Do interactive systems provide equal access for the representation of the feminine and the masculine? If they do, they would revolutionize the existing signifying practice of the male dominated order based on the primacy of the phallic sign. It comes, therefore as no surprise that so far interactive systems have only contributed to the visual pleasure of the phallocentric culture. From a feminist point of view, the idea of the interactive systems as a revolutionary technology needs some critical examination.
An interactive system is here understood as an apparatus consisting of the user and that which faces the user: the inter-face. This inter-face is not considered as a transparent window to the information, but an opaque text carrying within itself the hierarchical presumptions of our culture. The “face” of the inter-face suggests capability for the mutual exchange of looks and establishes vision and visuality as the privileged means of communication. In privileging the sight, the interface functions as the mirror image of the phallocentric culture. Jacques Lacan
describes mirror image as the image of the complete self that the subject identifies with. The subjectivity constituted by the inter-facial exchange is that of the monocular subject navigating in the Cartesian space of linear light and graspable objects which provide the pleasure of control for the phallic I/eye. But, as Lacan has demonstrated, the subject should not be understood only as the eye looking at the screen but also as an image on the screen in the visual field of the other screens.
Luce Irigaray has pointed out that the primacy of the phallic sign is based on its visibility. This means that in the economy of representation, the mirror of the phallocentric culture is only
capable of reflecting the visible sameness of the masculine. It leaves the place of the feminine empty. Irigaray’s writing can be seen as a signifying practice impregnating the phallic discourse
with the signifiers of the feminine sexuality: multiplicity and proximity mediated by touch. The feminine might turn an inter-face into an inter-skin. The hypothetical inter-skin does not leave us in complete blindness, but suggests the multiplicity of passages for the information flow.
- Heidi Tikka (Finland) is a film and installation artist. She received her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is now working on her postgraduate thesis at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and teaching computer graphics there at the Department of General Studies.