Fake Identities: Nature, Representation, and Self-Projection

  • Abstract:

    If the implication of the art object in the psychological, social, and cultural processes of identification is commonly recognised and hallowed, it nevertheless remains paradoxical, in as much as it often consists precisely in the demonstration of the problematic character of the very concept of identity. Based on that hypothesis, and drawing from Aesthetics, Art History and Theory of Representation, this article wishes to attempt an archaeology of the work of art as an apparatus of identification, focusing on the specular links that articulate vision, knowledge, nature and identity in Western culture. Our starting point is the dialectical nature, physical (sensible and material) as well as mental (cognitive and psychological), of the process of identity construction. From this point of view, to consider the art object as an apparatus of identification is to recall the traditional definition of representation as a projection determined by the dialectics of specularity and reflexivity: on the one hand, a passive, automatic and immediate mechanism of reduplication; on the other hand, an active, emancipatory and mediated process giving birth to a unified consciousness. Through a brief overview of the metaphor of the work of art as a mirror in Plato, Plotinus, Alberti, Stoichita and Hegel, we would like to discuss the process following which the modern focus on the artificial, constructed character of the (self-)projection permitted to disconnect recognition from resemblance, previously assimilated in the operation of identification as the discovery of an inner nature. Three photographs by Diane Arbus will enable us to call attention to one among the ways photography has registered (as well as produced) this rupture, staging the duplicity of the image of the self and the performative dimension of its specular constitution.