Faculty Publication: Assistant Professor of History of Art C.C. McKee
"Staging Mirrors: Deborah Anzinger's Eco-aesthetic Syntax of Dehiscent Being"
Author: McKee, C.C.
Source: liquid blackness, Volume: 6, Issue: 1, Pages: 50–83, DOI: 10.1215/26923874-9546562, Duke University Press, April 2022
Type of Publication: Article in a Periodical
Description: This essay deploys Lacanian psychoanalysis and Black feminist theory to assert that the prominent use of mirrors in the paintings and sculptures of Deborah Anzinger, a contemporary Kingston-based Jamaican artist, are crucial to understanding subjectivity as inextricable from tropical ecology in her practice. Within what Anzinger terms an “aesthetic syntax,” the mirror is a catalyst around which her abstract compositions—which include paint, clay, synthetic hair, and Aloe barbadensis plants—conceptualize a racialized and gendered self that emerges from the reflective interaction between queer Black femininity and Caribbean ecologies. The fluid interdependence of bodies and landscapes in these works theorizes what this essay names a black ontological dehiscence that is capable of holding the afterlives of slavery together with other, ecologically porous forms of personhood. The artworks investigate the relational property of racialized and gendered alterity and open onto a psychoanalytic field of inquiry informed by Black feminist thought to unravel the colonizing borders of intersubjectivity and blur the distinction between desire and jouissance. Placing Lacan's theorization of the mirror stage in relation to the black aesthetic of Anzinger's works situates the psychoanalytic subject within an expanded field. Attending to the environments reflected in Anzinger's mirrors reveals the ecological inflections suggested by Lacanian subjectivity but never recognized within it. Moreover, the subject's fragmented coherence before the mirror elucidates Anzinger's approach as one that embraces ontological dehiscence as an ecologically relational position materially and psychically entangled with the world.