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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Fuss on Fashion Photography  

2010-03-20 17:56:17|  分类: 同性恋理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Fuss, Diana. “Fashion and the Homospectatorial Look.” Critical Inquiry 18.4 Identities (1992): 713-37.

718

       “Some of the most common and prevalent shots of female bodies in women’s fashion photography are those of decapitation and dismemberment—in particular headless torsos and severed heads. In a L’Oréal ad for waterproof makeup, a woman’s head floats above the water, her face, framed in medium close-up, detached from any visible body, supported only by her reflection in the water below. This very reflection is an extension of the body: woman as mirror is all face. But more terrifying than an economy of looking that overinvests the woman’s face as the primary site of subjectivity is the flip side of this same scopic economy that divests the woman of subjectivity altogether. A Chanel ad, for example, phantasmically constructs an unthinkable body—a body without identity, a body without face or surface to convey any distinctive identifying features beyond the class- and gender-inflected signifiers of the clothes themselves. By ‘amputating’ the model’s head and legs, and by rendering invisible any flesh or skin tones, the camera presents to the viewer the fantasy not of a body without organs but a body without a subject. The terror and fascination evoked by the Chanel ad is that of the complete erasure of subjectivity. But then, the [720] floating head and the headless torso offer only apparently different ‘takes’ on the female subject, for overpresence figures a kind of absence, and to be the mirror is simultaneously to be without a self-image of one’s own.”

720

       “This representational body in pieces also functions for the female spectator as a cultural reminder of her fetishization, of the ‘part’ she plays in the disavowal of the mother’s castration. A fetish (typically a woman’s legs, breasts, face, or other body part) is a substitute for the missing maternal phallus, a prop or accessory fashioned to veil its terrifying absence. In a patriarchal Symbolic a fetishist is one who continually strives to deny the ‘truth’ of the mother’s castration by registering the phallus elsewhere, seeking to resecure and to hold in suspense the early imaginary attachment to the phallic mother that was lost with the subject’s entry into the Symbolic and its subjugation to the law of the father. Photography, which similarly seeks to fix an image in an eternal moment of suspense, comes to function not merely as a technological analog for the psychical workings of fetishism but as one of its internal properties—that is, the fetish itself has ‘the frozen, arrested quality of a photograph.’ This intimate codependency of fashion, fetishism, photography, and femininity suggests that in the dominant regime of fashion photography, and femininity is itself an accessory: it operates as a repository for culture’s representational waste.”

727

       “What these angelic images of the mother’s face [photographs of beautiful women’s faces in fashion magazines] provide for the female spectator is a negation of the uncertainty that disturbs her psychic borders and a disavowal of the pain born out of her primary identification with the (m)other—a negation and a disavowal made visible through a representational excess (which is always a kind waste): namely, the cosmetic beautification and beatification of the mother’s face.”

       “… for Bataille, woman’s cultural utility as repository of beauty operates to disguise the animal nature of heterosexual intercourse and further to mask what he terms the ‘ugliness’ and crudity of the sexual organs. In Bataille’s ‘vision of excess,’ it is specifically the woman’s face—heavily adorned and meticulously masqueraded—that attracts the male subject’s gaze away from the sex organs and toward a more luminous surface. Bataille’s theoretical figuration of the female face as ‘beautiful’ enacts a slight shift in registers from reflection to deflection: the fashionable face (the female face on display) has the power to send the look through a circuitous route, from the vertical lips to the horizontal lips, not to effect an eclipse of the genital by the facial but [728] rather to collapse one bodily site onto the other. This is not a new or perhaps even very interesting story: Freud’s reading of the terrifying decapitated head of Medusa as a representation of the female genitals (specifically, the mother’s genitals) similarly insists on the symbolic connection between female face and female genitalia. These two cultural readings (Bataille’s and Freud’s) of the iconic power of a woman’s face tell us less about a woman’s complex relation to her private body parts than about the parts her privates have been made to play in the history of Western representations of male subjectivity. To understand the fear and fascination the mother’s face holds for a female subject, one needs to turn away from Medusa.” [Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death and Sensuality. Trans. Mary Dalwood. San Francisco, 1986. 129-46.]

734

       “The images offered by fashion photography operate both ways: as defenses (or screens) against the early interruption of the homosexual-maternal continuum, but also and more importantly as defenses against the pain that this psychical rupture continues to inflict on the adult subject. In other words, these images function as counter-memories that tell us as much about the subject’s current history as they do about her already shadowy prehistory, perhaps even more. What they tell us is that heterosexuality is profoundly unstable, tenuous, and precarious, and therefore must be continually reinforced and resecurred. Nostalgia for the preoedipal, itself a construction of the oedipal, works as a psychical mechanism for strengthening the homopathic identification so that the socially sanctioned heterosexual object-choice can be perpetually sustained. In constant threat of dissolution, female heterosexuality must [736] be critically maintained through the cultural institutionalization of the homosexual look. This strategic deployment of a homospectatorial look may partially account for what has long been a puzzling contradiction: how is it that, in the dominant sexual Symbolic, there can be homosexual looks but no homosexuals?”

736

       “Even Freud eventually came to recognize that a daughter’s unconscious preoedipal homosexual desire for the mother continually impacts upon her conscious adult life; it is precisely this same-sex desire that is evoked, which is to say provoked, by photographic images of the female body—powerfully activated, mobilized, and channeled (or Chanelled, as it were). The problem, of course, is that any female subject as subject is already situated in the Symbolic, and no matter how uncertain this symbolization is for the woman, the mother’s face as lost object is fundamentally irrecuperable. Still, the fantasy of repossessing the lost object, the promise these photographic images hold of reconnecting (re-fusing?) the homosexual-maternal relation, goes a long way toward explaining the enduring fascination that fashion photography holds for its female viewers, the pleasures it seeks to provide, as well as the discomforts it may inadvertently summon.”

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