IGNAZ CASSAR

Facing Lacan (Self-portrait with Jacques Lacan)

Title: Facing Lacan (Self-portrait with Jacques Lacan)
Date: 2007
Media: Photographic tableau composed of 54 unique gelatin silver photographs
Dimensions: 183.5 cm x 216.8 cm
> Previews: Facing Lacan (Self-portrait with Jacques Lacan), Sheet: 8, 24, 28, 31, 47
Facing Lacan is a photographic meditation on the life and work of the celebrated French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. The photographic artwork was created with a camera obscura set up opposite Lacan’s study in rue de Lille no. 5 in Paris VII, where he practised from 1941 until his death forty years later.

In Facing Lacan, the photographer produces an image of Lacan’s study, at the same time as creating a self-portrait. He achieves this self-portrait ‘with Lacan’ by placing himself inside the camera obscura, as he takes the image of rue de Lille. By placing himself between the image plane and the light opening, the photographer creates his own shadow within the camera obscura. The shadow of his figure falls onto the photographic paper so his form appears as a cut-out within the image of Lacan’s study. Since the resulting tableau is a negative photographic image, the ‘shadow’ is rendered in white.

Facing Lacan addresses several conceptual areas: the actual space of the camera (the ‘black box’) that is necessary to produce the photographic image; the symbolic space of Lacan’s psychoanalytic practice that lends the self-portrait its ‘backdrop’; the psychic space of the imaginary screen onto which the portrayed self projects its image; the phenomenological space of the developed silver gelatin photograph; the physical space of encounter with the exhibited work, which can be installed either upside down or downside up, thereby referring back to the inverting process within photography through which the image was created.

The play on inversion, on self and shadow, as well as on presence and absence within Facing Lacan relates to intellectual concerns within Lacan’s own work. For instance, Lacan’s model of infantile development, which led him to introduce the concept of the mirror stage, comes to mind in this regard. Jacques Lacan’s intellectual work, as a whole, continues to have widespread influence. His persona and his approach to psychoanalysis have become legendary. While Lacan’s oeuvre left its mark on psychoanalysis, his concepts of méconnaissance, the mirror stage, the screen and the gaze also influenced thinking about the photographic image and its spectator.

In this photographic project, the photographer ‘faces’ up to the legends of Lacan and the mythic legacy of his famous psychoanalytic practice rue de Lille no. 5 in Paris.