Saturday, July 28, 2012


A sideways profile, a passive or rather impassive placidity, a self contained completeness of a woman consecrated across temporal and cultural zones, an emblem of the feminine mystique, a site of innumerable kinds of gaze, multifariously pedagogized, assiduously analysed, indefatigably dissected Mona  Lisa has proliferated ubiquitously and straddles lateral contiguities. Yet what are the significations embedded? Is a male spectator's understanding different from, let's say a postmodern feminist? Are spaces of peroration subversively reconstituted? Is the metonymic potentiality, appropriation from a feminist perspective a destabilization of patriarchal eulogization, a eulogization that deifies and circumscribes simultaneously? From a queer angle, as gender dichotomies, the very etymology of gender is problematized what are the attendant interpretations? What cultural configurations, contextual interpellations underlie discursive paradigms? 

A lacanian specular analysis highlights interesting sites of convergence/divergence. In the midst of renaissance self fashioning, male hommo sociality, burgeoning consciousness of self determination what place would a representation of Mona lisa signify. Queen Elizabeth is reigning, religious dogma, unquestioned throughout dark ages is being interrogated, new lands are being discovered, science, physics are emerging. What meconnaissance , from a lacanian sense is being addressed.

An infant seeing the mirror image identifies it as the ideal ego and contrasts his/her disaggregated physicality/psychic landscape with the wholesome mirror image. Later through the symbolic realm, the discursive ideologies the image proffers are internalized and through a process of melancholia, repressed and sublimated. If Mona lisa is the mirror image then she operates as the prediscursively constituted symbolic, distilled through the male gaze, through which notions of femininity are hegemonized. Mona lisa is a construct i.e the ideas underscoring it and for a female infant, through the lacanian prism a certain idea of womanliness is being presented which within cultural contingency offers her a space to exist, within a patriarchal discourse. For the male infant the ideal of womanliness reinscribes cultural stereotypes and gives a palpable form to his evanescent conception of the world. The fact that monolithic male discourse, through putative reinterpretation has reconfirmed originary asseverations, with minimal variations is a case in point. And a feminist counterpoint only reifies and rechannels patriarchal teleology. A radical feminist episteme is an insufficient corollary to predominant patriarchy.

Yet the politics of spectatorship changes with time and a monochromatic interpellation is a generalization. Nor would the spectator be a mute recipient of an overarching ideology which constitutes him. Contingent possibilities may not impugn but deflect dominant homogenity. Mona lisa seems more than what she is. Her consecration contains seeds of dissolution. A de eroticized, de particularized abstraction of femininity demonstrates a humanist predisposition. But eroticism is a suspect term and within her de glamorised glamorisation lie the cultural fantasies of millions. Mona lisa titillates but it is a sublimated titillation. Her archetypal stature renders her both irreproachably secular and incandescently anthropomorphized. She is unattainable yet a validation of what a woman is, a timeless anachronism, a universal naturalization , part of a collective consciousness. 

However the latent subversion is highlighted through her timelessness. Because, though chronologically contained she transcends mortality. And her timelessness both deifies and secularizes. Mona lisa is the phallus because she reflects male autogenesis but she wields the phallus too because her indeterminacy discombobulates patriarchy. Her eternalized reification is non thematizable within a humanist discourse because though conceived as a humanist abstraction she essentially renders it defunct. Different intersecting modalities interpret her differently. She embodies a drag quality, a performative proclivity because though crystallized she is a dissimulation, a simulated iconography. Her timeless appeal isn't singularly unambivalent but variegatedly contingent. For a gay man she embodies a contradiction, a new homonomy because his melancholic repression would place her at a certain distance, as a specular other and her ability to have the phallus imperil his masculinity. But he also is the phallus and thus inhabits a continuum of polymorphous variations. To merely interpret Mona lisa through a reconfigured feminist ideology would be incomplete because forms of otherness, racial, cultural, social are question marks to a legitimating power discourse. To isolate a strand is to reify, to reduplicate power hegemony. And the queering is an ambiguity, a anomalous lacuna and isn't used here to denote Lgbt ideas only.

Today the internet is permeated by numerous mona lisas, accoutered with cultural specifities, with short hair, with a moustache and these permutations attest her inescpable appropriability and demonstrate the essential fact of art's performativity. Her panegyric celebration is untainted, the inconsolable dirge like melancholia of her countenance indisputable but her reconfiguration renders her a subjective ideogram, stippled with kaleidoscopic inversions, a repatched lacanian mirror where the architectonics of perception, the gaze are not merely mirroring the image the mirror upholds but resignifying its constituents through a prismatic self awareness.

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