Boundaries of Sight and Touch - Memoirs of the Blind and the Caressed
    Nicola Foster

    A common theme in contemporary theory and philosophy - especially since Heidegger and Lacan - has been the recognition that vision has been prioritised over all other senses in Western culture and tradition and that this prioritisation structures that tradition. Vision - unlike touch, taste, smell and even hearing - operates from a distance, by setting up and maintaining a distance. Distance allows vision to distinguish between subject who views and object viewed. Vision thus allows subjects to objectify and master the object through the visual image, an image which appears enclosed within (invisible) boundaries, and as such an image which is complete. Moreover, the visual image is then taken to stand in for the singularity of the experience of the 'object', and this representation (in the form of image) can be repeated independently of the singularity of the experienced 'object'. One such repetition is made possible through drawing. Drawing offers an outline - the boundaries - of the objectified image.

    The claim that vision has been prioritised in Western culture is generally accompanied by a critique of some aspects which this prioritisation helps to establish within Western tradition. Most commonly, the critique of the autonomous subject, a critique which is further developed by some feminists to a critique of the prioritisation of the masculine subject.

    By focusing on Jaques Derrida's exhibition catalogue Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, and especially his articulation of the trace (trait) and mourning, this paper hopes to show through Derrida's text how drawing exceeds the purely visual: drawing can be seen to mark the boundaries of sight and touch precisely by crossing both. However, while Derrida's text points towards the crossing of these boundaries it remains problematic in its articulation of sight and touch precisely because of its refusal to acknowledge - though it never stops pointing towards - the boundaries of sexual difference. I shall therefore move on to a reading of Luce Irigaray's discussion of sight and touch through which I hope to point towards the relationship between the boundaries of sight and touch and that of the boundaries of sexual difference.

    Moreover, using the examples of drawings by Nancy Spero and other feminist artists, the paper will point towards some general comments on drawing as an art practice and drawing as an activity towards some other practices including art and design.

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    Biographical information

    Nicola Foster
    University College, Suffolk

    Nicola Foster's academic qualifications are in philosophy. At present she is completing a PhD on Derrida's Given Time at the University of Essex. She is also a practising artist, and teaches art history and theory at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels, at the School of Art & Design, University College, Suffolk. She is on the editorial board of Women's Philosophy Review.

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