My recent discovery of Ettinger's theory of Matrixial borderspace – already introduced into the research, above – has, at least in my own understanding, more specifically qualified the Lacanian question of originary desire, which I associate with the early infant stage of the Imaginary, pre-linguistic register. (Of course, one does not have to apply psychoanalytical conjecture to the making of marks as the beginning of drawing, but the theory is compelling.) Ettinger's theory, which locates the beginnings of one's psychosomatic development in the third stage of pregnancy, therefore takes the foundations of desire and its oscillation between one's emerging mind and body and one's mother's own psychosomatic state back to a stage of growth of human life that is relatively unconsidered by Lacan. How this helps visual art practice, particularly my own current artwork under consideration during and as part of its development, concerns its semiotic basis in terms particular to the psychoanalyst and linguist Julia Kristeva (1997, p.35) and its more primal manifestation as Plato's chora, and the indexical terms through which the semiotic achieves expression as ‘…distinctive mark, trace, index, precursory sign, proof, engraved or written sign, imprint, trace, figuration’. The latter given examples suggest that the semiotic basis of language, different from its conventionally communicative ‘symbolic’ level, can function in and as other forms of language, in the present context that of the visual. According to the Lacanian psychoanalyst Paul Verhaeghe, the mother or main care-provider as the first embodiment, for the child, of the authoritative Other – termed (m)Other, which is always associated with the paternal – provides the infant its first access to jouissance via signifiers as bodily stimulations from the giving of maternal care, which Verhaeghe, citing Lacan, terms 'markings'. Verhaeghe (2009, p.58) then explains why the (m)Other becomes '"the seat of enjoyment” against whom defence is necessary’. This suggests that the role of the mother is at-once full of love and a challenge to the infant. Part of the infant's growth away from the mother is due to its own recognition, according to Verhaeghe (ibid, p.49) that the mother also has desire for the father, and '... the infant’s sense of being engulfed by the mother’s desire abates as the child is able to signify the mother’s desire in Symbolic, phallic terms’. Suffice it to say in the present context that such signifier activity, crucial to psychic development and embroiled with the bodily, happens in the first year after birth. The idea of sensations of 'markings' signifiers is suggestive of the indexical, which in the case of drawing could be visual-material surface-based mark making before it begins to signify. Continuing this analogy, Ettinger's citing of the pre-natal scenario may have its equivalent in terms of the potentiality of mark-making fluctuating in one's mind before ever committing marks to a page. The in-between of either analogous state may be considered a gap that one desires to bridge, both intellectually, hence with recourse to theory, and as an instinctual reason for being involved in a visual practice such as drawing.
Writing in the context of her theory of the matrixial gaze, referencing both Lacan and Merleau-Ponty on the question of gaze, Ettinger (2020, p.249) states: '...the matrixial gaze emanates from within a stratum of subjectivity formed by what I call metramorphic processes of subjectivation beginning in the late prenatal stage and continuing throughout life'. Whereas in Lacan's theory the object a is the forever lost object signifying the originary desire, though the quest to recover the object is no less insatiable, in Ettinger (ibid, p.181) '...the objet a is not utterly lost because of its primary shareability and exchangeablity'. This object a is therefore different to that of Lacan, not only in its accessibility, but also in the fact that it is a '"feminine" objet a' (ibid, p.181). However, Ettinger's feminine in her theorised 'Matrixial' context does not concern gender. The difference between the female body of having and not having is 'the difference of the alike and not of the same or opposite...' (ibid, p.341). (Part of what may be considered the compassion of Ettinger's review of classic psychonalytical theory, particularly including that of Lacan, is that she adds to and modifies rather than rejects.) Ettinger describes the difference of the 'alike' as '...a swerve, intertwined in border linking, in plaiting and interweaving of bordelines, and in the opening of a borderspace that the interwoven plaits create' (ibid, p.340). The borderspace is more of a gap between various pairings that can be made of the Lacanian psychic structural registers: 'Phallus and the Symbolic'; 'Phallus and the Imaginary'; Phallus and the Real'. It is as though Ettinger strives to articulate the gaps of knowledge between the existing theories that betray the incoherence between their parameters (ibid, p.249). This sense of gap exists in the analogous domain of drawing and painting, where the momentum of time is broken – where Bergson's (2001, p.102-3) 'pure duration' becomes space.
In Lacan's structuring of the scopic drive, where the gaze is and projects the object a, the gaze is at one end, the in-between of which is the image blurred or stained by a psychical screen. While the Renaissance German artist Albrecht Durer's lucinda, as shown in his woodcuts, concerns the flat-plane screen of Euclidean optics, onto which are plotted the coordinates of, and therefore becoming, the image or picture, the psychic screen distorts such an image. In terms of optics, one may consider that the distortion is due to the imposition of the organic curved plane of binocular vision, whereas in Lacan's theory this is, in effect, the anamorphic image of/from the psyche; the mysterious, non-visual constituent of the gaze, the object a, which projects an at-once obfuscating constellation (of light, from the object (1981, p.96) and a point – '...the point of gaze always participates in the ambiguity of the jewel (ibid., p.86). Lacan (2016, p.70) also refers to the object a as a 'blind spot', and Žižek (2006, p.17) to 'the blind spot; something more in the object than the object itself'. According to Lacan: 'The correlative of the picture, to be situated in the same space as it, that is to say, outside, is the point of the gaze, while that which forms the mediation from one to the other... is the screen'. Then Lacan (1981, p.97) states of oneself in relation to the picture from the psychical perspective: 'If I am anything in the picture, it is always in the form of the a screen...'
The screen in the psychic context is therefore different from the screen as the lucinda, as shown by Durer, yet as a visual artist working in and through the medium of drawing and/or painting one trades, as it were, in this flatness. Ettinger (2020, p.258) cites Lacan on his references to the 'screen', also termed 'stain', and the 'tableau', the latter of which is associated with flatness. Ettinger (ibid, 258) in her own translation of Lacan, dated 6 January, 1965, states: '...the tableau [picture/painting] is, the real tableau. It is the gaze. It is this tableau that gazes at whomever is caught in its field, falls into its snare'. Such flatness is also suggested as ambiguous; as a 'field' and as something which one 'falls into'. However, this oscillation between the sheer materiality of tableau that translates as table-top, and the psychically intangible, is also how the artist encounters and experiences the material plane on which they work. Ettinger (ibid) states of this ambiguous experiential situation that it is 'the want-to-be'.