2011072514012011 NTUTeng Symposium:Lacan and Deep Space Gazing

Looking Back at Earth: 

Lacan and Deep Space Gazing


Ju-ying Vinia Huang


2011 Annual Symposium at NTUTeng 


June 28, 2001

  "What on earth are you doing by relating Jacques Lacan's theory of the gaze with astronomer's telescopes gazing into the deep space?"

The ways in which these astonishing deep-space images are looked at (or, rather, interpreted) have been accurately delineated by Lacan's formulations of (1) the gaze in relation to the mirror stage and (2) the gaze as it looks back at us of its own will.



The baby sees its own image                 The sardine can does not see the stranger.

in the mirror.                                 

Gaze in Lacan's later work refers to the uncanny sense that the object of our eye's look or glance is somehow looking back at us of its own will.


We may want to believe that we are in control of our eye's look.  However, any feeling of scopophilic power would be always undone by the sudden realization that it is actually us that have been looked at.



A best example for Lacanian gaze is Hans Holbein's painting "The Ambassadors."



As a viewer, I enjoy the feeling of being in control of my eye's look and indulging myself in the apppreciation and interpretation of the image.  After a while, I notice that there a blot at the bottom of the canvas.

What is that?  I then try to look at the painting from the side an an angle, and from that point I realize that the blot is actually a human skull staring back at me. 

The symbols of power and desire in Holbein's painting (such as wealth, art, science, youth and ambition) are totally undercut: The object of my gaze looks back at me and reminds me of what I really am.


As Lacan describes it, the human skull "reflects our own nothingness, in the figure of dealth's head" (Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, p. 92)



Now, I have a case here : the galaxy NGC 6744 .

Is it our mirror image, or, another death's head?


Example One: from National Geographic (published June 6, 2011)


Like Looking in a Mirror?



Example Two: from the news section of  ESO (European Southern Obervatory), published June 1, 2011





A Postcard from Extragalactic Space?


A spiral galaxy that resembles our Milky Way


1 June 2011


http://www.eso.org/public/videos/eso1118a/  Zooming in on the spiral galaxy NGC 6744


This impressive spiral galaxy lies about 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). But this view could almost be a picture postcard of our own Milky Way, taken and sent by an extragalactic friend, as this galaxy closely resembles our own.


We see NGC 6744 almost face on, meaning we get a dramatic bird’s eye view of the galaxy’s structure. If we had the technology to escape the Milky Way and could look down on it from intergalactic space, this view is close to the one we would see — striking spiral arms wrapping around a dense, elongated nucleus and a dusty disc. There is even a distorted companion galaxy — NGC 6744A, seen here as a smudge to the lower right of NGC 6744, which is reminiscent of one of the Milky Way’s neighbouring Magellanic Clouds.


One difference between NGC 6744 and the Milky Way is their size. While our galaxy is roughly 100 000 light-years across, the galaxy pictured here extends to almost twice this diameter. Nevertheless, NGC 6744 gives us a tantalising sense of how a distant observer might see our own galactic home.



USO Staff making timelapse video of VLT



Milky Way on South Dakoda Plains  http://vimeo.com/24551969



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