This face: A critique of faciality as mediated self-presence

Mules, Warwick (2010) This face: A critique of faciality as mediated self-presence. Transformations, 18: .

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Author Mules, Warwick
Title This face: A critique of faciality as mediated self-presence
Journal name Transformations   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1444-3775
Publication date 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Issue 18
Total pages 15
Editor Warwick Mules
Place of publication Bundaberg, Qld., Australia
Publisher Central Queensland University, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Subject 420302 Cultural Theory
Formatted abstract
In this paper I develop a concept of the face that begins with a simple idea: the face is that which withdraws from self-presence, thereby enabling the possibility of self-relation with others. The face is the mark of the self in the sense proposed by Walter Benjamin, as the medium that manifests the sign by withdrawing from it (“Painting”), thereby opening up possibilities in the materiality of the medium itself for future self-configurations unseeable in current forms of self-identity. This idea, I argue, leads to an affirmation of the self as other, as the self “to come,” opening up possibilities for critique from the place where the face withdraws. My aim here is to counter two tendencies in theoretical work: one in which the face is taken to be the sign of simple self-presence, and the other where, in its withdrawal from self-presence, the face disappears into a system or conceptual scheme, losing its singular specificity as this face, and hence its potential for being something other than what it is.

To make my case I offer an analysis of the conventional face-to-face situation of direct communication with another (the I-you relation), showing how it necessarily depends on a mediation that retreats as it makes this relation possible. I argue that this retreating mediation is the face in its withdrawal and hence resistance to self-identity and conceptual determination. Furthermore, I will demonstrate that the withdrawing face cannot be elided or sublated into an idea or material affect without losing sight of the fact that it happens. My argument counters the material-idealist concept of faciality proposed by Deleuze and Guattari as a “redundancy” within a field of pure material affectivity (A Thousand Plateaus 168). Instead, I argue for a situated critique (critical praxis) of the face opened to otherness in the finite place where it happens — as the mark of withdrawal from self-presence. To demonstrate this, I will discuss photographic work as a creative political art practice that makes a face appear as such, thereby enabling new self-relations motivated by renewed democratic concerns for global “matters of concern.”
Published under an Australian Creative Commons "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia" license.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Special Issue: "The Face and Technology".

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
School of Communication and Arts Publications
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Created: Thu, 17 Feb 2011, 10:23:01 EST by Ms Stormy Wehi on behalf of School of Communication and Arts