Liminal blankness : mixing race & space in monochrome's psychic surface
Blank space in western Art History and visual culture is something that has tended to be either explained away, or ignored. Pictures that do not depict challenge the visual basis of the ego and its others, confronting what I call the 'Phallic reader' (who sees according to the logic and rules of the Phallogocentric system he inhabits) and potentially disturbing his sense of the visible. The Phallic reader, the visible and the seeing ego's sense of how to see, meet in what I call the 'psychic surface'. Deploying this notion of a 'psychic surface' allows for readings which move on from the potentially confining logic of the Phallus. Paradoxically, the psychic structure of monochrome's liminal blankness is homologous to the indeterminate Mixed Race subject, whose body transgresses not only the foundational historical binarism of 'Black/White', but also Lacanian psychoanalysis. This thesis aims to concentrate on exploring blank spaces, with particular reference to the monochrome within western Art History. Building on the considerable work since at least the 1960s that critiques the binary logocentrism of Eurocentric, Hegelian-originated Art History, this thesis aims to explore the specific ways monochrome evades, undermines and tricks commonly accepted 'groundrules' of Art History. The Phallic reader is severely restricted in understanding that which falls outside of the signifying logic of a particular system of Art History that follows a binary, teleological and Phallogocentric course. Both monochrome and the Mixed Race subject fall outside of this logic, as both contain the structure of the trick. In each case, the trick is activated in the tension between the prychica nd the opticals urfaces. I suggestt hat monochrome's psychic space is pre-Phallic, a space of eternal deferral of meaning, a space that playfully makes a nonsense of binary structures. Psychoanalysis is largely used here as an analytic tool, but also appears as an object of critique. Art History provides an anchor for the optical surfaces under discussion. Theories of 'radical superficiality' both contradict and complement these ways of theorising the psychic surface. The trick/ster is a significant/signifiant means of deploying interdisciplinary methodologies to negotiate this difficult terrain between Black, White and monochrome. An interdisciplinary approach also enacts the psychic structure of indeterminacy of my objects of study. I hope that by proposing a potential transgressive power for those indeterminate things that continue to confound the binary systems that aim to contextualise and confine them, I will contribute to the areas of Visual Culture and 'Race' Theory.