'm suggesting is the shock of recognition of the void. It is, if you like, a wake-up call, which means taking greater responsibility for oneself in one's greater material environment.       

So far in this research I've projected through it to the potential viewer-reader. If the work seems hermetic, once it's in the public domain how it then conveys and suggests is a matter of its viewer-reader. Inasmuch as how the cinema works may be analogous, Lacan (2018: 151) says of it that '...the mask [in the cinema] is something else. It is the unreal aspect of the projection'. Lacan (ibid: 152) also states that knowledge can only be spoken in its 'half-saying', because of its link with the signifier. Look at the now-absence of the containers! They're a gift, in their absence, to an idea that has maybe pushed forward the communication of the research, but one cannot seriously expect that the containers are it. They're prompts, I'd suggest, in the discussion of the builder's yard representing a locus of consideration of responsibility towards the void. 

If I say that the 'unreal aspect' of the research is neither you nor me, but the business of the work itself, I'm in danger of suggesting that the research is complete, an exposition not in terms of a topic of enquiry but finished work. More accurately, the case is that I've since discovered in Hansen (46-7), concerning Peirce's semiotics, the concept of the 'phaneron', which '...designates something like appearance in itself'. In Peircian theory concerning the diagram, this is the aspect of the diagram that is its inexplicable 'firstness'. Hansen (ibid: 47) links this to Levinas, when he states: 'Firstness designates a category of reality that is absolutely removed from the domain of experience'. What occurs to me, and I'm now working on, is the inclusion of language in the visual work – I still video-record and speak, but much of what I say is being written into the visual work as I speak, with the intention of striking at the 'firstness' of the visual work's new tendency to be read as diagram. The diagram approached in this way is like a form of visual demonstration of the audio content of the videos in the present research.   

Two photo shots of the drawing in Dermatograph pencil and oil paint applied with the finger on clear plastic in-situ on the windowpane that overlooks the motif, the builder's yard, and the space in-between.

The left image is a digital montage of two photos, where the consequence of including the left-hand apartments' wall is to have a stretched horizontal format. The right image, which is a single shot, conveys a more vertical format. Both images reasonably overlay the motif, while their comparison indicates the kind of disparity that is implicit in the task of trying to trace and mimic the colours of the motif. Equally, while these shots show the motif partially obscured and replaced by its painting, while working close-to and engaged in the process my natural use of binocular vision automatically presented me a more X-ray effect, as shown and explained in the video and caption to the left.       

Responsibility towards...


Responsibility in, through and as perception.

Responsibility towards perception, as moving towards, or the stance or position taken.

Self-responsibility, and responsibility to the viewer: to show/demonstrate/convey, as though with an educational motive


Why? Because the difference between appearances as familiarly reproducible and an idiosyncratic manifestation – the latter distinction of which concerns semiotics – conforming to standard pictorial conventions, feels more real, when real is ineffable and beyond grasp in the Lacanian sense. Drawn towards that which, paradoxically, cannot be communicated.

The concern is, on the one hand, how one's eyes feel and appear to work and, on the other, to represent the results of scanning across planes and spaces. (Yarbus, 1967, Eye Movements and Vision) If withdrawing a little from this commitment, responsibility is towards at-once enabling and controlling the, albeit, limited autonomy of the medium (Bohm, 2002: 197). Is this enough? It should be!


We have:

1. Responsibility towards managing the difference between conventions of representation and individual vision.

2. Responsibility towards trying to convey how the eyes work, through their simulation in/as/through line.

3. Responsibility towards conveying that '2' is in response to how things appear.

4. Responsibility towards enabling/controlling a medium's tendency to exert its own behaviour.



Void space extracted from overlaying conceptual sketch with digital collage of screenshots from video 

In Emphasis 7, I offer an idea that once the research is in the public domain the viewer-reader as interlocutor will, in a manner similar to an analyst, be in a position to offer the 'additional signifier'. While I said that this mostly could not happen, if I think about it, it actually has already happened as a consequence of the review process, due to which I looked again at the location of the research. In so doing, I've noticed that the containers, which were in a sense metaphorically an object representing ambivalence towards authority, have in their disappearance opened the space to being more of a void. If I look back at some of the visual work, in Drawing 1 (7-13 Jul) I was struggling to both negate and integrate the stubbornly placed containers, and in screenshots from the relevant video (11 Sept), in putting up my hand towards the containers I was in effect both shielding and preventing them. Of course, this is adaptation of a process that is most authentically the domain of psychoanalysis, but the dialogic basis of research, whether to oneself or better still to include others, played out by changes at the level of the visual-material, have resulted in some progress. Insofar as the builder’s yard has prompted the consideration of ambivalence towards authority, the process has caused some alteration to the question of ambivalence. 



If one raises one’s finger in front while continuing to focus on the aggregate of one’s visual environment, such a precise new image in space is semi-transparent like a kind of X-ray. Would that one could have the availability of X-ray – the light-box for it is up and ready – instead of which the elements that enter the transparent plane of the window are blurred! To smear and to blur are indexical and, as nouns, metonymical, not of how the elements of the builder’s yard look in any circumstance but how in relation to the means to me or by choice, and where choice comes into it, is the question of responsibility. One might say that in the quietest of ways the latter question is ethical. Levinas is right, but can a mere blur have the transformative power of image over object. 

Indicative transitional screenshot from video 

A site for sore eyes, this yard, although Porto, which is the greater location, is renowned charming and characterised by its proliferation of red slate roofs. 

The mixed media collage, opposite, can hardly be expected to shoulder the extent of the considerations posed above, nor is it meant to. I earlier state (journal entry 1 Aug.) that writing more than the artwork can articulate the question of responsibility. However, where I assume in this same note that the drawing-based artwork itself challenges its conventional semiotics – by representations having been rendered, one might say, poorly – I would wager that the signifier elements that make up the sign, to use the language of semiotics, have themselves taken on a role in relation to the question of responsibility. This observation confers with a point I'd made in my page of notes (6 Jul), where I equate the feeling of working in the region of the signifier, that I term 'idiosyncratic manifestation', with the Lacanian Real. Because the Real in the Lacanian sense is ineffable, ungraspable, one can only play with it as 'artifice', in a spirit of 'savoire-faire' (see Lacan quote, 8. Aug). Insofar as this, according to Lacan, is the limit of one's responsibility that can be taken towards the Real, I equate this with one's tendency as an artist to attend to one's process.      

If it's the idiosyncrasy of the closing visual work's manifestation that is the centre of concern of responsibility, then before considering this question further I might summarise that the research's three main referenced theories are implicated in the work. The image-basis of the motif has been an Other in the Levinas sense, in this case of challenging one's position of responsibility towards it. One may consider that the motif as its issues unravel through a variety of means of visual observation has been obfuscating (my interpretative term), in the Lacanian sense, which is conveyed through the impression given by the collage of at-once synthesis and incoherence. Regarding Foucault's 'heterotopic' space, of which the mirror is a prime example, the transparent plane that has at various times been clear plastic sheet against a window pane does suggest a physical presence indexed by my hand and the various iterations of the imploded rectangle of the action camera that seem to hug the hand trapped. The latter more sinisterly suggested function relates the camera's implosions to what I debated was their sense of being a psychic portal.  





Levinas (1996: 83) particularly equates the Other with responsibility, and ‘[…] begs for me, and in so doing recalls my responsibility, and calls me to question’.  Levinas (ibid: 54) refers to the Other’s ‘proximity’ and ‘duality’, but it is not an object, so much as a ‘face-to-face’ with (ibid: 43) ‘[…] a relationship with a Mystery’.

Levinas, E. (1996) The Levinas Reader (Ed. Seán Hand, first published 1989) Oxford, UK; Camb. Mass. USA: Blackwell

According to Levinas (ibid: 132), while the object is not relevant to his concept of the Other, the ‘image that can be extracted from the object can be of relevance, because it is ‘[…] exterior to itself, but with an exteriority which is not that of a body […] Here we have an exteriority of the inward’.

Levinas, E. (1996) The Levinas Reader (Ed. Seán Hand, first published 1989) Oxford, UK; Camb. Mass. USA: Blackwell


The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (2006: 262) states of the action in Freud's initial and pivotal observation of a baby playing this game of repeatedly tossing a threaded spool out of its cot and crying Fort (gone), only then to pull it back with the expressed word Da (here): 'His action thus negativizes the force field of desire in order to become its own object to itself'. I need this phrase, 'its own object to itself', for the focus of interest, in this case ostensibly the builder's yard, on something that compels me towards the no less obtainable key; according to Zizek (2006: 17) the 'blind spot', something '[...] in the object more than the object itself'. What I want to suggest is that in this, the compulsion, is the struggle that's an individual and personal responsibility.

Lacan, J. (2006) Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English (trans. Bruce Fink, first published in English 2002) New York; London: Norton

Zizek, S. (2006) The Parallax View. Cambridge Massachusetts; London: MIT Press


Lacan (2006: 89) states that an ‘imaginary space’ – which in the Lacanian context may be considered a psychical space – ‘structures’ one’s ‘symptom’ comparable to ‘excluded islets’, one’s symptom of which is contained in a surrogate sense in the object a. Lacan (ibid: 692-3) equates the ‘erogenous zone’ with the body’s orifices, but he also associates erogeneity with ‘[…] the phoneme, the gaze, the voice… and the nothing’. The last characteristic, ‘nothing’, implies the void in the context of ‘imaginary space’

Lacan, J. (2006) Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English (trans. Bruce Fink, first published in English 2002) New York; London: Norton


This reference to islet as ‘a territory’ is a kind of trigger word from me, in psychoanalytical terms, which suggests that I may be associating the idea of object a with ownership and defensiveness.


Foucault (1984: 4) provides the mirror as an example of a ‘heterotopia’, because it’s a real object but in which ‘[…] I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there’, From the mirror reflection’s physically distant place one is at-once drawn back towards oneself and ‘reconstitutes’ oneself in the space and place of the mirror view. For objects to be heterotopic, they have to operate in such a way, for which reason the concept of the gaze is relevant.

Foucault, M. (1984) Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, Architecture /Mouvement/Continuité/October, 1984; (“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967 Translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec) (Accessed 15 July, 2021)

Lacan (2016: 47) has this to say about responsibility:

'One is only responsible within the limits of one's savoir-faire.

What is savoir-faire? It is art, artifice, that which endues a remarkable quality to the art of which one is capable, because there is no Other of the Other to perform the Last Judgement, At least, so say I'.

Lacan, J. (2016) The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII (Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller) UK: Polity



Lacan (2006: 262) states of the action in Freud's initial and pivotal observation of a baby playing this game of repeatedly tossing a threaded spool out of its cot and crying Fort (gone), only then to pull it back with the expressed word Da (here) : 'His action thus negativizes the force field of desire in order to become its own object to itself'. I need this phrase, 'its own object to itself', for the focus of interest, in this case ostensibly the builder's yard, on something that compels me towards the no less obtainable key; according to Zizek (2006: 17) the 'blind spot', something '[...] in the object more than the object itself'. What I'm wanting to suggest is that in this, the compulsion, is the struggle that's an individual and personal responsibility.

Lacan, J. (2006) Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English (trans. Bruce Fink, first published in English 2002) New York; London: Norton

Zizek, S. (2006) The Parallax View. Cambridge Massachusetts.; London: MIT Press

Between the collage work on paper (7/11 Aug) and the motif traced onto clear plastic that then overlays the aforementioned collage, there's considerable disparity between size and format. However, as shown in the left-hand visual (31 Aug), there are suggested links between nodal points that create new trajectories in effect across void space of the drawn and collaged motif. While this is admittedly jumping to a conceptual resolution to what I've been playing with as a perceptual question, my use of bottle green, as shown in the centre visual, alludes to an experience of colour that is near for me, I feel, to the ineffable Real in the Lacanian sense. (Real as ineffable, insert 7 Jul) It's beyond the scope of the research at this time to explain this; suffice it to suggest, therefore, that a conceptualisation of a disparity between the two key drawing layers is, in my thinking, of considerably personal origin.       

What the research explores and itself carries has been presented in the journal entries. What the visual artwork presents, but cannot itself be considered an exploration, is diagrammatically sketched as the left-hand double-page visual. The zones of void space conceived in the research, very much as a perceptual process but now with a fair degree of conceptual determination as what will be bottle green zones, are visualised as though perceivable in cross-section through the work's pictorial space. While the suggested distance between the two drawing planes, the drawing and the painted drawing on plastic, is proportionately not nearly as great as the space between the balcony wall and the distant builder's yard's wall, the implication is of substantial space. How much of this implication is communicated on the flatness of the eventual work's pictorial plane can only be ambiguous, in keeping with the ambiguity of the idea of communicating with the motif's gaze as the Other in the context of responsibility of oneself towards being face-to-face with the Other of the gaze.  

The axis from the camera, being pliable, indicates its resistance to the transparent plane, the windowpane. Primarily the axis is a means for me to remain at a fairly constant distance from the eye-level point of focus, but in the video of the drawing event my variably pushing to and fro within this distance is particularly noticeable. While drawing, I needed to exercise this degree of movement to be able to stretch towards and see the area of the visual arena that corresponds to the collaged drawing. The axis is therefore undulating in the space between me, and the drawing's material plane. 

Responsibility towards the Mystery, in the Levinas sense, gives way to responsibility towards lumpen finger-smearing in relation to its objective to present – not represent, because it’s more fundamental than this – how the shapes are contoured and/or coloured. Then the camera, the psychic portal, rears its ugly countenance as and when I become aware of it in visual consciousness, and my means of dealing with it, the same finger smearing, by implication turns the presentations also into obstacles in the way.