[These brief commentaries are part of a five-sided, pyramidal gloss on a series of photographs (for other examples see The Whim). It is forbidden to reproduce them here; they must be imagined.]
Desire and the drive: A Persian tale baked upon an arch made of brick. Que vuoi? I don’t know anything about photography. I don’t know anything about the photographer except that she is American and has an Iranian partner. What does that have to do with anything? Are all these photographs taken in Iran? I don’t know anything about Iran, couldn’t identify a monument, square, rock. We think you know a lot about desire. This is the last, terrifying sentence on the email from N, inviting me to participate in this project. Who are we? And what do they suppose about my knowledge of desire? I’ve written on Lacan. But the page mock-up, determining the length of each gloss, consists entirely of repeated denunciations of psychoanalysis in favour of Deleuze and Guattari! Already my looking has been pre-directed by an imagined dichotomy I reject. This picture, the first one allotted to me, I cannot see now as anything but a staging of the question of desire, in a picture structured by a series of dualities, too many. But mainly: two planes and surfaces, ceramic tiles and whitewashed brick. I am struck by the awkwardness of the framing that truncates the images glazed on the tiles and makes the nature of the building difficult to read. (Already visual desire is provoked through a brutal act of photographic ‘castration’!) Modern (Western) consumer desire finds its origin and definition in eighteenth-century Orientalism in a fantasy of despotism and Other jouissance: The Arabian Knights but also Montesquieu’s Persian Letters (1721). Scheherazade’s 1001 glosses, wagering life on the desire of the Other, for ‘desire is interpretation itself’ (Lacan). Who is he, horseman of desire with his train of followers, is he laying siege or coming home to the golden citadel I imagine in the top corner, the point towards which all the lines tend? Visual desire is related to the scopic drive that is all the more deadly and machinic for being photographic, click after click, picture after picture, arching around a vacuole in brick-like, stolid satisfaction. But the desire that this drive supports, I wager (but we will see), is not to picture, objectify or possess Iran or Iranian objects, but to ‘operate on a sacrificial plane’ and arouse Iranian desire itself, ‘for what makes the value of the icon is that the god it represents is also looking at it’ (Lacan). S
1. Which illustrates interestingly how the East and the West – the Orient and the Americas – could, in the 18thC, be related in a triangular structure that connected virtue with erotic and economic value.