The Fragmented ‘I’; Dissections

The Fragmented ‘I’; Dissections


In literate culture, visuality is security, and the body bursts apart. The eye explodes. “I” falls apart. “I” is the zero point of orientation and sits outside of the frame of experience. “I” is the detached observer– the invisible dissector. “I” is an other. “I” lives without interiors. “I” exists within the image. “I” extends into space and leaves the body behind.

Visual technology– the alphabet, the printing device, the written language, the electric extension– has projected psychic reality into uniform, continuous space and displaced the human sensorium. The Western transition from the oral tradition to literacy marked the birth of hyperindividualism and the isolated point of view. Communication no longer requires intercorporeality or the physical presence of the ‘other’. Information is consumed individually in private, visual space– from the outside.

The literate world and the visuality it is predicated upon situate the observer outside of the object of perception; the information the literate subject consumes does not interact with their corporeal interiors. In oral cultures, the voice of the other pours into the hearer, and sound in its all-encompassing, penetrative vibrations defines what is known. This sound is totalizing and cannot be carved up into separate parts. The speaker and the audience exist at the center of their auditory experience, forming a collective, embodied epistemology.

Sound fluidly reverberates through the boundary between myself and the other, and, in doing so, restructures “I”-centered notions of interiority and exteriority.

Orality is characterized by its material impermanence. Without the ability to inscribe thought onto visual surface, the preservation of knowledge in oral communities necessitates physical, interpersonal contact. People of oral cultures use mnemonic devices to store information, and these rhythmic aids require a specific embodiment: there is an “intimate linkage between rhythmic oral patterns, the breathing process, gesture, and the bilateral symmetry of the human body”1 Oral communities localize the site of knowledge within the body and its intercorporeal relations to other bodies.

The translation of the spoken word into the visual, alphabetic symbol marked a process of fragmentation which foregrounds literate subjectivity. Removed from the intimate register of sound and the material ‘other’, the literate individual lives a disembodied existence. “I” is imaginary in this visually-dominated world, continuously fragmenting as it extends into space.

From the outside, I see. I dissect without feeling. I consume without filling. I think without sensing. I am from without.

Dissections I-II is a collection of audiovisual works that seek to relocate the viewer’s frame of experience by making continuous visual uniformity inaccessible. By disrupting the spatial and temporal structures of the literate imaginary, Dissections challenges the dominant hyper-individualistic/literate/visual perspective and reveals alternate forms of organizing oneself in relation to communicated information. Various video channels depicting real-time, live typing and continuous visual movement dislocate the fixed positionality of the printed text and consciously overstep grammatical and compositional rules. Spoken word and audio reactive visuals demonstrate the power of sound to redefine the conventional “point of view”; sound “envelops” the listener, “forming a seamless web around us”2 This piece draws on media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s envisioning of multidisciplinary art as a means of intentionally extending the self through media in order to re-evaluate the role of each medium to incorporate or fragment the creator and consumer. In destabilizing literary conventions of comfort, Dissections exposes the fragmentation of the literate, rational, visual subject and broadens the viewer’s perspective to the all-encompassing, connective possibilities of multimedia technology.

  1. Ong, Walter J., and John Hartley. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 2012. 34.
  2. McLuhan, Marshall, and Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage. London: Penguin, 2008. 60.
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