As a woman, I have no country.
While the psychoanalytic study of art is as old as or older than psychoanalysis itself—even before Charcot’s essays on art there were interpretations of art that could be considered psychoanalytic in approach—it is only in recent years, principally through the application of the theories of Lacan, that the psychoanalytic concept of the subject has become part of the study of representation. The Cartesian cogito, in which the subject, presumed to exist outside the systems of signification, apprehends himself as thought, has been afflicted by a sort of methodological doubt by the implication of representation in thought. “I think, therefore I am” becomes “I see myself seeing myself.” As Lacan warns, “In this matter of the visible everything is a trap”—interlacing, intertwining, labyrinthine; the world becomes suspect of yielding the subject only his own representations, his own misrecognitions (1977:93). “We are beings who are looked at in the spectacle of the world. That which makes us consciousness institutes us by the same token as speculum mundi” (ibid.: 75). It is in the context of reflexivity that I wish to explore the relationship between the invention/discovery of the unconscious and the invention/discovery of various modes of representation in art, particularly perceptual codes used to map unexplored terrain and representational systems used to codify the female body.
What is man that the itinerary of his desire creates such a text? Why has it been necessary to plot out the entire geography of female sexuality in terms of the imagined possibility of the dismemberment of the phallus?
(Gayatri Spivak 1983:190)