“The Surface of a Hysterical Body as an Interface” presented by Tikka


Session Title:

  • Sharing Subjectivities: Exploring new concepts of Interface Design

Presentation Title:

  • The Surface of a Hysterical Body as an Interface




  • In my paper at ISEA94 a parallel concept for the masculine “inter-face” was suggested: the feminine “inter-skin”. That concept resulted from the critique of the current interface technology capable only of producing a Cartesian masculine subjectivity. However, as long as the “inter-skin” is understood in reference to the physiological body it retains its status as the object of Cartesian knowledge. Therefore, in order to construct a radically different conceptual foundation for an interface, we need to study another kind of “skin”: the surface of a hysterical body onto which meaning inscribes itself in an endless actualization of pleasure. The supporting slides consist of images by artists who elaborate the concept of the body as a surface in their work.


    Could a concept like “inter-skin” provide any real space for femininity? When challenging the Cartesian representation of space as the metaphor of knowledge, do we unavoidably recourse to the space of the physiological body? As long as “inter-skin” is considered in the Cartesian framework, it cannot escape the mind-body duality. It will reproduce the surface of the body that is other to the Cartesian mind. If the face of the interface represents conscious mind, does the inter-skin cover the surface of the unconscious physiological body? If vision communicates directly with the mind, is the body under the skin a blind body? I believe we need to define a body that is not an object of Cartesian knowledge and then make an effort to imagine how that body might see. In Cartesian tradition the mind and the body are two completely distinct entities. The body does not think, it carries out the commands of the thinking mind. The body does not speak either, the mind speaks through the body. However, the history of psychoanalysis knows several cases in which the body has directly participated in a discourse. One of these is the case of Elisabeth von R. who suffered from hysterical pain in her legs.  During the analytic sessions “her painful legs began to ‘join in the conversation’ “. The patient was free from pain when the session started, but the pain was aroused when she was under the influence of her memories. Yet, since psychoanalysis was not immune to the Cartesian mind-body duality either, as the French psychoanalyst Monique David-Menard has pointed out, we can designate the discovery of the hysterical body as that which called the Cartesian duality in question.

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