“The boundary of the mirror thus creates the body, making it visible for the self and for others. Its frame constitutes a duplicated image of the body.”
formation of the new self. The boundary of the mirror thus creates the body, making it visible for the self and for others. Its frame constitutes a duplicated image of the body – of the self and its reflection. In the figure of Narcissus the representation is so aesthetically pleasing that it can no longer function as a simple icon. It becomes Mieke Bal’s ‘mirroring as a mirror’; not a simulacrum, but a metaphoric substitution. Bal remarks that, ‘Leaning forward, Narcissus extends his body into our space’. (Bal, 1999: 246) In a way, he reverses the mirror phase, extending the imaginary body instead of the real one. The illusion or trompe l’oeil annihilates the real. It offers ‘the fragmentation of the body [...], the prosthetic illusion of wholeness that props the self up into existence, as a fiction, framed as a representation.’ (Bal, 1999: 246) The mirror encapsulates the threshold of the visible and the fictional. It offers a metaphoric substitution and a new ‘hybrid identity’ (Bal, 1999: 2), a theatrical fake, trompe l’oeil. ‘Trans’ According to Jean Baudrillard the body has been transformed from being a metaphor for the soul, then sex - to the current stage, when it can be anything. (Baudrillard, 1990: 7) In Baudrillard’s account, ‘this state of affairs is epitomized by a single feature: the transpolitical, the transsexual, the transaesthetic.’ (Baudrillard, 1990: 10) We have entered into ‘trans’ – the ‘Looking-glass’ of sex and identity. Instead of the previous realm of ‘explosion’, characterised by the outward movement, we are experiencing ‘implosion’, which merges and collapses opposing poles. There is no longer any female or male. It seems we all wander in the genderland’s garden, where roses can be constantly repainted in white or red. This is the logic of ‘trans’ and the mirror, deconstructing and destabilising gender binary. Here, we no longer have to stay on either side of the mirror. The boundaries are disrupted and fluid. The phallic law is abolished. Gender can be re-signified. Baudrillard suggests that ‘the orgy is over’ (Baudrillard, 1989: 46). He refers to the orgy of modernity, when sex was freed from any constraints. The current erotic culture no longer dreams the dream of liberation. Instead, it explores gender with its indefiniteness and possibilities to merge. Baudrillard calls this state ‘Gender benders. Neither masculine nor feminine, but not homosexual either.’ (Baudrillard, 1989: 46) Again, it is a realm of wonderland, where the body can extend or shrink – it can become excessive, baroque or carnivalesque. It constantly shifts its identity and appearance, both mirroring and transcending boundaries of sex and gender. The trans-body, as I propose to call it, can be best described as a mirror ball, covered in little reflecting surfaces that play with limitations and appearances. It disguises itself under this external glittering make-up, theatricalising its own image and inviting us to play the game of ‘hide and seek’.
Published on Nov 11, 2010