Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 17-18 (June 1989) p. 141.


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The Orientalist: A Short Note on Vivan Sundaram's Work

^Madan Gopal Singh

"If the map is opposed to the trace, it is because its whole orientation is towards establishing contact with the real experimentally. The map does not reproduce an unconscious dosed on itself; it constructs it. It contributes to the connection of fields, the freeing of body without organs, and their maximal access onto the plane of consistency.... The map is open, connectable in all its dimensions, and capable of being dismantled; it is reversible, and susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to montages of every kind, taken in hand by an individual, a group or a social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation... /

Gules Deleuze and Felix Guattari: On the Line

The Orientalist, perched atop a freshly hunted crocodile, holding a gun like a staff, posing imperiously; a gaze, surveying an unseen land, performing for eyes we do not see....! I reach him through a short memory of a pastel—an origin?—now lost to me. As with the Orientalist, I can begin only in the middle and yet, unlike him, without a trace, I must construct my own map. A I peer through a small view-finder, a bricoleur's lens, an objectiffrom the European Renaissance (though not a remnant yet), a small patch of light magnifies the luminous cast of this slide.... I find that I can no longer look at this image of image, directly; I find that in looking at this image I am no longer one but two. The gaze invariably slips into an 'outside'. In looking at the image I look at its 'outside' where another subjectivity, apprehensive and heavy with breath, witnesses the sudden alienation of its own space. I discover myself within the narrative space, within the margins of this 'outside'. In this slippage of gaze, I am both an objectify also a historical subjectivity. It is here, in the space of this paradox, that I will construct Vivan's work as both a political action and a meditation. ...

In the Orientalist, there is a frame which is vertically split from the middle. The middle, however, is adduced, like the perspective itself, in its denial. And yet, unlike the perspective, it is denied as a unity and not as an a-centred narrative. Here, in fact, the metaphysics of unity in the perpetually deferred infinite where all narratives converge under the hegemony of a certain realism is exploded in the a-centring of the middle itself. Thus, the Orientalist himself stands almost precariously close to the torn middle trying as much to save himself from this ritual split as to enforce a false unity converging onto him. The mimetic unity of the point at the other end of perspective is now reversed. The Orientalist is no longer a trace; he has now become


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