Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art
The human condition is constituted by the fluctuating operations of desire and fantasy, which emerge in response to one's fundamental differentiation between 'Self' and 'Other.' As infants, we exist in an expansive realm of sensational “sameness” with the world around us; but as we develop, we quickly learn to differentiate between our internal and external worlds, and are forced to divide and organize our once primordial experience of unity on the basis of isolated exclusion of difference. As we slip into the structures of our social and cultural reality, we absorb language, and are taught to construct our own identities by alienating the Otherness felt within our inner selves. Through repeated reinforcement of this alienation, we arrive at a sense of Self that is separate and distant from our notion of the Other.
But in our differentiated state, we cannot help but feel that something is missing within our innermost beings; we now contain a certain void, a “lack,” borne from our developmental separation from the Other. French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan asserts that this lack, which we come to realize is unfulfillable, constitutes the human condition of desire. Lacan asserts that “Man's desire is a desire for the Other,” contending that the “goal” of one's desire is to return to a primordial re-conflation between the Self and the Other. In unbearable agony, we pointlessly search for substitutions for our lost Other, but are only able to satisfy this incessant condition of desire through the temporary immersion into a projection of fantasy.
Through fantasy, we find relief from our desires, and are able to experience a pleasure in their satisfaction; but furthermore, fantasy grants us access into a realm where the Self and the Other are able to merge, integrate and reassemble their relationship. Through fantasy, one may deny the rigid oppression that our social reality imposes upon our subjective identities. For this reason, fantasy itself contains the potential for the transgressive reconstitution of both identity and culture.
Through this thesis, I will examine the complementary operations of desire and fantasy, and their combined effects on our everyday experience of reality. By considering Jacques Lacan's theories of psychological and psychosexual development, this thesis will uncover just where our desires come from, what shapes them, and how fantasy is formed in response to their enigmatic qualities. In addition, this thesis will explore just what happens when desire and fantasy are ever-so-slightly slipped apart – when the vibrating wavelengths of human experience become warped within an “intermediary zone” between the Imaginary and Symbolic Orders of Being. This intermediary zone, when traversed with the tools of creative expression and artistic activity, contains the rich and exciting potential for a radical renegotiation of the terms that define one's Self as separate from the Other.
Lastly, this thesis inspects the functions of desire and fantasy from a distinctly feminist perspective, questioning the repressive effects of society, culture and language, on the articulation of female subjectivity.
Program Director's Department
Graduate School of Art
Gardiner, Raleigh M., "Desire and Fantasy: The Conditions of Reality between the Self and the Other" (2014). Graduate School of Art Theses. ETD 22. https://doi.org/10.7936/K74Q7RW4.