Le Toucher




Just when we were apparently procuring the means to see further and better the unseen of the universe, we were about to lose what little power had of imagining it.

——Paul Virilio



            “Le toucher (2017- )”, which consists of multiple chapters, approaches the verge of new possibilities for photography. The project attempts to break away from the traditional visual mode of “gazing” in photography by using touching as the main strategy for both producing and contemplating/experiencing imagery. Inspired by various philosophical and artistic thinkings, including Merleau-Ponty’s  “lived experience” and “perception”, Heidegger’s critique of “Ocularcentrism”, Derrida’s “Le toucher (sense of touch)” and cavalier perspective of Chinese painting, we try to find an alternative way of producing and viewing photographs. The first chapter, Book (Dictionary of Psychoanalysis), corresponds with the body as a sample of psychoanalysis and as a tool of governed ideology. The second chapter (ongoing), A Way of Photographing before Photography, corresponds with the body as a photographed and gazed upon subject.

            Additionally, we plan to expand this project from other perspectives, such as the relationship between body and language, the conflicts between globalization and localization, and the diffusing edge of the virtual and object.

Portrait #4:一个枕靠着双手休息的波多黎各女子

Portrait #4:一个枕靠着双手休息的波多黎各女子

 A Start From Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

           Maurice Merleau-Ponty once said, “the body is our general means of having a world,” and it is the most legitimate way of gaining knowledge and experience. Coming from the biases in Freudian structure of psychology, Book (Dictionary of Psychoanalysis) reflects our experience of being East Asian in a society of international and western scales. Being “the Other” in the samples of Freud’s experiments, we use white tags to label everything that is sexist, homophobic and racist in Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, to make color-scanned pictures and transferred them onto our skin to integrate the books with our bodies. Then, we use a hand scanner to touch and caress our own bodies. Symbolically, our bodies cancel his texts’ meaning and authority, and at the same time bear the content of the dictionary and its theoretical context. The movement of hand scanner resembles a voyeuristic view on our bodies, as well as executes a cavalier perspective image-making process (rather than the visual perspective from a camera that imitates human eyes) and is based on a sense of distance. These distorted images once again are manipulated digitally to try to stretch back and recover the text – however, the shapes of our skin become irregular after the process.

Exhibition view of Book (Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)

Exhibition view of Book (Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)

            The real body is always an unknown one, waiting to be contacted, answered, and completed. It’s neither the body as the sample of psychoanalysis, nor as the physical-material object. The former causes a Freudian illusion upon the body by using white, straight, cis-male as default samples for a psychological construction, while inevitably produces the discrimination and bias towards women, non-white, and queer groups. The latter makes the body a mechanical and dull piece of meat, and aggravates the binary oppositions of “subject/object” and “mind/body.” Thus, in a world that is full of possibilities and uncertainties, our life experience becomes the most precious inspirations. The work tends to use our bodies to rethink and rectify the dogmatism in Freudian theory, and to challenge the “human/world” binary in traditional photography together with the next chapter of the work, A Way of Photographing before Photography.


Portrait #9:一个正在写日记的美国白人女子

A Way of Photographing Inspired by "Philosophy of Touch"

            There is a fundamental question that is always being asked: is the world that is seen by human the real world? If not, then we need to question the camera, which supposedly simulates how the human eye sees the world. Our project investigates the problems and flaws of this “gazing” machine. Reflecting on the stakes of this question, the American philosopher David Michael Levin claims:

“The ‘assertoric’ gaze, the ‘propositional’ looking that I would associate with the correspondence theory of truth, with truth as ‘correctness’, essentially tends to see from only one perspective, one standpoint, one and only one position. Such a gaze will therefore tend to be narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, rigid, fixed, inflexible, and unmoved: in sum, not very caring.”

             This gaze is born with the camera apparatus, where it resides at the core of Western metaphysics, with ocularcentrism, anthropocentrism and teleology to weave a conspiracy together. This “conspiracy” leads us, who are permanently equipped with instrumental rationalism, to an almost blind search for the world that is based on human vision, creating an ever-diverging gap between human and the world. While modern digital technology and mass media infiltrate our social life, numerous visual signals and symbols overwhelmingly influence and regulate the public’s lifestyle and thoughts. We have become what Paul Virilio described as a “Vision Machine” – our vision and understanding of the world has limited by instrumental rationalism, apparatus of gaze, and images created by the apparatus. In order to question this viewing mechanism, we propose a way of viewing that is more about corporeal experience – “touching”.


Portrait #3:一个正在做瑜伽的戴有钻石耳钉的美国黑人女孩

Portrait #3:一个正在做瑜伽的戴有钻石耳钉的美国黑人女孩


            There are three aspirations that we want to pursue in A Way of Photographing “before” Photography: 1) To challenge the camera apparatus, as well as the visual perspective based on our human eyes; 2) To disrupt the gaze and the relationship between the photographer and the subject; 3) To change the way of viewing photographs on the white wall by experimenting different materials and exhibition strategies.

            By using an intimate imaging apparatus to touch the subjects’ bodies, we transform mundane portrait scenes to flattened, distorted, twisted, and psychedelic “time portraiture”. This type of blurred, strange portraiture defies the way human eyes form images. During this “touching-touched” experience, the gaze and distance between photographer and the subject are cancelled – it becomes a dynamic between the two persons, while time dimension is extended – every touch is a new experience, and it brings a distinctive image with it. Not only this way of image making poetically transforms the “subject-object” relationship in photography, but it also relieves the contemporary conundrum of more and more programmed and “spectacularized” condition of photography.

            Jacques Derrida saw touching as a potential for life, and a starting point for our world, instead of seeing as the primary tool of obtaining knowledge. Touching always has a subject – when one’s touching the other, the other is also touching the one. In this work, we attempt to find the time before Ocularcentrism, and find another opportunity for portraiture. Touching disrupts the usual relationship between the photographer and the subject, and images are produced during the process of intimate communication. In a way, this process of image-making is a departure from mimicking and representation (a tradition in the Western art), and it is no longer “the self-contained” box like a camera.








——保罗 · 维希留




            在弗洛伊德的《 精神分析辞典》中,其庞大的知识结构建构在以白人男性为默认样本的心理构型之上。这一结构将女性、亚洲人、非异性恋等都放置在附属的、他者的、有问题的位置上。因此,我们从这一心理构型的偏颇出发, 用象征着“生命经验”的身体对《精神分析辞典》[3]所代表的教条主义进行反思和纠偏。

            梅洛-庞蒂曾说过, “身体是我们拥有一个世界的一般方式”,是我们知识和经验更加有效的来源。[2]在我们的亚裔身体作为弗氏理论缺失之样本的基础上,我们把《精神分析辞典》里所有性别歧视的、恐同的(及歧视同性恋的)、男权至上的词汇用白色标签标出,再将这本带着我们标记的辞典转换到自己身体皮肤上,让辞典成为了身体的一部分。这时,我们的身体破坏了这本辞典和它的权威性,同时也成为了理论的承受者——身体在观看和被观看中自然而然的成为了矛盾的主客体——并且象征地承载了辞典和它代表的理论语境,这与弗氏理论系统中的研究客体产生了对应和对立。接下来,我们再以一种散点透视的扫描方法对身体之上被身体所破坏的书本影像进行仔细的“抚摸”与“感触”,从而制造出了这些与寻常观看身体的视角全然不同的、打破传统摄影边框的、扭曲的但同时又是窥探式的影像,这也是对传统摄影所涉及的“人-世界”主客体二元对立的观看方式进行的尝试性突破。



2、由“触感”思想 [4]引发的一种摄影方法 

            相机的程式(apparatus)[5]模拟的是一种凝视的过程。正如美国学者 David Michael Levin 所描述的那样,“独断的”凝视(the “assertoric” gaze)是一种“定理式的”(propositional)观看,如果将之与真理符合论相联系,与作为“正确”的真理相联系,它本质上倾向于从一个视角、一个视点、一个且只有一个位置去看。这种凝视因此必然是狭隘的、武断的、不宽容的、严格的、固定的、不可改变的和不可移动的。[6]随着现代电子通讯技术的发展和大众传媒对社会生活的渗透,难以计数的图像符号借助现代媒介的传播方式开始占据人类生活中最醒目的位置,图像的展现方式、观看方式、价值取向、审美趣味正在最深刻的意义上影响和规范着现代人的思维指向与现代生活的逻辑形式。[7]也就是说,在面对拥有无限可能的世界时,我们观看和诠释世界的方式已经过多的被技术理性、凝视的程式、及这些程式创造出来的视觉图像所局限。人被抽取自身的丰富生动性,成了蜗居于理性和意识之中的不及物动词的囚徒。[8]


           《一种摄影前的摄影》主要从三个角度进行探索性的突破:1、媒介的拓宽,突破基于人眼的空间透视法;2、凝视的取消,摄影师与被摄对象关系的改变;3、材料与展出方式的结合,突破摄影在权威机构中的展出方式。 我们通过使用依赖“零距离”的“触碰”、“抚摸”生成影像的程式,将寻常(mundane)肖像摄影的场景转化成倾轧而来的、缠绕而破碎的“时间肖像”。 这种新的肖像影像打破了我们人类双眼成像的方式,因而对于观看者来说是模糊和陌生的。同时,在这种触及-被触及(touching-touched)的经验中,拍摄者与被摄对象之间的距离和凝视一起被取消了——人们难以再用传统摄影作品的理论分析影像与观者、拍摄者之间的凝视的动态过程——取而代之的是影像生产的程式在时间维度上的蔓延,意义也由此发生:每一次的“触”都是一次新的生命经验,并带来新的影像。这样的一种影像生产的方式优雅的消解了传统摄影的主-客体关系,并提供了一种彼此依赖的亲密互动,而我们传统意义上的“拍照”过程正是在这样一种消解与互动中重获生机。

            在德里达那里,触更像是一种生命的潜能,是世界意义的起点,而不是像视觉那样把世界只是当作可以观看、可以获取的对象去看待。触永远都和他者绑定在一起,换言之,当我触及到某物时,我已被触及,也必须被触及。在《一种摄影前的摄影》中,我们试图回到摄影(视觉)成为知觉中心之前的时代,为肖像摄影找回一种可选项。 这在某种程度上也脱离了对模仿(mimic)与再现(representation)传统的追求,以这种方式创造出来的影像,不再是相机具有的三维空间透视的“自足匣子(the self-contained)”, [9] 摄影也因此打开了充满无限可能的一个全新领域。



[3]:《精神分析辞典》是根据弗洛伊德的著作而集编成的一本词典,里面有大量弗氏自创的词汇和注解。 但因为其理论将“白人”“男性”作为其默认样本,因此女性、亚洲人等等在这个理论系统中都是缺失的。精神分析理论在当时炙手可热,但同时也声名狼藉、备受批评。

[4]:《触》这个名字来自于德里达致敬好友让-吕克·南希的一本书《Le Toucher—Jean-Luc Nancy》,Le Toucher可以理解为“论触感”,“关于‘触’”。

[5]:笔者之所以把“apparatus”一词翻译成“程式”而不是很多人使用的“装置”,是因为装置一词容易和装置艺术的概念混淆在一起。“程式”一词有抽象的“过程”一意,和 Flusser 提到“apparatus”时一并提出的“程序”、“软件”等概念之间也更加契合。

[6]:David Michael Levin. The Opening of Vision: Nihilism and the Postmodern Situation, page 440

[7]:丹尼尔 · 贝尔,《资本主义文化矛盾》,第154页。