Concerning title and idea of this blog a reading of The Location of Culture can only be named as doing a delayed homework. I am really amazed how much this book – first published in 1994 – is giving me. For the moment I want let Homi Bhabha’s voice in with a passage in which he describes via various meanwhile wellknown sources how the unrepresentable (Third) space allows the shifting signifier to occur …
The intervention of the Third Space of enunciation, which makes the structure of meaning and reference an ambivalent process, destroys [this] the mirror of representation in which cultural knowledge is customarily revealed as an integrated, open, expanding code. Such an intervention quite properly challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary Past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People. In other words, the disruptive temporality of enunciation displaces the narrative of the Western nation which Benedict Anderson so perceptively describes as being written in homogeneous, serial time.
It is only when we understand that all cultural statements and systems are constructed in this contradictory and ambivalent space of enunciation, that we begin to understand why hierachical claims to the inherent originality or ‘purity’ of cultures are untenable, even before we resort to empirical historical instances that demonstrate their hybridity. Fanon’s vision of movement’ of occult instability could not be articulated as cultural practice without an acknowledgement of this indeterminate space of the subject(s) of enunciation. It is that Third Space, though unrepresentable in itself, which constitutes the discursive conditions of enunciation that ensure that the meaning and symbols of culture have no primordial unity or fixity; that even the same signs can be approrpiate, translated, rehistoricized and read anew.
… excerpt from the chapter ‘The commitment to Theory’ (online source)
There are a few sentences from an email to a friend I thought appropriate to put here … some own words attempting to explain in a different context similar issues: as I know this world is built upon representation and thus its acknowledged knowledge. My interest in invisibility comes along with the interest into the ‘unrepresented knowledge’ … the person not in the image … the missing one .. the misinterpreted one. The ability to perceive something that is not represented is very limited and may always occur as a risky attempt digging into the unknown. The ‘known’ (in the sense of at this moment understandable) languages might not be able to express the hardly defined. Symbols and signs are often already too preoccupied with meaning and connotations .. still interestingly if one looks at this in an intercultural sense (comparing various diffent cultural meanings – for example of colors .. etc..) it already allows the signifier to start to shift and thus open up the field of meaning. Eventhough it is a risky attempt .. as interpretations, limited views, missunderstandings still might tend to fix the movement – a movement which only can be recognized when at least partial insecurity is allowed to intervene with a predominate reading ….
The balance between drowning into a field without ground and the fixed paradigma is difficult to hold .. it involves the sensory system, which is a crucial and intuative tool equally able to lead and to misguide one through an unknown terrain. Thus I think I do not speak about insecurity as a loss of selfconfidence, but an opening which might a allow a reconfiguring of some synaptic processes ….
Why I am taking the metapher of the image ? … refering to image, film and framing is just as it is the most common subject to question on representational issues, it includes the symbolic etc.. On one side as a known fact the image/frame represents just a partial view in a first instance not neglecting that there is a continuing landscape (no longer visible at the moment of viewing the image) – on an other though through media devices which are increasingly defining the representational knowledge by what and how something is put into view exactly this becomes the general access point. Both are for me entirely common facts of a continuing discussion and thus inherently transmitted. The other issue of what is in the image and more how to relate to it is the important question which leads back to the represented knowledge … and hopefully future discussions will try to negotiate further the 90’s shifting signifier discovery and cope with further re/readings and re/codings.
The approach might be extended through the non-visible influence emerging technologies of ubiquitous computing bring into the subject of perception also within a the area of everyday life.