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Seminar – Of Artistic Research:

considered through hybrid writing and visual practice   


The exposition has emerged out of on-going research concerned with ‘The Observation of Perception: considered through drawing’, hosted by i2ADS, Research Institute in Art, Design and Society. In this instance the term seminar in the exposition's title refers to the use of slides from a presentation of several years ago that here preface much more recent visual-material activity relating to 'The Observation...' research. Through aspects of content of the latter, and an example of image creation of an illusionary phantom of the kind that sometimes occurs to one in one's sudden wakefulness from sleep, the exposition proposes a generic template for how one might approach art practice as research.

The term exposition used in the above paragraph opens up a number of questions of definition: of what it is to expose one’s work more so than present it; to approach artwork as research; and to assume that one can observe perception, in this case through a filter such as drawing. The contents of the forthcoming chapters, so-termed, will oscillate between reflective-academic writing and fiction, illustrated by the visual artwork referenced in the writing. Such content will tacitly concern the question of perception in relation to a referenced author/artist, and will more specifically discuss the nature of research in the author/artist’s context of use. (As part of the fiction, all reproduced visuals are attributed to the author-artist, but are the copyright of the exposition's author.) The context of the exposition is, to reiterate, an experience of a phantom presence in the referenced author/artist’s flat in the middle of the night, and how this can be explored artistically. That said; the exposition's research basis emerges from the questions posed by a degree of not-unrelated interest in other things, for example creative writing. Isn’t this how life itself goes; a whole series of contingencies, naturally recurring as well as ad hoc, that relate only tenuously or paradoxically through their very lack of relationship? One is encouraged as part of one's striving to have a relatively positive attitude towards life; to relate to each day as new, while events, circumstances, and/or the overall character of the previous day and indefinitely further back will have been drawn through.  Contingency might be considered to bear one along as a kind of holistic awkwardness.

Given that the exposition will unfold chapter-by-chapter, mainly as writing, the narrator, himself a voice, is aware that besides the voice of the author/artist yet another voice is involved; that of a character named Momrey. While Momrey, one learns, is ostensibly a fictional creation of the author/artist, part of the outsourcing of interests to areas other than centrally focused on the visual-material work will be to discuss how fiction is embroiled with fact – to use a bald distinction, when fiction and fact are of no fixed differential categories. The research will therefore concern examples in practice of each of visual-material artwork and creative writing, when these genres merge particularly through the voices that impart them, and the voices themselves are not, as it were, spelled out. Of the three disclosed voices, rather than adding yet another to them, imagine an overarching bringing together that is further forward, forever elusive, and may be considered how one copes with the range of often contradictory experience at-once personal, social, cultural, religious, political, etc., of life in the present milieu. In the present context, this has less to do with obligation towards the voices as to the text itself, loosely speaking of it as a text; what is referred to external to itself by the algorithms that determine its framework as an exposition. This said; the exposition may now develop a narrative that sees the three voices performing their respective contributions.    


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With the following multifaceted content and hybrid form, of the three voices, narrator, author/artist, and a fictional character named Momrey, the exposition involves theories of Bersani, Blanchot and Lacan and variously these authors’ citation by secondary authors, not to clarify so much as further the points implicit in the exposition. The emphasis, however, on trying to make such points, rather than succeeding in making them, places the project in the on-going state of research. The latter as a basic premise of research, as necessarily incomplete, will be argued in relation to Lacan’s logical square, which is adapted from the original logical square of Aristotle. Reference to Bersani will provide an example of an artefact in support of the in-between nature of a will towards repetition that is a modus-operandi of one’s creative work, and a Blanchot reference will be to the creative act as perpetual courting of the question of death, while paradoxically aiming to stave off the latter’s eventuality. Within the type of exposition inferred so far, the research is in this instance derived from a contingent phantom presence – an instance of the ad hoc variety of contingency – not in itself explored so much as the process that proceeds from it. Hardly a phantom, at this time, but certainly a presence, whose sinister quality may be considered its disguise by black and white bars and by a caricatured off-placing of its face, Figure 1.


The artistic concerns of the exposition’s referenced author/artist will also oscillate as those of the fictional character called Momrey. This is to identify a basis of subjectivity amidst the argument; the author/artist as relatively rational in his approach that involves acquisition of knowledge, and Momrey as more informal in his approach. Since the strategy has now been declared, the author/artist and Momrey will also oscillate in their respective responsibilities in the text, as also will speech, transcription of speech, writing, and enunciated text. Oscillation in its verb conjugation is therefore the mode of operation of the exposition’s more prosaic coined term, middleness, where the research will be positioned in and as that which is exposed.

Arguably, artwork, if the latter is not only what research generates but in turn generates the desire to conduct further research, is by nature on-going; continually recurring contingency. The present exposition will concern the showing of research, even while the phenomenon will convey both continuity and division of interest between visual art and writing. 

The exposition’s other manner of oscillation – here the term does seem to fit – will be between visual and language-based practice. There is a certain recklessness to such a declaration, in this respect, because where will the visual artwork be, except as manifest as fragments of a slideshow and a few photographs? Is recklessness perhaps too strong a term, however, when the story so far has not foreclosed the use of visual art? Better, perhaps, to leave one’s options open, even when as research any visual work should not protrude too far forward in its artefactual basis.


At this point, a reference is pulled forward that might otherwise have been placed in the Closing section; an interpretation by the philosopher Leo Bersani of a certain motif from ancient Assyrian reliefs concerning the interstitial. The interpretation is delivered via quotes and paraphrasing of a lecture presentation; and in the presentation itself, what had been grainy photographic reproductions in Bersani’s book (1986). Prior to the Bersani reference, however, in the slide indicated as Figure 2a of a reproduced slide pair, there is mention of ‘remembering back’ to a point made by the American philosopher John Dewey on the question of aesthetics, Figure 2a/b.


According to Dewey (2005, p.131), experience, which ‘affords a frame of reference for works of art’, is derived from one’s ‘sensations’ of objects that are more substantial in their sharable organisation than mere ‘transient excitations’. (Interestingly, however, that ‘sharable organisation’ does often emerge from what would have begun as ‘transient excitations’.) This had been to provide emphasis to mainly student participants in a seminar that the next and main topic, the content of the Bersani reference, might be of substantial interest to them also, and not an obscure interpretation pertaining to an art historical curiosity of the far-distant past. But then there is the dynamic point, Figure 2b, above, that Bersani (1986, pp.53-4) makes via his contextual reference to Freud’s theory of the pleasure principle: ‘…art acknowledges its own procedures […] paralyses narrative movement and dissolves points of reference in an ironic repetition’. Bersani (1986: 53-4) draws one’s attention to the stalling of movement of and within artwork that enables one to see, in action, ‘its own procedures’. (Thumbnail visuals of this reference can be seen in the margins of the lecture presentation in Figure 2a/b above.)  

The strangeness of Bersani’s (1986) main choice of reference from ancient Assyrian relief sculptures is that the space to which the motif’s design, at his choice of point in the narrative, is not only empty but is also emptiness itself.  Movement is stalled, and in stalling, turns back on itself. Not only that; what is captured at a point of indecision that nearly gives up on any optimism it might harbour at this juncture is a lion, of all creatures, and what holds it in limbo, as it were, is the unconscious influence of the design on the viewer. Such influence leads one’s eye to the space of emptiness formed by the upper horizontal of a cage, the vertical of the cage’s open door, and a warrior leaning over to open a door to enable the lion’s release. Follow the encircled empty space in the sketch of the reproduction in the Bersani text, below, to its referent at the junction of the two trajectories, the red one of which indicates the counter-thrust of a right-to-left movement indicated in green, Figure 3.


Bersani, L. (1986) The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art. New York, NY: Columbia University Press

Dewey, J. (2005) Art as Experience. New York, NY: Perigree


Artistic research held open in the limbo of indecision is the position of choice of this exposition, insofar as choice is even possible at a stage in a process where one does tend to meet with such a question, as will be argued in the forthcoming chapters.

The fictional character Momrey will, increasingly, be like the lion at the point where Bersani intervenes with interpretation of that precise point in the Assyrian narrative – although he argues this as an overall tendency of the work – all the more so in Momrey’s relations with Fasai, his alpha male dog. Momrey is, like the lion, both his own phenomenon and subject to his author’s opening and closing of the gate, as it were, but the point at which the reader meets Momrey is where he is, following the comparison, let loose into the world with a voice of his own. This does not contradict the idea of stalling: the sketch shows it; the captured interim of a dynamic movement. To similarly hold the chapters back will be to submit them to a fiction that provides a human narrative to an academic argument, even though they might in any case be fiction. Who can tell, when the emphasis will be on artifice?


Figure 1: Photograph of a presence in a mirror that bears smears of oil paint, variable dimensions, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 2a/b: Reproduction of two slides from a presentation by the author/artist, angled to suggest such reproduction (© Michael Croft)

Figure 3: Sketch attributed to the author/artist after a photographic reproduction of an Assyrian relief in the Bersani text, and thumbnail of screenshots from a lecture presentation, ink on paper, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

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Chapter 1

Key to the exposition's formatting


I’m comparable to Schrödinger’s cat; implausibly neither alive nor dead until somebody opens the box and confirms the result, one way or the other. But I’m using this quantum paradox to propose an idea of the suspension of research itself in dynamic stasis, until such time as one could relatively confidently speak of findings. But more realistically, I might consider that this is like life itself; animated suspension between birth and death, with a few revelations, if one’s lucky, along the way. I’m over-prone to commas; to be simply prone to them would be no unusual thing, since they're necessary – at least in English, but I’ve heard that they’re even more prominent in Portuguese – but to separate the clauses of sentences, as I’m overly fond, is in a sense to hold questions in the air as findings. The Portuguese writer José Saramago (1922 - 2010) apparently tended to replace full-stop with comma, and only occasionally clarified that a comma should in fact be a full-stop by following with a capital letter. Interesting, incidentally, that Saramago, as suggested by the use of the present tense, both lives on in his books while of course being abstracted out from them.

This is the point. I realise I have made a point; that research as its own modus operandi need not necessarily be as negative as Lacan had put it. Lacan (2018, p.149) first cites Picasso on his legendary retort: ‘I don’t seek, I find’, and then states: ‘The way, the only way, to avoid being mistaken is to start from the finding, to question oneself about what was there – if one so wanted – for the seeking’. This implies another of Lacan’s ideas: an anterior form of future; that what lies ahead of one is that of which it is one’s prerogative to later summon to question; what was there (past), for the seeking (future). I am, after all, doing something similar.

It’s not that there's no idea. There’s always a sense that whatever one's undertaking, at least in terms of artistic research, will more or less resolve at the end – one often knows this by experience – but what I’m questioning, as what's already found, is the efficacy of questioning as a mode of finding. This, arguably, is what characterises artistic research. No doubt, it offers me some amusement to think, that others would disagree, but this is where I’d take my stand, which is less insipid than to consider that one's just doing research. I’ll press ahead and show the screenshot, a slide from a slideshow captured open on my computer. Bite the bullet! This is the extent that a point of visual information, albeit conveying text, can be tweaked with creativity. There’s enough to suggest in the left-hand scroll bar that the slide is part of a larger presentation and the light that plays off the screen in the lower left corner infers that the screen’s part of a greater context, albeit giving very little of itself away. (Figure 4)


Clear enough, is my reaction to reading that screen! Reinvigorate to update, which implies that whatever’s born by the screen will be projected onward. This is in itself interesting; the indication within the image of it’s having been folded, as it were, within a screen, a past event of some kind therefore made newly again present, with the promise of further explanation, since surely it wouldn’t have just been sitting there like at present shown. What can we deduce from what we see? Some sort of presentation taking place about an artist’s project in the context of education, perhaps, following a previous presentation, we read, on Greek tragedy, of which this one considers such tragedy as part of the constitution of a work rather than attempting to be, itself, a Greek tragedy. But why should it have been necessary to paraphrase what was there?’


At this point the reader will have noticed of the above passage of text that the font has changed and as first-person reflection is punctuated and phrased to oscillate between spoken and written. And here’s a point that might need to be reiterated in relation to the exposition; that ambiguously there is a narrator in the midst who may not clearly, as yet, be fictional, but is certainly separate from the work’s referenced fictional character, Momrey, and even, perhaps, other to the exposition’s referenced author/artist. Just as there is always a homunculus – which is an image-rich phenomenon that is probably not too different from the indissoluble relationship of self-and-other of the subject – in one’s head or in the vicinity of one’s body pulling the most personal and barely conscious strings. To stay with the idea of creature, nonetheless, the homunculus is in a sense the very folding in of self-distancing. This voice, the most allusive of all voices that may be observed – even despite lack of observation – speaking through the text; the text that asserts its own autonomy. This other voice, closer to one than any other thing, is paradoxically the independent voice of the text. Ricoeur, concerning the concept of distanciation in hermeneutics, states:




The perceived-as-independent other voice, obtained from the creative effort to distanciate, offers the best route towards whatever the text proposes. Inasmuch as Momrey is an other voice, however, he is not convincingly separated from whomever is the exposition’s author/artist on the basis that an oscillating middle region is actually the most realistic; neither reality as familiarly perceived nor as a fully-fledged creative otherness of distanciation, this neither/nor as the characteristic mode of research, as will be argued in the exposition, in a word.    

Figure 4: Computer-screen screenshot from a lecture presentation, indicatively slide 2, judging from the scrollbar shown in the left of the photo, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK: USA: Polity Press

Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action. London; New York, NY: Continuum

Zizek, S. (2006) The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT

…to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text…. …of exposing ourselves to the text and receiving from it an enlarged self, which would be the proposed existence corresponding in the most suitable way to the world proposed’. (2008, p.84)

Intervention 1

The name Momrey is a portmanteau word of personal meaning to the author/artist that concerns recollection.

Algorithms of standard publishing templates cannot often accommodate the conflation of reflective-academic with fiction, where bullet-points are as radical as can be allowed. This said, Momrey could meet such holes corporeally, as it were, with skin problems that the author/artist attributed him; Pre-Bowen's disease, along with proneness to warts on the backs of his hands. Tinnitus too, was added to Momrey’s ailments, as a shrill electro-static. He tried to deal with the warts himself by covering them with small roundels of duct tape to deprive them of the oxygen needed for their growth. He occasionally also used the duct tape to hold against the warts tiny segments of banana skin, due to the latter’s abundance of antioxidants. Tinnitus he would sometimes deflect by listening to tapes of other pitches of hissing! Such bizarre procedures did seem to work, all told. 

Meanwhile, the circles of duct tape on his character Momrey's hands were the “blind spot”, according to Zizek (2006, p.17, citing Lacan), that is instilled ‘…in the object more than the object itself'. This is the object a, object cause of one's originary desire, the latter of which can be alluded to through unconsciously selected attributes of people and things but the original never re-obtained. Zizek, occasionally in his recorded lectures, also refers to the object a as some sort of imperfection that is paradoxically compelling, due to which, to gain perfection would after all be but another form of the ordinary. (Indeed the generic name, object a, is itself imperfect, since the jury would seem to be permanently out on the question of what it means; a mystery that derives its potency from the self-same mystery.) Need this be referenced, when Lacan’s teachings do themselves offer many interpretations of the object a? Momrey might be attributed as saying that it amuses him to chase likely metaphors, the wart hidden under the duct tape being a prime example, in its imperfection, if such instances didn't also have a habit of hurting one, emotionally if not sometimes even physically.

Pre-Bowen’s disease can be dealt with, if the lesions have not developed too far, with liquid nitrogen applied from a canister, the nodal spray of which, applied for two or three seconds, stings extraordinarily and brings water to one's eyes, but also, in what the author/artist has contrived to be his character Momrey’s experience, laughter. His ability to tolerate causes him to laugh in gratification of the ability, unlike needles, which he intensely dislikes. The warts are nodes, somewhat broader than blemishes of Bowen's-, both of which are blind spots in plain sight, as it were, but Covid jabs – extraordinarily, the submission in 2020-21 of vast numbers of people throughout the world to such injections – are the blindest of all, bloody for a second.


Where is such an intervention going? It’s not, in a word, or at least not necessarily. As a character sketch it’s the employment of certain of the author/artist’s physical traits to convey a picture, as it were, of a fictitious other, while in admission of both origin and motive. Yet, there is now a toolbox of voices and abilities:


  • Author/artist as a referenced character who works variously with writing and visual art, and who has created a fictional character, Momrey  
  • Momrey as a portmanteau name for a fictional character that wavers between being an independent entity and an other voice of the exposition’s author (This is an important point: the relationship is one of wavering.)  
  • Momrey with a degree of theoretical resourcefulness, which is a reflection of that of the author
  • Momrey reporting and formatting his own speech and its context of use, as indicated by a change of font
  • A narrator, the mute agency that reports the project to the reader, especially concerning each of the author and Momrey’s speech, and indication of surrounding circumstances A medley of warts, in a manner of speaking! It should not be assumed that all of these voices will be equally used, but their relation as tools to writing is different to the materials to and of visual art, in that they’re potential aspects of content as raw material, in a sense, of research. Such a pragmatic viewpoint is of course unfair to the characters when their presence is as much due to subjective affect ; characters that are needed, either for as-yet unidentified reasons or for affects; nothing especially secretive, save as the populace of an imagination.


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Chapter 2


Here’s the generating motif, even though the request that it proposes is now redundant: an artist’s project that involves an invitation to its seminar participants, in this instance conveyed by means of a slideshow, that involved encouraging donations as participation in an art and writing project, Figure 5a/b.


It’s tenuous! I can hear my tinnitus not only exacerbated by the quietness and heightened by anxiety, and the neighbour’s cat playing again with the plastic dustpan out there on the terrace in the darkness. Yet as I look towards the window I notice that the morning light is just emerging, though it’s too dim to compete with the flexible lamp poised above my desk. The situation will, however, be changing by the moment, and I can indeed now see a fairly bright shaft of light tracking across my shoulder as I linger on this paragraph and project ahead to questions of the first draft of the next. I need something pivotal on which to lay the blame for the question; a dustpan to the cat’s noise, to override it with such amusement – not that this sufficiently quells my anxiousness!    


The reader of the present text need not know anything more about the referenced project. The key question, however, which is still operative in the present circumstances, Figure 5b, concerns the question: ‘What can be the exchange?’

To Momrey the question of money or tragedy in exchange in the slides with which he had been presented, as slide Figure 5b indicates, would be of little interest. Could the exchange, he might query, be the research itself as in effect a package; a gift to him? Back to Lacan (2018, p.149) in this respect: ‘…the finding, to question oneself about what was there – if one so wanted – for the seeking’; to find that he had not negated the efficacy of Lacan’s statement by suggesting that the research would be enough, because what had been found, by and as the research, was the self-same statement regarding research’s sufficiency in itself. Lacan states (2006, p.247) ‘…the future anterior as what I will have been, given that I am in the process of becoming’.


The author/artist knew in advance, or at least had a suspicion, true to the Lacanian idea of finding, what the pivot could be – a question previously attributed to Momrey. He would outsource from the present available data to that which had not been without an appearance before, but from a perspective of debunking an illusion that would nonetheless stay illusionary. 'Impactive Space', to import the motivation for another project, yet not without its efficacy to the idea of research as a perpetual pertinent middleness – to coin a term.

For the author/artist, Momrey’s equivalent to the cat’s dustpan would be a certain operative illusion, something he had not seen since, but the memory of which had stayed with him. The illusion would bridge both this and the other project. Quite how it would bridge, was the concern of light. While to his left the morning had by now broken, to his right he could see the other side of the offending article, the portal within which, from its own other side, he had encountered the illusion. The bridge, therefore, was physically in the form of a threshold, but how it bridged between the present and another project was literally in and through its manifestation as text. Here and now, the author/artist considered, as he was typing, the bridge between the projects was being formed, though not without recourse to physical materiality; the glass door, at present shut, between kitchen and a small utility area that was now enclosed but would once have been an open balcony, could also be viewed from the bedroom. It was in the depth of night several months previously that an apparition had appeared in the doorway, the door open at that time.  Doorway, or more poetically portal, as bridge: respectively horizontal and vertical impactive space.


Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK: USA: Polity Press

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

Ricoeur, P. (2008) From Text to Action. London; New York, NY: Continuum

Zizek, S. (2006) The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT


Figure 5a/b: Computer-screen screenshots from a lecture presentation, judging from the scrollbar shown in the left of each photo, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


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Chapter 3

Blanchot, M. (1982) The Sirens Song. UK: Harvester Press

Lacan, J. (1999) On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XX. New York, NY; London: Norton 


Speech is written and grammatically formatted to as much as possible convey its enunciation. According to Lacan (1999, p.33): ‘The signified is not what you hear. What you hear is the signifier. The signified is the effect of the signifier’. What the viewer-reader reads of speech, therefore, next best to hearing, is mostly its signifier basis. The intervention of quoted passages is of a different level, is definitely what is read, therefore at the level of the signified.


I’m over-complicating the meaning of the sentence about a happy end being out of the question! And as for these retorts, am I assuming that while scanning these slides of the presentation I have an interlocutor sitting alongside me? It’s not a daft idea: one often speaks to oneself, and by so doing proposes that an other is in one’s midst. (Figure 6a/b)


However, there’s also an essay on Virginia Woolf in the Blanchot collection: ‘Outwitting the Demon – a Vocation’. At the start of this essay, Blanchot (1982, p.87) refers again to Goethe’s ‘…demon who helped him achieve a "happy end"', but also to Virginia Woolf who ‘…struggled all her life against the demon who protected her, and finally outwitted him in a desperate gesture which vindicated her vocation’. By conflating interpretations of the above points from these two essays, I can see how one might get to the alternative choice of reading of the sentence to give: A happy end comes out of consideration of the question. Blanchot (1982, p.89) states of Woolf regarding the seriousness of her approach to her art: ‘Cheating is out of the question’. There is therefore something, after all, in my reading the sentence when, according to Blanchot (1982, p.92) on Woolf: ‘She intimates that after almost every one of her books… she contemplated suicide’, and then, to read again: ‘With her death her last novel (Between the Acts) ends without ending. That was always the most dangerous time: when the book forsakes her the strength she derives from it withdraws, leaving her resourceless and deprived of any faith in her work’. 

It’s of course one's own prerogative – in this case Goethe’s and Woolf’s – to assume or feel one has a demon, although its presence in the first place that bodes the feeling may not be a choice. When I speak to myself aloud, even if barely as a whisper, it’s as if someone or something else, beneath my consciousness, is summoning me to do so. Woolf's demon, her writing, kept her alive, 'protected her', until she finally 'outwitted him' and succeeded in suicide, Blanchot suggests. To live a life in perpetual consideration of the question, would be my suggestion.


Yes, just to summarise between these Figures 6a/b, it’s an essay title in Blanchot’s The Sirens’ Song (1982), but as a quote from Goethe, at the time of its saying it inferred only the question of failure (Blanchot, 1982, p.44); not my suggested alternative reading that a happy end may also come out of consideration of the question itself. (Figure 7)


Figure 6a/b: Computer-screen screenshots from a from a lecture presentation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 7: Computer-screen screenshot from a from a lecture presentation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

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Chapter 4


There’s another phantom, or should one say its progenitor, conveying further legitimacy to the phantom’s apposite occurrence as mentioned in the Foreword. The present item in question is the small black-box action camera worn in front of the author/artist’s eyes. The black box implodes to a long thin black rectangle – the phantom as referenced so far – because it is an illusory presence available only to the author/artist, and only to viewer and author/artist thereafter in the form of an image-based representation.

Contingency: always of interest, this time in the form of the reflected ripples that, albeit vaguely, betray the material presence of the clear plastic sheet. Betraying, also, that the author/artist does not have the strength of his convictions. Better to have painted directly on the mirror and erased, but there is the feeling always at the back of his mind that something good enough to keep will emerge; scornful as he is of algorithmic media except insofar as what he does with pencil and paint conforms to convention, albeit physical rather than digital. Anyway, he is pointing to these ripples, and rippling them, from the mirror, from the wall tiles, caught between right and false-left fingers, as seen above in Figure 8.

Why the disparity to which he is pointing happens, he is not quite sure. True, the lens of the camera is set to the left of its box, but it picks up his image front-on, as if centred. What is likely to be happening is that his left-eye dominance, his looking through his left eye only, supported by his right eye as his vision's helper, is off-centring the image he sees to his left – remembering that images are inverted in mirrors, secretly hiding the fact that they are lying, unless one knows their trick. Anyway, what he was wanting to do was to cover the mirror view of the camera with the blackness of paint, same size, to indicate to the viewer – of the video, now the screenshot – of the reflection's scale from his present position, Figure 9.

This is taking considerable licence – it should be emphasized – with a diagram that is difficult to contextualise in Lacan's own terms, and starting into it at the point of contradiction, where the process continues to possible and, importantly, to contingent, at least for the author/artist’s own reasons. Between each of the positions possible and impossible, respectively, are object a, and undecidable. Impossible is tantamount to confronting the ineffable Real, of Lacan’s three psychical structuring registers Imaginary, Symbolic, Real, before which is that of play, one might suggest, at the level of signifiers; the object a, and then their character, undecidable, initiated by contingent.

Why come in at contradiction? Because this is where Momrey comes in, as it were; where the author/artist’s homunculus oscillates between interlocutor, as Other, at necessity, and the small other of self-and-other identity that the author/artist situates at possible. In this sense, Momrey embodies contradiction. Momrey as contradiction is, however, an anomaly, like the phantom that will be more fully referenced up ahead. While contradiction is the author/artist’s preferred starting-point, a start at possible would be more realistic for others, without overly treading on the toes of the personal. To tread on the toes… means, in this context, of the author/artist’s pre-existing history, his anterior future brought forward, case by case, as new starting material. Such material will not necessarily be known by observing-others, who will view the starting material of new research simply as new material, unless informed otherwise. Anterior-future, in the form of odds and ends, or alternative ways of looking at existing and finished work, is the status of anything that in artistic research may simply be considered as new beginning.

The Real, which may be considered to manifest as the author/artist’s impossible task of trying to trace around the clear plastic goggles, is resulting in a displacement that he, himself, cannot see except in this reproduction, which is of course what the viewer, himself included, will have seen in the video, Figure 11.  


A couple of things worthy of mention: the imploded rectangle of the camera reflects the edge of its illuminated viewing screen to its right, to the author's left in his reflected image. To the left of the imploded rectangle, the author/artist can see a brown-orange band – to the right in the reflected image. In the right photo that contains this detail there is more than this going on. The author/artist is looking for the detail, and as he does so the video's eventual viewer appears to be the subject of his gaze. Undecidable again. Who is he looking at, if not whoever it is who happens to be looking at this image? Contradiction, because this is not what he is doing suggests is his concern. The something else, therefore, is a gift of chance – an instance of the elevation of contingent to the poetic, when chance is another potent topic in Lacanian psychoanalytical theory. The gift is that the lower right-angle of the camera screen's reflection aligns with the rim of tiling of the facing wall of the shower unit and pulls its logical place in space forwards; a gift either to formalism or, if one prefers, to something deeper, or where the one criterion informs the other; an other, also, not just any other. This cajoles both the author/artist and his research in the middle, in which it is the author/artist’s prerogative to be, though this as a matter of choice would not necessarily have sprung to his mind, Figure 14.  

Now here is the powerhouse, albeit discreetly stated: there is a trajectory, just a little off the horizontal, between the indexed eye (the black dot to the left in the photo), the author/artist's actual eye, the camera's eye (just visible in the middle), and the remainder (just visible but to the right, easily overlooked), of the author/artist's recently self-doctored wart – a complaint and one's behaviour towards it that was previously and is still also attributed to Momrey. Chance has linked up eye and the wart, where, due to repetition of signifiers of near equal formal character, they start to signify an issue. How might it be phrased? The illness implicit in the indexing of one's narcissistic looking! This will not be it, one may assume to be able to say, because an object a does not come so easily, and as soon as one feels some leverage it slips away, like desire itself. But this is a beauty: the wart as a blind spot, metaphorically and literally, had already given the author/artist so much, and here he sees it reflected in whatever he has done, or can see, of his eye; and as before, what he draws into his gaze is whoever is the phantom at this moment gazing.


Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK: USA: Polity Press


The diagram, Figure 10, is the author/artist’s hand-drawn copy of Lacan’s (2018, p.186) logical square as shown – adapted from the original logical square of Aristotle – from Lacan’s Seminar XIX, 'or. . . Worse', where, in explaining '...what necessitates existence', he is taking what he terms 'the gap of the undecidable' as the starting point (Lacan, 2018, pp.185-6). The small arrows on the triangles in each of the four corners indicate the direction of the movement, and within them the inferred question of each of these positions' role.


Outsource to a phantom presence, but in so doing detour to one’s self-image in a mirror, more precisely a mirror overlaid with clear plastic film to take smears of oil paint, Figure 8.   


Between the tip of his finger and the reflected image there is a middleness that is less than accurate, which gives the author/artist contingent circumstances with which he has to accept and work. To reiterate, in Lacan’s aforementioned logical square, Figure 10, contingent is the name Lacan gives to the lower-right corner, with possible to the lower-left and impossible above it as top-right, the latter of which is the Real. Between possible and contingent, lower horizontal axis, is object a, and between contingent and impossible, right vertical axis, is undecidable (Lacan, 2018, p.186).

Here is the strangeness: what the author/artist sees from behind the action camera is a highly obstructive illusory implosion of the camera into a long thin rectangle that stretches far greater than the camera's black-box actual height. The author/artist points with his right finger to the base of the imploded rectangle, otherwise hidden against the black of his top, and which can strike through the camera's same-size painted image, displaced by the author/artist to his left, or to his reflected image's right, Figure 12.


The camera's imploded rectangle is to be the phantom in the research, and can emerge only in and due to the research's constitutive middleness. Insofar as the middleness of research is proposed as between possible – if not starting at contradiction – and undecidable, as contingent, it obliquely ranges with the top horizontal axis more concerned with, and indicated on the square as, existence. Before ever reaching the top-left corner, necessary, however, the research mode has to negotiate impossible, the Real, top-right corner, which is impossible without its transformation out of that of which it is constituted; the contingency of and as research, Figure 13. 


Figure 9: Screenshot from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 14: Screenshot from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 10: Hand-drawn copy of a published version of Lacan’s (2018, p.186) logical square, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 11: Screenshot from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 13: Screenshots from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 8: Screenshot from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 12: Screenshots from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


The language terms for each of the four corners of the logical square are entered in Bold, Italic, on the two copies of in-text diagrams (Lacan, 2018, p.186):

 possible, contingent, impossible, necessary

Each of the terms mid-way on vertical and horizontal axes are entered in Bold, Regular, on the diagrams (Lacan, 2018, p.186):

object a, undecidable, existence, contradiction

The author/artist repeats this format when these terms are mentioned in the forthcoming text.


A longer explanation of the logical square can be accessed here:

Top 6

Chapter 5

How Momrey suits the logic


In Chapter 1 there is Lacan's comment concerning starting from finding, and in Chapter 3 the interpretation attributed to Momrey of the Blanchot essay title, 'A happy end is out of the question'. Figure 15, below, shows Lacan’s (2018, p.186) logical square, this time with the author/artist’s additional annotations. While the entire diagram represents the complete cycle of what Lacan (2018, p.185) terms '...what necessitates existence', the author/artist is adapting it to an idea that artistic research can represent, albeit in part only, a comparable cycle. What artistic research lacks, arguably, is the question of interlocution, because how can another person intervene in a process except by considering its stages only, its outposts? Of course, one's tutor, in the case of studying, or a professional peer review panel, a mentor, or a close professional friend, do the best they can to comprehend what they see as becoming. This position on Lacan's logical square may be considered the top-left corner, which he terms necessary, the domain of the master, the father, symbolic castration, or what Badiou (2018, p.170) terms ‘impotence’ – in the context of psychoanalysis, ‘to raise impotence… to the level of impossibility’ –  and in general what may be considered the permeation of the edict NO, orchestrated by and as language, which is in effect the Symbolic register, of Lacan’s proposed three psychic structural registers Imaginary, Symbolic, Real. Zizek terms the Symbolic Order the “big Other” itself, stating that the Other:




Impotence in this general understanding may be the outcome of one’s incessant encounter with the negative. In the psychoanalytic discourse the analyst assumes the position of the Other, who is often cited by Lacan as the subject supposed to know. That the analyst should eventually be considered by the analysand not to be this, signals that the termination of the psychoanalysis is possible. At least, this is how the author/artist assumes to be a situation that is both intriguing and baffling from a non-analysed person’s perspective, and due to the intervention into the situation of a degree of intellectual understanding through reading of its mechanics.

The author/artist has suggested a split between the top-left corner, necessary, and the other three corners, wary of impossible (the Real) because that is the domain that cannot be accessed under any circumstances, in a hand-drawn copy of Lacan’s (2018, p.186) logical square by the author/artist that includes his own annotations, Figure 15.


Badiou, A. (2018) Lacan, Anti-philosophy 3. (Trans. Kenneth Reinhard; Susan Spitzer) New York: Columbia University Press

Biggs, M. (2017) What Counts as New. TEXT Special Issue 40: Making it new: Finding contemporary meanings for creativity 15 (Eds. Michael Biggs, Kevin Brophy, Monica Carroll, Paul Magee, Jen Webb) April 2017

Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK; USA: Polity Press

Lacan, J. (2016) The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII. UK; USA: Polity

Lacan, J. (2006) Ecrits: The First Complete Edition in English. London; New York, NY: Norton

Zizek, S. (2008) Enjoy Your Symptom! New York; London: Routledge


Technically speaking, which holds a certain degree of irony, given that my contribution is that much more informal, Lacan considers that the proposition possible is the domain of all ‘x’ as subject to the phallic function; that is, man, woman, object or object-element. An additional caveat is that this side of the logical square, the left side, is male, following the original Aristolean propositions, while the right side is female. However, Lacan modifies this binary opposition by suggesting that male, female, and in this case surrogate objects, can occupy either side, albeit with the blurring of gender distinctions – when woman is automatically predisposed to being in the lower-right corner, contingent, due to different relation – or one might say non-relation – to the phenomenon of symbolic castration. But this is contentious theory! Unless one does bear in mind that anyone can be in either locale, as it were, with those men who have ducked out of the universally-binding mandate of symbolic castration as much populating the contingent of woman defined as particular, as opposed to universal. This is where I’d prefer to be; where I am! Bizarre, isn’t it, as a lay interpretation of a conceptual formalisation of which the official purpose is to argue the impossibility of sexual relationship, where impossible, the Real, is the stumbling block! Why? Because the Real would seem to constitute differing gendered constitutions of the unconscious.

Among the various options, therefore, might be that male and female are both at one point in the pre-linguistic domain of self-individuation in the Imaginary, as yet hardly gendered; at the level of the hypothetical, almost, or where oneself and all around are germinal; what I’m suggesting might be lower-left corner, possible. Why again? Because at such an early stage in one’s development one has recently come in, as it were, to the pre-existing Symbolic structure, but is as yet to be negotiated by – let’s take out any determination on our part, although this is just my preference! – and become subject to the Oedipal process. Lacan (2006, p.76), in his early paper, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the I Function” (1949), refers to this stage as ‘…the symbolic matrix in which the I is precipitated in a primordial form, prior to being objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject’.

The quote suggests that while the Symbolic structure is there in advance to exert its influence, the purpose of the mirror stage – which, the theory has it, occurs from between six and eighteen months (Lacan, 2006, pp.75-6) – is for the baby to form an identification with its mirror image as if with the other, the latter of which is founded on significant others’ wishes and aspirations, and introduces jealousy, competition and rivalry into one’s gradual inauguration as an individual. This aspect of the reflectional idea arguably is very male. Lacan (2006, p.79) states: ‘The moment at which the mirror stage comes to an end inaugurates, through identification with the imago of one’s semblable and the drama of primordial jealousy… the dialectic that will henceforth link the I to social elaborated situations’.

To frame this conversationally, when such content is unduly detailed in comparison to what had up to now been a summary statement by the author/artist avoiding the psychoanalytical, is difficult, or more specifically, awkward. Awkward because when speaking/writing off the cuff, as it were, I’m not at all sure of the credibility not so much of what I’m referencing but of how I’m paraphrasing it. Notwithstanding, the transformation of the clinical to the cultural, while in the process more rather than less specialised, is also awkward. How many of us acknowledge psychoanalysis either directly or tacitly as a theoretical source while avoiding any proximity to it in personal terms!

‘While the representative gender of Lacan’s explanation is male, part of the development of the ‘I’ will involve sexuation that will otherwise have been psychically indistinct during one’s earliest stage of infancy; in a sense the all ‘x’ subject to the phallic function. (See key to the matheme, lower-left corner of the logical square, Figure 15, above.) It should not be assumed, however, that possible is restricted only to the baby, which I’m in any case here considering metaphorically. The outcome of the mirror stage is, according to Lacan (2006, p.79), ‘…henceforth dependent in man on cultural intervention, as is exemplified by the fact that sexual object choice is dependent upon the Oedipus complex’.

I’m suggesting two things by referencing this theory; first, that one comes into a pre-existing socio-cultural situation to first encounter a process of assimilation, and that this is to some extent comparable to the process of research, where something new, the seed-germ of a possibility, is conveyed by what one already has at hand. While the newness suggests possible, on the logical square, its pre-existence – presuming that one already has a history of the practice of processing research – suggests contradiction, between the corners necessary and possible. The second suggestion is that a process of growth is involved, where the otherness of elements of the research are taken in as different to one’s expectations, leading one, perhaps as object/s a and contingent surprises either implicit in or close to the research, or as prompted connections further afield. One will notice of such suggested growth that one will have moved through object a that links possible and contingent, where the movement of difference of aspects of the research – as long as one remains open to occurrences that may seem quite apposite to one’s intentions – leads one to the not-all of contingent, not all ‘x’ as necessarily subject to the phallic function.

This process in terms of sexuation will have been shadowed metaphorically by the fact that elements of objects, and especially occurrences of object/s a, and contingency, will have challenged the Symbolic significatory determinations of one’s thinking and actions, in a sense the phallic function in and as the Symbolic, with the more image-based and only partially or non-communicative signifier. Not that the process of individuation during the mirror stage involves identifying with the ‘imago’, which, as a mere'semblable' (semblance), is never to be fully understood. One might consider that the citing of this sense of otherness, the semblable, in and at contingent, is to have taken oneself to the heart of the inscrutable and paradoxical nature of the psyche, which is also the point of most generation of creative ideas and thinking that challenges the phallic-determined Symbolic, the latter of which, as argued by Lacan, connects one to the greater socio-cultural setting. This is where Lacan places the female – or would it be at all apt to suggest the extent to which one can in one’s psyche duck out of subservience to the phallic function, the latter of which Badiou (as above, 2018, p.170) terms ‘impotence’?


How the Real is negotiated in the complete cycle of the diagram may be in terms of the entire venture being artifice. Lacan (2016, p.6) gives artifice a somewhat elevated status when he states: ‘One has to put things as best one can – it’s the only true thing there is’. Later in the same text, Lacan suggests of what he considers a game of metaphors played by the artist that its implicit artifice is actually more than, let alone as much as, one can wish for:




Part of the necessary incompleteness of artistic research is that it does, in a sense, hit against the Real. Biggs, who has written comprehensively on the question of artistic research, in this instance referring to a distinction drawn by Edward Said between creation and invention, suggests the tendency of the ‘novel outcome’ to reach ‘a limit, a threshold, beyond which it becomes incomprehensible, unusable, inapplicable, and perhaps falls into a category of nonsense’ (2017, pp.9-10). If mapped with Lacan’s logical square, Biggs’s view of the radical character of some artistic outcomes would seem commensurate with impossible. The conclusion of artistic research is always in this sense arbitrary, which is the feeling one has when either writing its Conclusion or exhibiting or putting away the visual-material work – but only, of course, if one is predisposed to the idea of research anyway.

Lacan’s (2018, p.185) own preferred entry to the logical square is at undecidable – but in a context of debating the non-existence of the sexual relationship – from which one begins one’s coursing around the square as if it were a circle. The looping involved at each corner of the square, Figure 15, above,  infers a degree of substantiality in the respective regions. What the author/artist proposes is that undecidable is finding, but as an open question. In a sense, finding is the hypothesis or concept that artistic research brings one towards, and is therefore somewhat later in the narrative. In Lacan's (2006, pp.161-175) early paper, 'Logical Time and the Assertion of Anticipated Certainty', he makes what to the author/artist’s mind is an extraordinarily useful statement: 'The time for comprehending can be reduced to the instant of the glance, but this glance can include in its instant all the time needed for comprehending' (2006, p.168). 

The time needed in the lead up to ‘comprehending' may in the present context be interpreted as indecision – undecidable is clearly written as midway between contingent and impossible on the square – in the cursory nature of a glance, but held open for as long as it takes to conduct the research. The test of 'comprehending' is, however, in response to what Lacan (2006, p.169) refers to as a subject's '...assertion at a truth that will be submitted to the test of doubt, but that he will be incapable of verifying unless he first attains it as certainty'. The 'truth' can in other words be finding, either as hypothesis, concept, or little more than a workable hunch. The usefulness of the statement is that the subject first retreats to a position of indecision. In the logical square shown in Figure 15 in the present chapter, and in the simpler version Figure 10, Chapter 4, the author/artist is suggesting alternatively that one comes in at possible, lower-left corner, and moves through object a, the domain of relation to things, in other words desire, and its/their close connection to contingent. (In Chapter 4, the author/artist has proposed that from his own point of view the ongoing influence of Momrey may cause the entry to the research to be at contradiction.) Such a process is driven by contingency more than anything; the operation of try-it-and-see, where one almost welcomes the unpredictable.

With this position of contingent, as the cycle's lower-right corner, and therefore of pivotal importance, one reads the push from possiblelower-left corner – a promising start, as it were – through the altogether more frustrating region of object a – because one is temporarily elevated then feels oneself deflated in the sudden or gradual awareness that one’s object/s of desire are only ever surrogate, can never actually be it – towards the more realistic but still under-promising situation of contingent. The author/artist can sense the efficacy of this; that the initial feeling of discovery of an object a is euphoric, like the aforementioned feeling of relevance of the referenced wart, which soon diminishes to the status of but another signifier; that is, equating signifier with contingency. Object a can only ever be a semblance of desire, never it, however hypnotic. Lacan (2018, p.59) refers to object a as within '...discourse that is more or less coherent, until it stumbles and peters out...', which suggests that it falls away a little before reaching impossible. (The author/artist's aformentioned wart as an object a falls away literally, after its doctoring.)

To reiterate, the author/artist is proposing that research as its own entity is necessarily just part of the story of, in Lacan's terms, 'what necessitates existence', and what is excluded from it – unless one does draw analogies between the analyst's position in analytic discourse and the position of one's tutor or the peer-reviewer/s – is necessary, top-left corner of the diagram, that conveys the idea of a cycle. (A pat on the back from whomever – an interlocutor, for example – who shores one up from the sheer emptiness of realisation of an unknown that will forever be exactly that: unknown.)

Artistic research is necessarily incomplete, even though one may start with a hunch as to a finding. A 'happy end' – to allude to Blanchot's essay title – is either out of the question in terms of achieving necessary, or is a form of delaying in the 'glance', in Lacan's terms, which from an artist's point of view is a form of happiness of identification and engagement with the middleness of the activity. Creative work conducted as research is a means of articulating this sense of middleness.



…of course possesses no substantial actuality… Precisely insofar as it is a ‘dead scheme’, we must presuppose it as an ideal point of reference which, in spite of its inexistence, is ‘valid’, i.e., dominates and regulates our actual lives. (2008, pp.60-1)

The real Other of the Other, that is, the impossible, is the idea that we form of artifice, inasmuch as it is a form of making which eludes our grasp, that is, which far exceeds the jouissance we can derive from it…. (2006, p.50)

Intervention 2

Momrey’s attempt to summarise the author/artist’s thinking has involved an advanced degree of distancing of himself as if he were another. One is tempted to say that the author/artist’s relationship to Momrey, from Momrey’s own perspective, is also as an other, although the discussion dips in favour of Momrey viewed subjectively only from the author/artist’s perspective.

The discussion, however, is only a part of the cycle of what makes existence necessary, and therefore need not attempt to be a holistic view of Lacanian theory. Added to which, the explanation follows a lead by Lacan (2018, pp.185-6) that concerns the linguistic prompts only, rather than precise readings, of the four corners’ mathemes. The movement is generalised, although supported by a proportion of understanding of the psychoanalytical theory. Lacan’s texts are not only difficult, but one’s reading of them wavers, and rightly so, because they concern the location of the subject in the midst of the self-same language of consideration; between understanding and interpretation. The author/artist’s own reading of Lacan’s logical square is nothing if not interpretative, because he is not only adapting Lacan’s theory of sexuation to the altogether different and generally posited phenomenon of the artistic research process within art working, but has written a psychic other to him named Momrey into the fray; such also, that Momrey has ended up providing the closest reading.

How such citing of Momrey may be read overlays another level of interpretation, albeit emerging from the present article’s discussion, Figure 16.


Momrey comes in firstly at the proposition possible, which in Figure 2, above, is designated 1a. This is, as the presently argued hypothesis, the other’s emergence as a necessarily detached proportion of oneself, one’s mirror image that appears both as a self-projection and bearing differences that are variously forms of idealisation and alienation. By the time of necessary, 1b, the other will not only have become innate with one’s existence but also have projections into and as other people, one of whom is the interlocutor, in whatever their personification. Between the other’s developmental manifestations there is an average, 1c, which is where Momrey figures. (Interestingly, the diagramming of such averaging has intercepted contradiction on Lacan’s topology.) From this point, again at possible, the other – in the author/artist’s case, Momrey – comes in again synonymously in the present context as the beginning of a process of artistic research, and is tested, as it were, through the cycle object a, contingent, undecidable, stopping short of impossible (Real).  

Momrey, while gendered male, can also, suggested by Lacan’s theory, be variously non-binary or asexual: the nature of this fictional character is as fluid. It should be born in mind, however, that while gender fluidity may present a challenge to the symbolically male orientation of necessary, top-left corner of the square, Momrey’s fictional nature means that, according to a different idea of fluidity, he can crop up anywhere on the square. The author/artist’s preferred location for him, at least as that which signifies the research in progress, is at contingent, lower-right corner. While the reader does not hear Momrey in any overt sense, he is proposed as the genesis of the phantom motif that figures in the starting material of the research in question that leads the present discussion.


Figure 15: Hand-drawn copy of a published version of Lacan’s logical square, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 16: Sketch diagram, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Top 7


Chapter 6

Pyyhtinen relates parrhesia to the first-person autobiographical writing of Knausgaard in his six-volume novel published between 2009 and 2011 called My Struggle, which, Pyyhtinen argues, is an example of the genre of autofiction. When parrhesia is applied to fiction, the influence of the latter on the former is such as to erode the quest of truth while maintaining a far greater degree of autobiography than with fiction that one approaches with the presumption that the content is make-believe, Figure 19.

Of course, one may argue that most if not all fiction has elements of factual and/or experiential reflection. However, the voice of autofiction is mostly that of the first-person. In Knausgaard's example, one might consider that he is a 'troubled' truth-teller, to use Pyyhtinen's term, because he plays with and adapts memory – which is in any case difficult to precisely recall – but even as what Knausgaard terms 'false memory', it strikes him as 'real'.  One learns that despite autofiction's conveyance of the first-person voice's own reality, a degree of licence can still be taken with this, often with the purpose of making whatever is the point more universally true, Figure 20.


Foucault, M. (2005) The Hermeneutics of the Subject. (Trans. Graham Burchell) New York: Picador  

Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK; USA: Polity Press

Pyyhtinen, O. (2019). Introduction. In: Fictioning Social Theory: The Use of Fiction to Enrich, Inform, and Challenge the Theoretical Imagination. Digithum, no. 24, pp. 1-9. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Universidad de Antioquia. (Accessed: 27 September, 2022). <>


What is conveyed below is certainly true of the author/artist’s relationship to his artistic practice, both written and visual, Figure 17.


The author/artist develops a more complex voice in his own fictional narratives, where elements of his identity are split and conveyed through a third-person voice that appears not to be his. Despite the challenge this presents to a definition of autofiction that is based on first-person narration that should be read, first and foremost, as factual, this genre seems to the author/artist to be closest to his creative textual work.


How one cites one's autobiography visually is arguably more difficult than through writing, other than the obvious strategy of self-portraiture. Portrayal can, however, be in ways that reflect through or impact on one’s visual practice indirectly, for example through audio-visual recording of oneself during contact with one’s work and variously utilising the resulting oral and visual material.

Momrey is a monster in the context of the exposition, though as a human being he's considered quite benign, has awareness of contemporary culture, is acquainted with some philosophy and psychoanalytical theory, and has skills in both art and writing. Momrey is an other – an interesting derivation of an otherwise innocuous term that implies connection as well as difference – to the author/artist in all ideal respects, which does not exclude one's fascination with the ugly. The monster of him, more of a phantom in his latest image manifestation, is as a big Other – equally an innocuous term that, due to its capitalisation, infers an abstraction of authority writ large yet impossible to pin down (see Zizek, 2008, p.61, quoted above) – which might also be designated on the basis of some references from Lacan’s Seminar XX, Encore. According to Lacan (2018, p.4), ''s desire is the Other's desire', and (2018, pp.23) 'Enjoying (jouir) has the fundamental property that it is, ultimately, one person's body that enjoys a part of the Other's body....’


Parrhesia is the name given by the ancient Greek Epicurean school of philosophy as a mode of telling the truth without embellishment, which was an important component of the allocation of democratic freedom to speech.


Figure 18: Computer-screen screenshot from a presentation, attributed to the author/artist, bearing a reference downloaded from:  (© Michael Croft)

Figure 17: Computer-screen screenshot from a lecture presentation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 19: Computer-screen screenshot from a lecture presentation, attrubuted to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 20: Computer-screen screenshot from a lecture presentation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Intervention 4

Intervention 3

Foucault defines parrhesia in its original ancient Greek context:




Furthermore, Foucault (2005, p.382) states that parrhesia is ‘…the naked transmission, as it were, of truth itself’. However, Foucault (2005, p.382) also suggests that in the process the receiver has to be ‘…impregnated by it’, and who must be able to use it and subjectivize it’. Insofar as the author/artist is himself using this technique of parrhesia to communicate subjectively as opposed to objectively or dispassionately with his reader, Momrey as an other to his own voice, in effect a separate voice, is part of his quest to speak openly about his artistic research-based process. While Momrey’s presence as a fictional character may appear as an embellishment of, if not a departure from, the notion of frankness commensurate with truth, Foucault (2005, p.384) does also refer to ‘the form in which this discourse is delivered’, and in the footnote to whatever is ‘…deployed as practice, as reflection, as tactical prudence…’.

One may consider that in any act of writing ostensibly for oneself, the voice in one’s head that is tantamount to an interlocutor – if not a person with whom one is in dialogue – is prospectively also the reader, potentially empathic, in the hope of becoming more so in the latter respect as the writing and whatever structure it develops exerts its influence. In order to be of influence, the work need not be in any coercive sense, but rather follow the liberty that is implicit on the idea of parrhesia, where the aim is to ‘impregnate’ the reader and enable them to ‘subjectivise’ for themselves the work’s conveyed content.




Foucault refers to the Other in the context of development of the self in ancient Greek and Roman texts as a phenomenon that occurs during periods of ‘non-solitude’:





Even in this pre-psychoanalytical application of the term, the Other as overriding and usurping the inadequacy and direction of one’s discourse and leading it away from one’s own truth is its mode of operation.

Then, (Lacan, 2018, p.24): ‘ is the Other who enjoys.... ...the level of phallic jouissance.... ”jouissance of the Other"... the not-whole that I will have to articulate'. Woman’s jouissance, or that of any ‘x’, man, woman, object or object-element, in effect, that is the consequence of participation in the same terms of a degree of separateness from man’s subjection to the phallic function. The ‘not-whole’ is a part of Momrey, in particular, that the author/artist might strive to explain in his own terms continually, though not uninfluenced – as will by now be apparent – by theory of Lacan. This, however, can only be in and at the level of research that has both visual-material and textual manifestations. There will be outcomes, certainly, but these will also be 'not-whole', at the level of research only, and obscure in relation to Momrey the monster, or phantom, but who nonetheless populates the research as a human subject, both an other and the Other to the author/artist.

 The text shown in Figure 18, ‘A recent article that makes points that may be relevant to…’ what might continue to say, the present exposition, is a reference to 'Confessions of a Troubled Parrhesiast: Writing as a Mode of Truth-Telling about Self in Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle', by Olli Pyyhtinen (2019).


What is basically at stake in parrhesia is what could be called, somewhat impressionistically, the frankness, freedom, and openness that leads one to say what one has to say, as one wishes to say it, when one wishes to say it, and in the form one thinks necessary for saying it. (2005, p.372)

In this non-solitude’, in this inability to establish that full, adequate and sufficient relationship to ourselves, the Other intervenes who, as it were, meets the lack and substitutes or rather makes up for the inadequacy through a discourse, and precisely through a discourse that is not the discourse of truth through which we can establish, fasten, and close up on itself the sovereignty we exercise over ourselves. (2005, p.378) 

Top 8

Chapter 7


Badiou, A. (2018) Lacan, Anti-philosophy 3. (Trans. Kenneth Reinhard; Susan Spitzer) New York: Columbia University Press

Badiou, A. (2017) Formulas of “L’Étourdit" in There’s No Such thing as a Sexual relationship. (Trans. Susan Spitzer; Kenneth Reinhard)  

Tomšič, S (2012) ‘Three Notes on Science and Psychoanalysis’ Filozofski vestnik | Volume XXXIII | Number 2 | 2012 | 127–20


But what of this second supportive project? The suggestion in Chapter 2 is that this other project would ‘bridge’ through the use of light; proposed as a matter of perception towards a doorway or ‘portal’ from the vantage of the author/artist's bed, and for the span of a few precise moments the sense he had of morning light emerging in the region of where he was typing. Inasmuch as these moments could be pivotal of the account of artistic research as it here develops, they would be so metaphorical of a transient in-between phenomenon; research as more commensurate with seeking than finding. This other theme, impactive space, is the idea that an open doorway between a utility area and the kitchen of the author/artist’s apartment, referred to as a portal in the sketch diagrams, is where, in a nightmare, the author/artist saw a phantom presence in the blackness of the portal's space, Figure 22.  


The sketch identifies, through annotation, at least three void spaces; that is, spaces that impact on the portal space that is already narrow but which had, in its role in the nightmare, both a physical and an impactive affect. The latter clause suggests that one can as much have a bodily as mental emotion, the mental seeking its expression through the body. How one draws space to be both articulated by objects and atmospheric at the same time, is an abiding interest of the author/artist.


The screenshot below shows a trajectory slightly angled from the horizontal that emerged by chance: eye indexeye photographedwart photographed, Figure 21.


One finds in the research, Chapter 5, a conceptualisation of research itself adapted from Lacan’s logical square, as a necessarily incomplete movement from possible – object acontingent – undecidable that is also suggested as linking with an interpretation of Blanchot's term 'happy end', from one his book's chapter titles, which the author/artist has interpreted as obtained from the consideration of a question posed in the context of creative practice.

In Chapter 2 there is an initial reference to another on-going project concerning 'impactive space', which relates to the present discussion of research on account of its emphasis on middleness, or in-between….


In Intervention 3, Chapter 6, which is written in the context of autofiction, the author/artist is suggesting that such a phantom is his fictional character, Momrey. Something else about the portal image, however, and very important to both the author/artist's project ideas, is that the portal is of roughly the same dimensions as the action-camera's imploded rectangle, which he refers to in the screenshots shown in Chapter 4.

The sketch diagrams indicate how a drawing might emerge from the present consideration of research that accommodates the idea of imploded rectangle of the camera, and a psychical dimension to the portal, with Lacan's logical square adapted to the question of structuring research as in the middle of a process and necessarily incomplete. The above-mentioned trajectory leading to the wart as a point of revelation, and the linking of phantom with the imploded rectangle of the camera via the nightmare image sensed in the portal, can each be argued, not necessarily unrelatedly, as metaphorical manifestations of the object a, which appears between possible and contingent in Lacan's diagram discussed in Chapter 5. 

A second more pictorial sketch shows the portal, the doorway between a utility area and kitchen of the author/artist's apartment that was the location of a nightmare, from the view of it by the author/artist lying on a bed on the right of a heavy wooden-framed glass sliding door, Figure 23.


Figure 23: Portal sketch, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 21: Screenshot from video clip, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 22: Authors sketch diagram, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Intervention 5

The term impactive space is coined as a derivation of liminality, and allows a degree of scope concerning the question of significant and focused space without having to acknowledge the starting concept other than by implication through use of this alternative term and one's practice. However, in retrospect the author/artist has found a link between liminality and psychoanalytical theory via contingency, a concept that Lacan uses to define the lower-right corner of the logical square linguistically as contingent, which is otherwise written as a matheme (see Chapter 4 Figure 10 for matheme): ‘there is at least one x not submitted to the phallic function’.

Concerning contingency, Tomšič (2012, p.132) cites the work of Catherine Malabou (2012) on her critique of Meillassoux’s After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (2010), where contingency is referred to as ‘change’ of two distinct kinds, ‘…what Malabou calls “occurential contingency”, which is the most common and spontaneous understanding of contingency…’ and ‘…“gradual contingency”’, where ‘Thought adapts to the world without noticing the changes taking place behind its back, thereby overlooking contingency as such’. The latter idea may suggest that the effects of contingency are at-once ever-present and slightly retrospective, and due to the latter are therefore generative in ways to which one can only react after whatever has been the contingent event. Instead of intransmutable laws, Malabou, according to Tomšič (ibid, p.132), ‘…proposes that we speak of the plasticity of laws as a different mode of their stability, one that is no longer grounded on the opposition between necessity and contingency (or between continuity and discontinuity)’.

According to Badiou (2018, pp.204-5, citing Jean-Claude Milner), ‘…there can be psychoanalysis provided a subject is thinkable, without our needing to be situated outside-liminality, liminality being the contingent condition of thought at any moment’. Badiou goes on to explain that philosophy traditionally makes use of the notion of ‘outside-liminality’, of ‘…”originary” necessity, of the historical transcendental not subject to contingent variation’; then that ‘Lacan, and psychoanalysis along with him, hold that there is no outside-liminality’. This distinction may be considered as the ability of philosophy, on the one hand, to discuss being without recourse to fluctuations of the individual subject of being, and on the other hand, of psychoanalysis to presuppose the subject, especially the unconsciousness of the individual subject, as automatically within the midst of any such question. Badiou (2017, p.48) states in the context of philosophy’s quest for ‘truth’, ‘…the basis of all philosophy, is incompatible with the variability of sense, with its unreliability’ – whereas the variable and unreliable are at the core of the subject in and of psychoanalysis. Badiou (2018, p.205) proposes a definition of the unconscious as: ‘the unconscious is nothing but the statement, made from the subject’s point of view, “There is no outside-liminality”’.

The author/artist’s self-conscious positing of Momrey as part of the inside liminal basis of himself as subject negates the necessarily unconscious nature of the subject in their subjectivity. More accurately, this Momrey element is thought of as if distinct from any subjective constituent role and is therefore better considered as outside liminality. Momrey is an example of how the author/artist has attempted to rationalise his own subjective dynamics in relation to his art practice. Insofar as the question relating to this fictional element called Momrey is where it can be placed, as if it were an other character capable of performing a variety of roles, in the present context it oscillates as a separate voice to the author/artist iterating and re-iterating some of his concerns, and as the phantom Other image the author/artist experienced in the portal.


Top 9

Chapter 8


Lacan, J. (2006) Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. New York, NY; London: Norton

Lacan, J. (1981) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. New York, NY; London: Norton


Inasmuch as Lacan’s logical square, as seen in Chapter 5, Figure 15, above, is a cycle that starts and ends at necessary, which is channelled by existence between the former and impossible, the implication is that the cycle is repeatable either in whole or part. Whether the dog, Fasai, had re-reached his own necessary, Momrey nor anyone else could never have known – inasmuch as one can apply a matter pertaining to a human subject to an animal. Can one in fact come into the square at any point in its cycle and terminate at any stage? This is the question for which research, for the author/artist, is a case in point. Fasai’s reasonable longevity – around fourteen years for his breed – if taken metaphorically as an example of a life that had in any case completed its term, suggests an overcoming of the blip of undecidable that is in the present argument represented by research. Fasai, non-metaphorically, will not have considered himself a casualty, and neither would he nor Momrey prefer to take casualties.

Momrey had done his best, given that what the dog often needed – although as he aged, increasingly less demanded – was a very different idea. On this occasion he was resolved to provide what he'd have chosen for himself under such circumstances; a quick and painless departure. Momrey was not in any sense maudlin, nor subject to the indecision that often haunts one concerning this controversial issue. Fasai took after his owner in indefatigability of spirit, having the genes of a hunting dog that related back to the Australian dingo. Of course, Fasai was of limited consciousness, and what he had was determined by a fusion of instinct, not least being his expression of aggression towards most other male dogs, and domestication sufficiently to accept that Momrey was, after all, his boss. Momrey knew not to make comparisons, yet he did tend to spirit the human into Fasai, and needed to feel, even if this could only be fantasy, that the dog conveyed such trust in its owner that if he had reached the end, it was indeed time to go. Senseless, Momrey felt, to prolong life with further suffering. He'd seen dogs the same breed as Fasai who, as part of the endgame, were being propped from their hindquarters on frames in order to be able to feed. Similar treatment, however much it may have been devised out of love, would not be what he would want for himself, and Fasai seemed to him to have been a proud creature.

At some very early and unknown point after the puppy’s birth a nick had occurred to the tip of his ear. Fasai's last involuntary gesture of recognition was to cock his visible ear at his final farewell towards Momrey's familiar technique of tongue clicking – there had been a life profoundly lived between the bush, as it were, and home. Momrey peered intently into Fasai's visible right eye from the dog's position lying on his left side on the cool polished concrete floor as both eyes closed.


The author/artist has a photo of his dog, Fasai, when in its prime, from which he can extract a detail of its right eye, the blurred appearance of which is not inappropriate for its following context of use, Figure 24a/b.


Many years after the photo, when Fasai was passing away, the closing of his eyes, this one still visible from his lying on his left side, was the final moment the author/artist could see of his dog’s life. The close-up of Fasai’s eye, Figure 24b, above, has given two contingent reflected points of light. When the author/artist's screenshot image is digitally montaged, it makes sense to him to range his own eye with the point of light in the dog's eye, Figure 25. 


The cornea of Fasai’s eye, also rendered as light in the montage, bears some comparison to how light is dispersed in the portal sketch, Figure 23, Chapter 7.

The light either side of the figure, while spanning outwards, also suggests compact focus on the author/artist's eye. As stated in Chapter 4, however, the eye is considered as the middle of a trio of indexed eye, photographed eye, and photographed wart, suggested as particular details of a generic movement within research's possible - object a - contingent. Lacan (2006, p.89) refers to the object/s a as 'excluded islets', which is interesting in relation to how Fasai’s final moment was registered through and as his right eye, how that eye in the vividness of the dog's active life reflected a point of light, how the same point of light happens to provide a separated point of focus of the author/artist's own eye in the montage, and how the word islet for the object a that, in Lacan (1981, p.77), is an ‘unperceived’ phenomenon of the scopic drive, phonetically contains the word eye.

Add to this the fact that the author/artist, in his creatively written narratives, tends to displace much of his more psychical rumination onto the fictitious character, Momrey. Fasai was, in his day, also something of a Momrey. It is fitting in this regard that the moment of passing of such a life has, by chance – the latter of which may be considered a form of contingency – centred this conflated eye, physically of Fasai but as a conceptualisation of the dog's spirit oscillating with that of Momrey, on the author/artist's own eye. 

What follows may suggest fiction on the basis of the single human character of the narrative being Momrey, as well as the author/artist having already introduced the relevance of fiction to him in variable circumstances in his visual-material and language-based practice. With such knowledge in mind, the passage may be read as a displacement of an experience that can only have been inside liminality, externalised through ostensibly now being a report of the experience of another, or all the more inside on the basis that this is the result of a strange wilfully self-conscious mode of artistic self-deception. It may be argued that any artist always does this of and through their predisposition towards one mode of expression or another: it’s just that on this occasion the mode is oneself considered as one’s own subject.


Momrey washed the now-soiled towels, formerly wrapped around Fasai's back and thighs, in the shower room. He'd realised that the most humane, if not the only, option was to have his dog put to sleep. This few days were the first ever in Fasai's fourteen and a half years that he'd been sick, and his behaviour over twenty-four hours had followed the vet's prediction: inability to stand, let alone walk, and either his body's outright rejection of food or its involuntary expulsion soon afterwards. Fasai had already been diagnosed with arthritis of the hip and spondylitis of the upper spine at the base of the neck, as well as the recent progression to second level diabetes. Momrey assumed that for Fasai it was the end, and had resolved to make of this a fact, even though any death is a truncation of life….


Figure 25: Screenshot from video clip, and its digitally montaged adaptation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 24a/b: Photographs of the dog attributed to the author/artist, and an enlarged blurred detail of the dog’s eye (© Michael Croft)


Top 10

Chapter 9


Of course, artwork can only be read from the top-left corner, the universal Symbolic order, which is the domain of language and which generates meaning, however debatable might be the obtainability of the latter. This, however, is not my business because I strive, in terms that I'm suggesting are within the nature of research, for a midway between Goethe's and Woolf's different demons, as defined by Blanchot cited in Chapter 3. This is also, to reiterate, with the purpose of delaying death – and even I feel that art-making, in whatever medium, involves a degree of affirmation in this respect. I don’t mean this in any transcendental way; it’s more precisely that staying within the process is both affirmative of where we live, as it were, with a benign ingredient that concerns how and when one lives, the when involving a different mode of living that’s heightening.


In the fourth chapter of the section, ‘OF THE GAZE AS Objet Petit a’, of Seminar XII, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis, titled ‘What is a Picture?’ Lacan (1998, p.115) refers to the artist’s canvas in front of them as a ‘battle scene’. That which Lacan has argued not only has its origin in the object, in what is looked at, but propels back to one the object a, object-cause of desire – and that it ‘…operates in a certain descent of desire’. That desire is projected to one from the position of the Other is in the form of ‘showing’ it one’s eye, which has a degree of appetite to receive. Lacan (1998, p.115) states of the eye: ‘…the true function of the organ of the eye, the eye which is filled with voracity, the evil eye’. Just prior, Lacan (1998, p.114) had stated that the painter in a sense confronts the gaze, hence goes into battle with the canvas, the brushstrokes of which fall. The idea of brushstrokes falling is a metaphor that does in many respects play out literally when painting, and when drawing with ink or charcoal such  behaviour is endemic. The metaphor is further supported by the idea that the artist’s canvas, for all its verticality, is more of a horizontal-format tableau, artistic precedents of which are chronologically Cezanne, Cubism, and North American painting (Price, 2019). Lacan (1998, p.114) states of the idea of the medium’s falling: ‘What it amounts to is a first act in the laying down of the gaze…. …the painter’s brushstroke is something in which a movement is terminated’, then that this is ‘…the terminal moment…. …the moment of seeing’. ‘Laying down’ is an interesting verb in this context, with its at-once active and passive implications.

In not all cases – one may so wish to qualify Lacan’s idea. The ‘terminal moment’ may be what the author/artist refers to as ‘the powerhouse’ in Chapter 4, Figure 14, relating to the trajectory that culminates as the third of three nodal points as the object a, endorsed by the indexed eye at the beginning left-to-right reading of the trajectory and the author’s photographed actual eye in the middle. The author/artist’s eye in this image has, arguably, something surreptitious about it, voyeuristic, as it peers through a hole in the region of the camera, and in this respect might be considered evil. Further to this suggestion, he states that ‘what he draws into his gaze is whoever is at this moment gazing’. The interlocutor may therefore be the object of the gaze, which the artist-author returns back in the image of a wart!


Lacan, J. (1998) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. New York, NY; London: Norton

Lacan, J. (2016) The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII. (ed. Jacques-Alain Miller; trans. A, R. Price) Cambs, UK; Malsen, MA, USA: Polity

Lacan, J. (2018) …or Worse. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX. UK: USA: Polity Press

Price A. R. (2019) ‘A Certain Descent; On Pictorial Planes and the Screen of Alterity’. Lacanian Compass Vol 4, Issue 6, 2021 (Accessed 27 September, 2022)

Tomsic, S. (2017) Mathematical realism and the impossible Structure of the Real. Psychoanalytische Perspectieven, 2017, 35, 1: 9 – 34

Urban, W, J. (2015) Lacan and Meaning: Sexuation, Discourse Theory, and Topology in the Age of Hermeneutics. Retrieved from:

Zizek, S. (2008) Enjoy Your Symptom! New York; London: Routledge


While one is, in life, perpetually ‘capable of dying’, after its achievement it is no longer dying in this sense because its potential has been removed. One is sped along, in this respect, or so it seems when one has aged enough to start to feel old.

Arguably, what a predisposition towards artwork does is to hold death back, in a sense, for as long as one is orientated within the creative work's process. This may be what Blanchot means when he speaks of Goethe’s and Woolf's 'demons'. One can to an extent take charge, but of course one never knows what lies in wait. Lacan (1998, pp.117-8), in his discussion of 'the gaze', echoes Blanchot when he 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'. (What is this in the context of the present argument, if not a recommendation to stay within the domain of undecidable!) If the demon is in this Lacanian context the 'evil eye of the gaze', then one's engagement with artwork is a paradoxical situation of both willing and doing battle with the fascination. The artwork's surface, no matter how surface is interpreted in terms of materials and medium, may in this case be an arena for making and holding one's gestures back – them, and symbolically death itself – in an engaged stand-off, as it were, which is the activity itself. Put another way, a kind of sidestepping of the mortal process may be achieved by one's absorption in the process of art-making itself. The author/artist is reluctant to suggest such absorption as being in the art itself, unqualified by working or making, since this would not fit with the aspect of Lacan's diagram, Chapter 5, Figure 15, that in his view best indicates the middleness of the process.

While Blanchot is writing of literature, Lacan’s (1998, pp.105-19) discussion in its later stage concerns painting. The author/artist needs to align himself more with the latter on the basis of having more experience with the opacity of paint, to suggest a metaphor, than with writing, although creative writing considered as a medium is arguably comparable in this respect to any viscous medium.

The art as achieved, can only be reflected on and rationalised as a culmination that effectively negates its process from the vantage of the top left-hand corner of Lacan’s logical square at necessary, if the artwork has fulfilled its cycle, and one has, as it were, lived to tell the tale. One cannot oneself live in impossible, the Real and expect to be sane, yet it may be argued that this is the residence of the artwork itself. 


This would certainly render research as a less important aside to the activity. However, to repeat the quote from Lacan (2016, p.50) included in Chapter 5, above, Lacan (2016, p.50) states: 'The real Other of the Other, that is, the impossible, is the idea that we form of artifice... which far exceeds the jouissance we can derive from it...' In this respect, art that falters in the domain of undecidable is only short of its conclusion in the Real at impossible, as ‘artifice’. The implication is that art orientates in the domain of impossible, the Real, and one does not therefore bring the question of ontology into one’s practice. 

Blanchot argues that human understanding of death, which is paradoxically part of life's drive, is a perpetual state of becoming for the length of time that one is alive, Figure 26.


Okay, this is perhaps a breakthrough! Impossible, in Lacan's logical square shown in Chapter 5, is in the top right-hand corner the location of the Real, the register of the ineffable and elusive such that one may indeed consider that what results in its name is but forms of artifice. What one comes away with is but a little form of joy, hardly comparable to what remains beyond one’s grasp. Lacan (2018, p.145) distinguishes two types of 'One', that of 'repetition' and that of 'One by itself', this latter One of which may be considered synonymous with the Real, insofar as it 'eludes our grasp'. If the sustaining One of repetition is that of the 'unary trait' (ibid, p.146), might one consider this the familiarly repetitive of one’s oeuvre, no matter how compelling? Lacan states of this One allied with the unary trait: 'Anything whatsoever can serve to write the One of repetition'. Of these two types, the one of repetition should therefore be more graspable, not least because it may relate to identity formation, which in Lacanian theory begins in the pre-linguistic psychic register termed the Imaginary. One is in any case arguably working on the assumption that there is a self within and as  identity all the time in a non-philosophical sense. 

The author/artists suggests in Chapter 5 that Lacan's logical square in its entirety may be to convey the idea of artifice, but I feel more certain now that the latter, and any outcome of the creative process as itself a form of artifice, is located up there in the top-right corner….


Figure 26: Computer-screen screenshot from a lecture presentation, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Intervention 6

Intervention 7

Tomsic (2017, pp.10-11), discussing in the context of the philosopher Alexandre Koyre’s influence on Lacan, at first suggests that mathematics and geometry may be logically placed in the domain of, and as manifestations of, the Real, because ‘…the real of mathematics and geometry…  cannot exist in the same objective way as sensuous objects’, then proposes that necessary would be a better place for them ‘…because mathematics and geometry ground their objects and realities in a series of stable and invariable laws’. However, the purpose of Tomsic’s example is to introduce the fact that Lacan, as influenced by Koyre, ‘…problematises the predominant historical narrations of scientific development and theories of science’. Such problematising is reflected in the logical square, where the matheme of the Real, as impossible, introduces a double negative matheme, ‘there is no x that is not…’, into the traditional Aristotelian basis of the propositions as straightforward positive or negative readings. The dualistic notion of the sexes also, by means of this contradiction that may exist in the midst of logical readings, is by this means challenged. By analogy, and further to the context of science, Tomsic further states of Lacan’s influence of Koyre:




Concerning ‘deadlocks’, these are an aspect of the domain of the Real in language, of which mathematics and geometry are an example; ‘…a language deprived of sense and meaning but still remaining a form of language (Tomsic, 2017, p.16).


Necessary might be considered the locus of Symbolic normalcy. Zizek (2008, p.52) states that the ‘act’, which is an interpretation in psychoanalysis, culminating in the analysand’s own interpretation that results in some shifting of the ground of their pathological symptom, ‘belongs to the Real’, but can only be made ‘…against the background of the symbolic order…’ Concerning the structure of the logical square (Chapter 4, Figure 10), the left vertical axis necessary – contradiction – possible is masculine, while the right vertical axis impossible – undecidable – contingent is feminine. According to Zizek (2008, p.53), further to the question of the act, ‘…the act as real is ”feminine,” in contrast to the “masculine” performative, i.e., the great founding gesture of a new order…’ This suggests that the shifting of ground in the Symbolic order, basically masculine, is obtained through a function in the Real, basically feminine. However, Urban (2015, p.94) states that by using the symbol 'x' to designate both or either gender, this '...operates as a variable ready to be filled with different object-terms'. Therefore both top-left corner of the logical square, necessary, and lower-right corner, contingent, can as much be the domain of male and female, respectively, if in psychic acknowledgement of the conditions pertaining to each of those domains. In other words, woman can in effect conform to submission to the phallic function, determined by the assumption of a big Other exception to the rule, just as man can avoid such subservience and be part of a particular notion of the Other, determining woman’s singularity as opposed to man’s universal or group nature. However, as suggested by Lacan in Seminar XIX (2018) and Seminar XX (1999) as part of his argument that there is no such thing as a sexual relationship, a diagonal dynamic exists between top-left corner and lower-right corner in their very lack of compatibility. 


The subject of science manifests… in the gaps and struggles, deadlocks and errors that accompany the formation of scientific theory, and which oppose a decentred, uncertain and conflictual structure of science to the ideological tale of perpetual scientific progress. (2017, p.13)

Top 11

Chapter 10

The idea is to use the figure from video screenshots (for example, as seen in Figure 8, Chapter 4 and Figure 21, Chapter 7), interpreted as an ink sketch, as the phantom that will inhabit the portal. The fusion of the figurative image with the architectural motif is through the interaction of oil paint on clear plastic, overlaying acrylic drawing on paper on a support of corrugated cardboard. Both the sketch and the larger drawing will be worked until the figurative image is impacted in the door frame, or portal,  and the surrounding space conveys its own impactive influence on such events, Figure 27a/b.


The photographed piece, as seen in Figure 28b, above, is subject to reflections of light on the loosely hung plastic, which is a contingency that one has to either work with or merely accept at this stage. Oil paint adheres to plastic, and its transparency on this occasion allows what is behind it to remain apparent. The figurative image is defined between the architectural features drawn in acrylic onto paper and cardboard ground, and therefore presents a conceptual tension between behind and in front, which also creates a perceptual and more intuitively sensed effect.      

By the third stage of the process, the increasing blueness of the sketch, due to its medium of black ink brushed with water between each reworking, has been articulated in the larger drawing with blue oil paint on the clear plastic overlay, Figure 29a/b.


This is the early middleness of a process that is both active and defers Finish. The question, to reiterate the key idea of the research, is held in a creatively engaged balance for as long as it takes, given that this is the region of one's life.

Each successive reworking of the sketch, and the larger drawn image, results in some contraction of it towards the portal, Figure 28a/b.


The sketch and the larger drawing are now compressed about as far as they can go before losing their figural recognition. The image has not yet reduced sufficiently to neatly occupy the portal, and therefore bodes the question of further as yet unknown strategies to convey the point, which is that of a phantom presence that appears within the space of the door frame, Figure 30a/b.


The under-layer of the drawing is then reworked to identify aspects of green and brown of the portal, including the wooden horizontal crossbar of a glazed sliding door. The use of two sheets of previously discarded paper, each with a different view of an element not unrelated to the present concern, have been left in place to absorb some over-flooded paint. There are possibilities of both formal and conceptual relationship here that need to be further considered, Figure 31.


Figure 27a/b: Sketch, ink on paper, and large drawing, first state, acrylic and ink on paper and cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 30a/b: Sketch, ink and crayon on paper, and large drawing, fifth state, acrylic and ink on paper and cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 29a/b: Sketch, ink and crayon on paper, and large drawing, fourth state, acrylic and ink on paper and cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 28a/b: Sketch, ink on paper, and large drawing, second state, acrylic and ink on paper and cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

A new question that emerges concerns the diagram, which appears top-left and centre-left in the drawing.


Figure 31: Large drawing, sixth state, acrylic and ink on paper and tracing paper on cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Top 12


Chapter 11

Lacan, J. (1981) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. New York, NY; London: Norton


The diagram was initially three-dimensional, comprised of layers of corrugated cardboard painted black, with a red straw running through the cardboard and a wavy clear plastic plane, Figure 32.


Coincidentally, the paper's porousness in Figure 34a causes the ink sketch to bleed through the back of the page, Figure 34b.     


The stain, the region of the object a of the trajectory, is substituted with a graphically painted rendering of the author/artist’s forefinger and thumb with an indexical print of it to the right in orange-brown oil paint on the final state of the drawing, Figure 36. 


If I were this, the void area, so-termed, of the more dynamic reworked sketch, insofar as I still am, I’ve long since retreated into the woodwork in the more staid sense of the somewhat painted drawing (shown above in Figure 36). It is an image, of course, I might say of myself reflected back as if from a mirror; an image in and of the void, as the dynamic absence of both the author/artist and I standing there. Now here’s a thing, I realise I’m suggesting! The only phenomenon likely to recognise itself within a highly abstracted vague figural presence is the phantom itself! My obfuscation, me as the Lacanian screen’s confounding interaction with what would otherwise have been the author/artist’s impression of an empty, albeit dimly identifiable, open doorway in the middle of the night, projects down from its diagrammatic basis towards being an example in practice of the self-same obfuscating screen. That’s the contention of the research. What intersects the span of the author/artist’s trajectory of the outward and return, transformed, of his gaze, is the oscillating image and obfuscating screen, which he’s suggesting is also the interim space of research. What strengthens the point is that I’m there, a fictional character written into the research as a relatively tangible entity, where desire is supposed to be, if only as an object a semblance.

Should the resulting work, after all, be of sufficient substance that one is able to like it? This, I think, is achievable, given that it still might stop just short of the full-blown delusion that by doing that little bit more than seems necessary, one will achieve the sublime; pushing the artifice – acknowledging Lacan’s term, referenced above – to the limit by which it’s absorbed into and as the Real. But why would one prefer to stop short? Either side of impossible, the Real, one in a sense maintains Woolf’s stance in terms of the artwork, in her case her writing, as perpetual consideration of it as a question only. Before impossible, one has not quite achieved the impossible; after impossible, one conducts a moritorium on the event of a finish in such terms that it debunks the artwork. Still not good enough; do more, try harder! This is my role in the present exposition, in a sense; not only the author/artist’s examination, via what he’s made of the phantom in the portal, but my own cross-examination of myself to ensure that I, as the demon, do not gain the upper hand. If and when the demon does gain the upper hand, then it’s paradoxical, like in the Woolf sense, as suggested by the Blanchot reference, where finally she is able to achieve a happy end by having outwitted the demon that was her motivating force, laying him to rest, and by so doing is able to lay herself to rest. The author/artist won’t go there. As artistic research only, for as long as it stays that way, he avoids the Real in which the trouble is likely to occur, flirting with me along the way.


This is a conceptual abstraction of the camera in its illusory thin imploded rectangular state as an image obfuscated by a ‘screen’, manifesting as a wavy plastic plane, with the red straw representing the trajectory, point of gaze – human subject, on a left-to-right movement (as shown in side elevation, left-hand photo, Figure 32, above), passing through the conflated image/screen. Concerning why, a synopsis of Lacan’s theory of the ‘scopic drive’ is needed (Lacan, 1998, pp.67-119). The author/artist can only give a subjective reading of a theory that is already interpretative of the question of the obfuscating role of the psyche in visual perception.

Firstly, the gaze in Lacan’s theory is a trajectory that originates in the object, whatever it is that is psychically chosen, seeking its target in the subject that has in a sense already laid claim to it, which in its course both renders an image of the object and muddles the image with its psychic transferred content in ‘…the form of a screen’ (1998, p.97). The ‘screen’ is also particularly identified in evocative metaphors for the visual artist, such as the play of light (1998, p.94) and a ‘stain’ (1998, p.97), the latter of which is also described as ‘…the pre-existence to the seen of a given-to-be-seen’ (1998, p.74). Zizek explains this scopic relationship as:




In whatever terms, the muddling is the result of the intermingling of unconscious content with what is ostensibly an object otherwise clear enough for perception to have formed of it an image. What is of particular interest to the author/artist is that inasmuch as the image/screen is whatever perception has made of the object, it occupies, symbolically if not literally, a kind of middle distance between the object and its perceiver, the subject. For the author/artist, this is almost tangibly felt. With the above explained theoretical knowledge, the perceiving eye is like a magnet pulling the object towards it while at the same time repelling it, resulting in a spatial domain that is physically separate and other to the object, held in a psychodynamic stasis of resistance towards that which is both compelling and repulsive; the object a. This suggests that the object a is therefore both in and as a spatial domain – interesting in relation to the portal’s being occupied by a purely illusory presence, an object without materiality and visible only in the mind.

The author/artist's sketch, Figure 33, below, shows how and where the trajectory, object – subject, projects forward from the image/screen and culminates in the region of the hand of the diluted ink sketch that is progressively contracted for each state of the drawing shown in Chapter 10, Figure 28a.


While the author/artist has used the orange-brown paint to indicate where the contracted repeated image of the phantom is, and how it should ideally conform to its placement in the portal, the use of the same paint to strengthen the wavy-rendered screen oscillating with image in the diagram, top left, suggests the permeation of a psychical element with the phantom image.

With the oil-painted clear plastic stretched tight over the paper and cardboard surface, its remaining transparent nodules variously react to light and cause ever-mobile constellations, which is a visual-material enactment of a symbolic idea that emerged from Lacan’s above-referenced consideration of biological optics.


There’s a problem here, if it’s supposed to still be within the compass of research material (Figure 5), which is that I like it! It does have an air of finish, stands alone, like I’m supposed to have as the phantom on that ghostly night. All the un-finish is of course there; exposed sections of corrugated cardboard, a whole monochrome painted area to the right looking like a redundant gremlin peering in, ill-attached pages of tracing paper, and a confusion of presence of the image where it might have been more defined. I suppose for the author/artist to have typed it in, as it were, for it to be situated in reproduction in illustration to a point about research, is challenging the idea of finish to the extent that the work might just as now be thrown away, its work done! By keeping it, one would be holding onto a certain vanity, that’s the problem; a degree of confidence in the autonomy of materials used in a certain way that paradoxically works, in terms that one might not have to nearly the same extent with what to the author/artist and I is a newer medium, such as writing, demonstrated here and now. An awkward balance, the writing strikes, between the academic and creatively written.

When the stain is digitally superimposed with the sketch, Figure 33, above, it corresponds to both the imploded rectangle of the camera and the culminating end of the Object – Subject trajectory, Figure 35.


Hybrid, I’d guess, unless that was also by now a defined genre; otherwise it’s an interaction of a literary style and that of the academic that oscillates in its plausibility. Wasn’t this it; to upturn the rules, or assumptions of rules, with text in similar terms to how one might already have had more practice with in the visual-material medium? Didn’t research allow this, the cajoling of contingent with undecidable (Returning to Lacan’s logical square, as shown in Chapter 5), after one moves onward from the initial felt optimism of possible, spawning an initial flurry of desire, where object a had been a temporary interloper? One learns to accept, after a while, that object/s a are not it, can never be it. Maybe it is a mere willow-the-wisp, the yearning for a definitive something where there was never anything.

Such as me, insofar as I was the phantom in the portal; an illusion swelling between a frame – impactive space – that held a charge for just a while. The author/artist drew it, as if me, and showed me how and where I was placed, Figure 37.


The author/artist gets up at 5am to do this, while it's still dark, the utility room’s window casting just enough moonlight for him to see his pen moving and darkening on a double page of his open sketchbook, held firmly from the top in the vicinity of the book’s spine by his left hand pressing the lower edge against his stomach. ‘Portal frame,’ I hear him whisper as he writes, as he stands squarely in my own space, towards the lower left-hand corner in clarification of vertical and roughly angled dashes that are to stand for the left-hand vertical of the glass door that separates him from the bed where he’d lain a few moments before. The same vertical doubles as frame of the portal and the end of the dividing wall between bedroom and kitchen. The architecture is complicated because a little irregular, with the utility room having been more recently enclosed by glazing what had first been a small balcony. ‘Portal frame’, he again whispers as he writes on the right-hand side, roughly symmetrical with the left, although he qualifies it this time as also the kitchen door’s frame. His drawing gestures, while of an abstract obtuse language readable only by means, and that sketchy, of written language, embody what he senses of his standing there, filling the portal in the expanse of me, a corporeal stand-in for my own ghostly presence.

‘Looking ahead a little more, to my left,’ he continues, ‘I can see doorframe, equally a window-frame, and the darkness of the area of the bedroom in the vicinity of the bed. Adjacent to this is the window that separates inside from outside, up here on the right.’ Such indistinct speech – I’d hear his muteness in any case – he simultaneously translates into drawing gesture, as much as can be accomplished by a broad-nib drawing pen whose scratchy marks he can just sufficiently see accruing on the page. Arrows often seem to act as an interim between drawing and writing, whose marks are of the family of drawing but are read directionally. He wishes the delineations of the architecture to be directional as well, but the up and down, or side-to-side, of his glance as he draws negates such sense, reading at best as dynamic equilibrium; on the spot, as it were, but this was attributing too much to paltry scruffy lines.

‘I see my fingers clutching the book,’ I again hear him whisper, ‘I see my drawing hand here, near to my stomach while still on the page, and if this is the beginning point of emergence of a space affected by my presence in it, in the narrow shaft of the portal, it journeys outwards, let’s say to the right, swelling, arrow indicated, around beside the window-frame, above where the washing-machine is housed with its dark left-side aperture, parallel above the marble sill that has the runners for the sliding glass door, curving around and terminating at the starting point at my hand, still, on the page. Some gesticulation of the sketchbook towards what it’s absorbing of my glance. And more of a nucleus, paradoxically a central void that may also be considered the circle of my body in plan-view, projected forwards into the utility room’s modest floor space from where I’m standing.'

This is as much as I remember him doing, and simultaneously saying as if communicating with me, as if to appease me. Then again, another version was to materialise, Figure 38.

Figure 32: 3D diagram, corrugated cardboard, clear plastic, plastic straw, 40 x 39 x 2cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft) 

…the dialectic of view and gaze: in what I see, in what is open to my view, there is always a point where “I see nothing,” a point which “makes no sense,” i.e., which functions as the picture’s stain – this is the point from which the very picture returns the gaze, looks back at me. (2008, p.18)

Figure 34a/b: Sketch, ink and crayon on paper, and reverse side of sketch showing ink bleed, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 38: Ink sketch, second state, ink and water-diluted ink on paper, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 36: Large drawing, final state, acrylic and ink on paper and attached tracing paper on cardboard, oil paint on clear plastic overlay, 100 x 113cm, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Figure 37: Ink sketch, first state, ink on paper, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 35: Sketch, ink on paper on reverse ink bleed, attributed to author/artist (© Michael Croft)

Figure 33: Sketch, ink on paper, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Top 13



‘The light of day in the still subdued, because shuttered, interior,’ Momrey might have qualified, ‘as the remainder of the clear plastic that did not now bear oil paint picked up the light of early morning shining through the doorway to the utility room, the self-same portal that had held him as the phantom, now projecting a presence in the oil paint’s interstices; a phantom imprinting intangibly yet more strongly than any representation, on its representation in kind. Could this be it,’ Momrey could have mused, ‘a new opening in a closing, by way of closing?’ This would have played into the author/artist’s idea of one’s coming into any new starting-point with pre-existing material, the contradiction implicit in any supposed fresh start. Momrey himself, as the author/artist’s marionette other of himself, would have been the embodiment of such materiality.


While standard advice might be to not conclude any text that broaches the academic by introducing new theory, to what extent is this even a text in the academic sense of the word, let alone at the point in time of having reached its conclusion? Indeed, the author/artist might have recalled such advice, or would not have needed to on the basis of having been the one to give it, in kind, to his character Momrey, since it was the author/artist himself who was about to introduce new items to the argument at this late stage. Although actually not, if one takes items to mean screenshots, these in their generic basis that need not therefore be confined to any particular basis in content, of the seminar to which they relate.

This would be to pull the authority that the seminar's slides convey as the words in the forthcoming case, of Bersani, back to the position of undecidable within the parameters of research, where the author/artist would be likely to say that in his interpretation of what he has read of Bersani on the question of ancient Assyrian reliefs, a key instance of them provided by Bersani may concern…. The author/artist’s own key, as it were, to his preferred position of research via his fictional character Momrey, is to delay indefinitely in the domain of undecidable, given that there are several interesting prior interim positions within and including the parameters possible and – just short of – impossible.  

Artistic research held open in the limbo of indecision can not only be the experience of any artist, but in this author/artist’s case – the author aspect of him, at least – is the position of choice, insofar as choice is even possible at a stage in a process where one does, naturally, meet with such a question, following the cycle of Lacan’s logical square (Chapter 5, Figure 15). Momrey is like the lion at the point where Bersani intervenes with interpretation in the Assyrian narrative, all the more so in his, Momrey’s, relation with Fasai, his attributed alpha male dog. To hold them back, in the manner of the design, is to submit them to a fiction that provides a human narrative to an academic argument, even though they might in any case be fiction; at least this is what may remain ambiguous to the reader, when in actual fact who can really tell, when the emphasis of the author/artist is on artifice – although in Lacan’s sense the latter term is not be taken cynically or lacking seriousness. According to Lacan (2016, p.50), artifice is a kind of truth that exists in the Real: ‘The real Other of the Other, that is, the impossible, is the idea that we form of artifice…’ Referring to theory long before that of Lacan, Foucault (2005, pp.387-8) references the ancient Greek philosopher Philodemus on parrhesia: ‘“The wise man and philosopher applies speaking freely (parrhesia) in that he reasons by conjecturing through plausible argument and without inflexibility”.’ Then Foucault (2005, p.388) refers to Aristotle’s view on conjectural art:




Insofar as parrhesia, which is introduced in the exposition in Chapter 6, concerns unembellished truth-telling, then Foucault’s research into the subject does nonetheless suggest that likelihood and plausibility can be incorporated into the argument. Oscillation is therefore a mode of operation of the exposition, in that the voices – who is saying what, and to whom – are held in the balance as the best that can be conveyed of the exposition’s truth.    


Bersani, L. (1986) The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art. New York, NY: Columbia University Press

Dewey, J. (2005) Art as Experience. New York, NY: Perigree

Foucault, M. (2005) The Hermeneutics of the Subject. (Trans. Graham Burchell) New York: Picador 

Lacan, J. (2016) The Sinthome: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII. (ed. Jacques-Alain Miller; trans. A, R. Price) Cambs, UK; Malsen, MA, USA: Polity


‘Closing what; a book?’ Momrey might have whispered as he typed, on this occasion because he was not only alone, in which case his thoughts need hardly be heard, but due to the hesitancy of his idea. It was like the empty square formed by the top of a cage, a raised door of the cage, and a warrior forming the other two sides through leaning over to open the cage to release a lion; a potent space formed by its very emptiness. (See Introduction, Figure 2b and Figure 3, Bersani reference.) There was nothing there, neither personal nor public, on which to hinge an idea, or rather an oscillation between the two parameters of the personal; opening and closing. No matter how public the closing, as the opening out onto the finished work, the in-between can only be a self-tilled furrow. It is the latter that it has been the purpose of the exposition to both discuss, and demonstrate in practice.

Putting Momrey in the position of the author/artist, which has in any case been how he has oscillated throughout the exposition, the work shown as Figure 36, Chapter 11, supposed complete, had suggested to him an active constellation, though returnable if revisited on the same times of day. The slight shift of one’s body would result in the shifting of the constellation, however slightly; a phantom, in a sense, therefore appearing in, and through taking advantage of, the light of day, Figure 39.


Figure 39: Three photos of author’s large finished drawing in-situ to show differing light reflection, attributed to the author/artist (© Michael Croft)


Conjectural art proceeds precisely by merely likely and plausible arguments, and consequently whoever uses these arguments need not follow a rule, and just one rule, but can try to arrive at this likely truth by a series of juxtaposed arguments with no need for a single necessary order. (2005, p.388)