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THE UGLY [part 1]

Author(s): Mark Cousins


Source: AA Files, No. 28 (Autumn 1994), pp. 61-64
Published by: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29543923 .
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THE UGLY
Mark Cousins

That the ugly is, is central to this argument.1 But to assert have lent, historically, a certain drama to themoment of completing
this is to contradict a long traditionwhich seeks to relegate a work ? that separation of the artist from his work which echoes
ugliness to the status of a philosophical problem of the the separation of God from His Creation.
negative. Since antiquity, beauty has been regarded as possessing a But the account of God's working week was really about coher?
privileged relation to truth. From this it follows that an ugly repre? ence rather than time. This stress upon the object's being perfect
sentation, or an ugly object, is a negation not just of beauty, but of and therefore finished already suggests a philosophical criterion as
truth. The category of beauty plays an epistemological role; it towhat will function as ugly. It is thatwhich prevents a work's com?
?
represents the truth of an object. Ugliness belongs to whatever pletion, or deforms a totality whatever resists thewhole. An ugly
negates that truth. It belongs to a series of categories which attribute of a work is one that is excessively individual. It is not just
similarly distort the truth of objects. It belongs to what is contin? thatmonsters and characters from low life belong to a class of
gent, for contingency cannot admit of the truthof objects. Itbelongs objects which are deemed ugly; it is that they are too strongly
towhat is individual, for individuality does not express the truthof individual, are too much themselves. As such, they resist the
an object. It belongs to the hell of error; it can never accede to the subordination of the elements of the object to the ideal configuration
heaven of what is ideal and what is necessary. This philosophical of a totality. The ugly object belongs to a world of ineluctable
drama, inwhich the forces of truthand of error wage war over the individuality, contingency, and resistance to the ideal. Yet it is here
territory of art, determines the character of ugliness. Ugliness is thatAristotle and others make an initial concession to the idea of
condemned to the role of themistake, to the role of the object that ugliness, a concession which haunts future speculations concerning
has gone wrong. Ugliness does not exist as such, but only as a pri? the relation between beauty and ugliness. Firsdy, ugliness plays a
vation of what should have been. It belongs to the same family of part in comedy. While tragedy has always been discussed in terms of
'error' as themerely contingent or the grossly individual. It has the nobility and coherence of its effects, comedy presents phil?
negated what is real, what is a true object of thought. osophers with a difficulty, for comedy may incorporate the dis?
Ugliness, contingency, individuality are all termswhich belong gusting, the grotesque and the incoherent. Secondly, ugliness
to the pole of negation. As a consequence of these philosophical appears in discussions ofmimesis. If the task of thework of art is to
axioms, it follows thatugliness will be thought of from the point of represent, does the beauty of the representation lie in the object
view of beauty. At a logical level, ugliness is the negation of beauty; which is represented or in its representation? If in the latter, can we
at the level of perception, ugliness is the opposite of beauty. All then conceive of a beautiful representation of an ugly object? Lasdy,
speculation about ugliness travels through the idea of what it is not. ugliness appears in discussions concerning the nature of genius.
This is indeed characteristic of philosophy's attempt to postpone or What sets die work of a genius apart from thatof an artistwho merely
prevent any encounter with ugliness as such. Ugliness is always makes a beautiful object? In classical and subsequent hymns to
shadowed by the beautiful. The argument that will be presented genius something of the following impression may be formed: genius
here is part of an attempt to suggest thatugliness has little to do with has a sublime relation to structure. Rather than effortlessly and
beauty and that, in fact, beauty and ugliness belong to quite differ? swiftly creating a totality, the genius may incorporate alien objects
ent registers. into the structure of a work, elements thatwould defeat a lesser artist,
What we might call the philosophical account of ugliness was in whose hands the whole would break down into a ridiculous
already laid down in antiquity. For Aristotle, the beautiful object is collection of incompatible fragments. The genius is able, indeed
one which has the ideal structure of an object; ithas the form of a ? to
needs to, pit himself against a seemingly impossible task mould
totality. The romance ofWestern philosophy with the category of individual, inappropriate elements into a finalwhole. The greater the
the totality is well documented.2 Here itmeans that the art object difficulty, the greater the final impression that the totalitymakes. In
must be articulated as a whole. This in turn guarantees that it this sense the ugly is part of the power of genius.
exhibits the proper relations to itself and towhat is not itself, to its This account of genius introduces a permanent instability into
inside and to its outside. Its form is clear and distinct. Internally it subsequent discussions of beauty and ugliness; a dialectic between
exhibits coherence; externally it establishes a sharp boundary the two is now played out through the issue of the coherence of the
between itself and the world. This establishes a relation between totality. Ugliness can deform a work, but it can also strengthen it.
perfection and the idea of the beautiful object. In this case, For the stronger the totality of a work of art, themore ithas had to
perfection does not mean, as itdoes to us, the zenith of beauty. The overcome those elements within itself that oppose its unification.
perfect object is, rather, one which is finished, completed. Any Indeed, if this is true, a new doubt about a certain type of beauty
addition or subtraction from the object would ruin its form. The arises. If the structure of a beautiful object has been too litde tested
idea of being finished relates, not to an aspect of the duration of the by whatever opposes that structure, then it is condemned to occupy
work, but to the expression of an indivisible totality. This idea may a place which is the inverse of genius. It is facile, 'merely' beautiful.

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?
Ugliness, by complicating beauty, achieves an ambiguous status fear, the relation of the sublime can be maintained. If it is crossed,
utterly excluded from beauty, and at the same time a 'moment' in if the subject goes too far or the object comes too close, the sublime
the unfolding of a beauty whose form as a totality is all themore will collapse. The paradox of the sublime ? or rather its inherent
triumphant for having overcome the resistance to itself in its ratio? is that the closer I am to the boundary, themore intense is
'moments' of ugliness. my experience of the sublime. The moment of its zenith is also the
moment of its collapse.
he discourse of aesthetics,
especially in Kant's Third But the vastness of the object, its indistinctness, its lack of pro?
Critique, fundamentally complicates and radically skews portion or symmetry, does not necessarily signal a revolution in the
A this relation, but does not reverse it. Commentators have relation between beauty and ugliness has occurred. For, if the
frequently identified the category of the sublime as one which over? totality of the object seems to be absent in all these sublime
throws the limits of the classical conception of beauty. Certainly, representations of theworld with itsunfinished and unlimited char?
conceptions of the sublime seem to license types of art production acter, this does not mean that the sublime abandons the category of
that are characterized by a lack of the proportion and symmetry the totality.Here, totality is an attribute, not of the object but of the
which figure in descriptions of the beautiful object. That which is subject, and of the subject's relation to the object. The subject of the
vast, ill-defined, irregular or capable of stirring negative emotions sublime, who now, in an important sense, has become, if not the
is now admitted to aesthetics under the description of the sublime. work of art, then part of itswork, is completed within themoment
But we should resist reaching a conclusion that is based upon an idea of sublimity. The attributes of symmetry and proportion, which
of the content of a sublime representation or production, for in now may seem to be lacking in the object, none the less reappear as
theoretical terms the situation ismore complex. It is true thatwithin a symmetry and proportionality between the
subject and the object.
the sublime the attributes which define the beautiful object (its The subject always 'fits' over the object, demonstrating that the
perfection, its existence as a totality) seem to be displaced by an subject 'comprehends' it, can contain it as an experience, and is,
?
incitement, to thatwhich seems to have no limit, no proportion finally,more extensive than the object. The subject becomes a kind
* to what is wild. But
this is an inadequate characterization of the of subjective overcoat for the object. The sublime therefore
sublime, which essentially consists in a certain relation between an depends upon a permanent separation and a permanent connection
object which is fearful or awfiil and a subject who survives the between the subject and the object. The relations of the sublime do
experience of that object. Kant says, not undo the story of the totality.

consider bold, overhanging and as itwere threatening rocks, thunder


e can now move to a hypothesis concerning ugliness: Aes?
clouds piling up in the skyandmoving about accompanied by lightningand
thetics cannot deal with ugliness, save as a negation and
thunderclaps,volcanoes with all theirdestructive power, hurricaneswith
all thedevastation they leave behind, theboundless ocean heaved up, the ? T as a moment of beauty. Aesthetics is the theoretical know?
high waterfall of a mighty river and so on. Compared to themight of any ledge of beauty and the subject's relation to beauty, and it therefore
of these, our ability to resistbecomes an insignificanttrifle.Yet the sight follows that there cannot be an aesthetics of ugliness. It also follows
of thembecomes all themore attractive themore fearful itis, provided we that the experience of ugliness is not an aesthetic experience as such.
are in a safe place. And we like to call those objects sublime because they Kant's notion of aesthetic experience and of judgement cannot admit
raise the soul's fortitudeabove its usual middle range and allow us to
discover inourselves an ability to resistwhich is of quite a differentkind, propositions such as 'This is ugly'. The judgement 'This is beautiful'
does not have an opposite. The failure to form a judgement of
and which gives us the courage [to believe] thatwe could be a match for
nature's seeming omnipotence.3 beauty is just that; it is not an assertion of ugliness. If ugliness is to
become an object of inquiry, this inquiry will have to be conducted
What ismade clear here is that the sublime is neither an image nor outside the scope of aesthetics. But like aesthetics it cannot afford
an object of a particular type, but the enactment of a scene inwhich to collapse into the relativism of taste. For, if the
investigation of
the subject and object have a dynamic relation to each other within the ugly is reduced to the question of what is held, here and now, or
a specific setting. The awfulness of the object does not there and then, to be ugly, there is nothing to say, beyond the fact
immediately
threaten the subject, but rather ? given the subject's safety-in that some people say one thing, some another. The sociological and
? it awakens in the subject an apprehension
danger that his historical investigation of personal preferences, or the cultural
even his is than the vast and fearful
potential scope, scale, greater machinery of taste, can never accede to the problem of beauty and
object. It is in this sense thatKant refers toGod as fearful. Our sense ugliness. For that problem is not about the variability of taste, but
of the extension of the soul depends on our surviving a sense of this about a certain modality of subjectivity in relation to the object.5
awful, fearful character. But if this relation collapses, leaving only We have argued that beauty and ugliness operate in different
fear in its place, then we can have no Christian experience of the registers, but thismuch they do have in common: they cannot be
soul.We simply fear something; itdoes notmatter whether it isGod accounted for in terms of theway inwhich a culture imposes a scale
or a spider. We are afraid and we flee. Indeed, there seems to be and a hierarchy of preferences. The problems of beauty and of ugli?
something almost inescapably cinematic about Kant's description ness both exceed, though differently, theway inwhich cultures use
of the site of the sublime. I sit (safely) confronting such arresting, the terms. Like beauty, ugliness entails a certain relation of a sub?
awful, fearful representations.4 As long as the gap between the ject to an object; nor can ugliness be reduced to a set of attributes
subject and the object constitutes a margin of safety, as long as the which are assigned to it. It exists, decisively and
fundamentally,
subject does not cross that fateful boundary between the fearful and within the relation. But what is this relation?

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The next hypothesis is as follows: The ugly object is an object human body which is implied in the Vitruvian scheme of
which is experienced both as being there and as something that proportion; it is a manic insistence that an even more fundamental
should not be there. That is, the ugly object is an object which is in proportion inman is guaranteed: that he takes up only as much
thewrong place. It is important to detach this definition of ugliness space as his form displaces. This phantasy depends upon a
as far as possible from aesthetics, for it is not at all a question that conviction about isomorphism, about the relation between objects
an object, having been judged to be ugly, is experienced as some? and space. Firstly, that therewill be an isomorphic relation between
thingwhich should not be there. This is not a theory of propriety. an object and the space itoccupies. Secondly, that therewill be an
It is, rather, that the experience of the object as something which isomorphic relation between the outside of an object (represen?
should not be there is primary and constitutive of the experience of tation) and its inside (existence). Thirdly, that this ismost truewhen
ugliness. At this level such an experience is identical to the idea of the object is a human being. For the thought of an inside being
itsbeing in thewrong place. This does notmean that there is a right larger than its outside is one which repels human beings.
place for the ugly object; there is no such place. For this is not a But how different is the space of the ugly object, and how little
relation of incongruity or impropriety; the 'wrong place' is an Archimedes understood of it. Contamination, at a logical level, is
absolute. But inwhat respect is the ugly object an object which is in the process whereby the inside of an object demonstrates that it is
thewrong place? Briefly, from the position of the subject towhom larger than its outside or representation. This is one reason why it
the object discloses itself as ugly. is important for architecture to be able to think the ugly object. It is
But where may we look for help in thinking out the issue of some? also the topographical reason why the ugly object as dirt is not
thing which is out of place? Undoubtedly the strongest thoughts merely a question of 'where the object shouldn't be'. It is not just
about what is 'out of place' come from religious taboos and from the that the ugly object has trespassed into a zone of purity, for the ugly
clinical analysis of obsessional neurosis. Both sources (if indeed object is voracious and, through contamination, will consume the
they are not the same source) betray an underlying concern with entire zone. This demonstrates that an important aspect of the ugly
?
things being in their place, and the opposite of this, which is dirt. object is its relation to space including, as we shall see, the space
Mary Douglas has famously remarked that dirt is matter out of of the subject.
place. What makes dirt dirty is not its substantial form, however
much we commonly believe this to be the case, but the fact that it is To one knows this better than the obsessional neurotic.
in the wrong place. In Judaism the earliest ideas concerning sin Leaving aside the question of cleansing as a form of
were expressed, not as abstract issues of ethics, but as thematerial JL ^1 assuaging guilt, it is clear that for the obsessional the
problem of the stain. And it is the stainwhich leads that early notion answer to the question 'Where should the object not be?' is 'Close
of sin to imagine its expiation in terms of purification rather than tome'. It is not just that the obsessional wants to keep ugly objects
restitution. A stain must be cleansed.6 Is this because the stain is as far away as possible; it is, rather, that they become ugly by
ugly? The stain is not an aesthetic issue as such. It is a question of getting closer. Underlying this is the conviction thatwhat is at a
something that should not be there and so must be removed. The distance is under control, and what is closer is out of control. The
constitutive experience is therefore of an object which should not be obsessional thinks in terms of the formula thatugliness is a function
there; in this way it is a question of ugliness. This connection of proximity, but also thinks that theway to stop an object getting
between a thing being in the wrong place, sin, and ugliness still closer, to bring it under control, is to clean it. This involves a
obtains where the prohibitions within a culture take the form, not of phantasy about gleaming surfaces; whatever gleams is sufficiently
elaborate reasoning, but of swift revulsion from the 'ugliness' of an distant from myself. Wriat I polish recedes; what is dirty
act. An economy of dirt is therefore one way of opening up the approaches. But the hopelessness of the task of cleaning is all too
question of ugliness. apparent. The more you clean something, the dirtier itgets. As the
This economy can also be translated into spatial terms. As a first surface is cleaned it reveals those fewer but more stubborn stains
approximation, in so far as dirt ismatter out of place itmust have which demonstrate even more starkly how the remaining stains
passed a boundary, limit or threshold into a space where it should consume the surrounding space. The case of the obsessional shows
not be. The dirt is an ugly deduction from 'good' space, not simply that the ugly object, in its relation to the subject, is not static but is
by virtue of occupying the space, but by threatening to contaminate always eating up the space between it and the subject.
all the good space around it. In this light, 'dirt', the ugly object, has But what is this subject? Why is itconfronted by something which
a spatial power quite lacking in the beautiful object. One way of is in the wrong place? In order to answer this it is necessary to
clarifying the difference between the registers of beauty and ugli? remember that the 'subject' referred to here is not the 'subject' that
ness is to translate them into topological entities. Broadly speaking, Kant has in mind, nor the subject of philosophical discourse in
the beautiful object remains the same size as itself,while the ugly general. Still less is it the 'subject' that serves as the bearer of
object becomes much larger than it is. There is an important reason cultural codes in the human sciences. It is, rather, the subject that
for this. All objects exist twice, both as themselves and as responds to objects as a determinate psychical apparatus, that is, as
representations of themselves. But I have a vested interest in pre? a radical division between unconscious and conscious life? a being
tending tomyself that this is not so, for if Iwere forced to recognize which is the locus of desire as well as the locus of institutions of
this I would have to conclude thatmy own existence ? as myself defence against those desires.
? are
and as my representation of myself different, and in certain This has immediate consequences for a psychoanalytic account of
conditions might even come apart. It is not just an idealization of the the difference between our responses to beauty and to ugliness. In

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so far as beauty may be taken as an object of desire, the Since the former is rarely within our power, the latter becomes a
subject is
governed by the pleasure principle. But it is the nature of desire to habit. The confrontation with the ugly object involves a whole
work in respect of representations. 'Representation' here does not scheme of turning away. The child's closing of the eyes rehearses
refer to the nature of an object, whether itbe a painting or a person: the vanishing of the subject. Not looking, turningmy back, inatten?
itrefers, rather, to the fact that the economy of desire is intrinsically tion: all betray the fugitive reaction to the ugliness of thatwhich
about representation. All objects of desire are representations, exists. This is a defence against a reality which shows that the
since they are substitutions for something that is experienced as relation to ugliness is quite different to themovement of desire, and
having been lost. This economy of desire can be illustrated by refer? is fought out on another plane. Such an account provides, however,
ence to the infant. The infant does not experience desire as long as
only a view of the relation to ugliness at the level of the ego and its
he is satisfied. The firstgap in existence occurs with a lack of satis? defences. There is another story,more obscure and obscene, about
faction. The infantdoes not exactly 'experience' this lack. Rather, the relation between the unconscious and ugliness. It is an account
experience is born of it.The infantdeals with the lack of satisfaction of the ecstasy which the unconscious enjoys in all that is dirty,
?
by hallucinating what he imagines is the object thatwould restore horrifying and disgusting that is, of ugliness as an unbearable
satisfaction. But hallucination involves a relation to a represen? pleasure.
tation; it does not produce satisfaction. The representation, in this
sense, is a substitute for something which is now lost, and which
Notes
constitutes the subject as a complex of lacks. The infant assumes
subjectivity as the catastrophic precipitation into a world of desire 1. This article, which is the first part of two articles, is a synopsis of twenty-two
articles on ugliness delivered
(lack) and substitutions for a lost object. However much the subject
at the AA in the academic year 1994/95. It

strives to fulfil his desires, the economy of lack can never be satis? attempts to present ugliness as a distinct problem, one that cannot solely be
accounted for by aesthetics. It is concerned to develop, in a preliminary way,
fied. The lost object can never be found because it is no longer an
a psychoanalytic account of ugliness, in so far as ugliness involves
experiences
object; it is the condition of desire. Caught between what is experi? which are, at least in part, unconscious.
enced as lost and the illusions of desire, the subject follows the plot I would like to thank the audience at these lectures and at previous lecture
of his own fiction.7 series. The comments made at the seminars after the lectures have allowed me
This economy governs both the life of phantasy and life in the to reformulate what I have tried to say. In particular Iwould like to thankMichael

world. But theworld includes obstacles to desire; indeed theworld Newman, Brian Hatton, Olivier Richon, Pam Golden and Gordana Korolija.
2. The work, especially the early work, of Jacques Derrida is exemplary in this
itselfmay be thought of as an obstacle to desire. It is this which
respect. Much of what he characterizes as the 'metaphysics of presence' is also
leads Freud to define 'reality' in a special sense, one which is quite
a privilege which is to the category of the totality, and
consistently accorded
alien to definitions offered by philosophers or by the human more generally to whatever makes up a 'whole'.
sciences. If the philosopher defines reality or existence as the sum 3. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement
(Indianapolis, 1987), p. 120.
of what there is, and if the anthropologist defines it as the sum of 4. In a section which follows the quotation above, Kant
gives an unusual definition
what there is from the standpoint of a culture, those definitions are of the brave soldier: 'one whose sense of safety lasts longer than others'.

no part of Freud's reasoning. For him reality is 5. Since the late eighteenth century an argument has existed that assertions that
anything that
functions as an obstacle to desire. The idea of 'reality testing' is not something is beautiful or ugly are nothing more than a linguistic assertion that
the subject 'likes' or 'dislikes' something. As such, asesthetics is ruled out of
the cognitive adventure thatpsychologists imagine, but the painful
court, in favour of the analysis of preferences or taste. Contemporary sociology
t blow, or wound, that is delivered to our narcissism. Reality is that attempts to show how the mechanisms of taste serve the interests of certain
which, being an obstacle, both arrests and denies us our pleasure. social classes and relations of cultural prestige. But these forms of argument,
It is in this sense thatwe can consider a thesis which might other? however appealing, fall short of Kant's problem.
wise seem petulant and melodramatic: The ugly object is existence 6. There is a necessary ambivalence about the stain itself which must be cleansed,
or the place of the stain. The space as a whole has been violated. Contamination
itselfyin so far as existence is the obstacle which stands in theway
is a process which by definition spreads. This iswhy both
of desire. And so it is, from the point of view of desire, that the religious taboos and
ugly the obsessional are concerned with minutiae. For even the tiniest violation of
object should not be there. Its character as an obstacle iswhat makes a boundary always has
large consequences.
itugly. 7. This is an absurdly contracted statement of a
psychoanalytic view of the birth
of the subject, which is so different from the birth of the infant. It is concerned
But the human being is not a stoical being. Far from accepting to signal that from the point of view of desire all
objects are also represen?
his or her fate in a world of obstacles, the human being tations .Such a condition reaches a point of intensity in thewish to see. For what

resorts to the primitive mechanism of projection: whatever is is it that we wish to see, beyond what we see?

not a friend of desire is an enemy which seeks my detruction. Late


inhis lifeFreud reformulated his definition of reality in the dark and
laconic observation that reality is equivalent to castration. What?
ever is an obstacle is invested with the power to punish or annihilate
me; it, in a literal sense, is coming to get me. At this point the clini?
cal observation of the obsessional neurotic applies to the daily life
of humanity. The ugly object, as obstacle, is a punitive force which
is sweeping towards me. The response to this threat can be twofold
? to destroy the object, or to abandon the position of the
subject.

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THE UGLY [part 2]
Author(s): Mark Cousins
Source: AA Files, No. 29 (Summer 1995), pp. 3-6
Published by: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29543944 .
Accessed: 12/03/2014 11:27

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
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.
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content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Architectural Association School of Architecture is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend
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THE UGLY
Mark Cousins

can be as and when the interior of the existence of an


Ugliness, I argued in the first part of this article,1 ugliness arises object
of not simply as the of beauty but as exceeds, for a subject, its representational exterior. It might be
thought negation
a real and dimension inwhich it is to event as a
having independent tempting regard this simple issue of something leaking
as thatwhich is there and which should not be there. or out of a representational shell. And indeed
experienced bursting images of
Rather than a lack (of beauty), it is an excess ? an excess which seeping and leaking and of bursting and exploding will inevitably
comes to threaten the source of this threat, I dominate literaryand graphic attempts to capture thismoment. In
subject. The argued,
was a in the balance between the existence of an fact the situation ismore complex, as can be seen if thismoment is
change object and
its representation. For an object to accord with the safetywhich is considered from the viewpoint of the subject rather than the object.
implied by classical notions of beauty itmust accord with a certain When the order of representation still contains the existence of an
law of proportionality,2 not the kind which can be found in object, the subject remains within
a certain
proportional relation to
architectural discussions of proportion but a proportionality none the object. This relation permits the subject a sufficient portion of
the less. If we grant that an object exists twice - firstly as a narcissism for the subject to 'appreciate' the object. As long as the
representation of itselfand secondly as its existence, then the outside object signifies forme, I
am sustained
by the object, which is in a
of a thing (representation) must enclose the inside of a thing sense a mirror forme. We can
imagine thatwhen this elementary
(existence). This proportionality, inwhich the exterior Overcoats' safeguard becomes intensified and elaborated in formal schemes of
the interior, inwhich the object as representation contains the object proportion and symmetry in architectural design and theory
we have
as existence, has the necessary consequence of to pose the question
changing the nature of the relation between symmetry and
of the distinction between the exterior and the interior. This is a reflection. The topics of beauty and narcissism draw clpse together
notorious problem, in any case. So many discussions of interiority in this respect.3But themoment of a
ugliness follows quite different
and exterioritybuild a wall between the two categories and so cannot path. From the point of view of the subject this moment occurs
think about the problematic character of a wall. Some discussions when the inside of the object bursts traumatically through the
abolish the distinction between interior and exterior and so cannot subject's
own
phantasy ofwhat makes up the inside.
think about the problematic character of the abolition of a wall. But We are concerned here, not with the object as such, not with the
from the point of view of this question of ugliness the question of inside of the object as such, but with how these are refracted in the
exterior and interior has to be reframed as the distinction between phantasies of the subject forwhom ugliness is preparing itself.The
representation and existence. The 'exterior' of a building, then, is assertion that an object exists twice, as representation and as
not a - a
simple empirical reality the 'outside' of building. Indeed, existence, is not a question of trying to divide the object into two
it is important to recall that the outside of a building can never be aspects. It involves the causal proposition that, as long as the
reduced to an empirical fact.The exterior of a building is not the last representational order of the object overcoats its existence, it also
a
spatial moment of building before itpasses intowhat is not itself. determines the phantasy of what the inside is. If this seems
It iswhat representsthe building to a subject. It follows, then, that the relentlessly abstract, the question can be illuminated by considering
conventional architectural categories of interior and exterior are not the human face.When I experience another's face in the order of
only of littlehelp; they are an obstacle, in so far as they always return representation and expression, I do not experience the face as the
the problem of the inside and the outside to the phantasy of, say, a exterior of a head any more than I experience it as a surface of
solid cube. Such an object, with itsapparently vivid manifestation of representation. The face as representation dominates my experience
what is an inside, ofwhat is an outside, and ofwhat is a surface, is to the point that the
perception of the head as a physical volume,
an obstacle to the which therefore implies an inside, is repressed. Everything I see is
reframing of the question from the point of view
of the issue of ugliness. The exterior is the representation of the as a vehicle of
organized around the face expression. The eyes, the
object for the subject, and therefore includes much which is 'inside' nose, the mouth, the structure of the face are all filled with and
the object. The interior is the existence of the object and therefore determined by the phantasy/fact of expression. Moreover, this
can include on the 'outside' of the
anything object which has not interpretation of the face is not limited to the reading of a surface,
been submitted to a regime of representation. It is in this sense that as distinct from what lies behind a surface. The
experience of the

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to the subject that they are the same. But this type
meaning of the face determines the phantasy ofwhat is behind the object revealing
face. Facial expression seizes possession of a depth-which, is implied. of account, with its stress on the excess of stuff as that which
In reading the surface, I fill out what isbehind the surfacewith the characterizes the ugly object, while itmay document the case of

depth of the surface. I do


not perceive an object divided between what is there and should not be, is likely to be misleading. For there
its representational surface and its interior existence. In so far as I is a special case of thatwhich is there and should not be; it is that
am as representation, it creates a depth in which is not thereand should be.
grasped by the object
which I perceive the representational order permeating the object In Gustave Leroux's novel The Phantom of theOpera the opera
I look at you, I do not only imagine that as a rumour. He
all theway through.When ghost circulates through Garnier's Opera House
the surface of your face epitomizes an expression; the experience of sidles into the narrative as the collection of stories which are told
your face overwhelms any thought ofwhat might lie behind it.The about him, and as the unseen spectator in Box 5.These stories are
not only descriptions of a ghost, but ghosts themselves - apparitions
depth of your face exhausts any question of'behind'. This phantasy
is shockingly curtailed by the sight of a facial wound. Suddenly the ofwhat isnot fully there. For the signs of a ghost whisper of a special

phantasy of depth is shattered by the perceptual registration that type of reality,one that redistributes the usual relations between the
there is a behind to the face and that, far from supporting the seen and the unseen. It is not that the ghost is either seen or not

experience of depth, it projects the stuff of another order,


or seen, visible or invisible; usually a ghost is partly seen and partly not
seen. It is, rather, that the
disorder. The sight of subcutaneous reality, the sudden, crazy sight sight of the ghost is 'unnatural'. The girls
of flesh and bone is altogether too much. It seizes my attention of the corpsde ballet take their conviction about the ghost from the
because itdoes not signify,because of its evident character of being words of Jacques Busquet, the chief scene-shifter: 'He is extra?
too much, too close, too soon. It does not so much undermine as thin and his dress coat on a skeletal frame.His eyes
ordinarily hangs
'overmine' the face and its expressive economy. The face does not are so deep that you can hardly see the fixed pupils. All you see is
two as in a dead man's skull. His skin, which is
collapse; the face is thrown off.The depth of expression is relegated big black holes,
to the surface of a mask. The moment of ugliness, then, is the stretched across his bones like a drumhead, is not white but a dirty
nose is so littleworth see it
shattering of the subject's phantasy ofwhat makes up the object,
in yellow. His talking about that you can't
which the object ispermeated by its surface just as a face is, and not side-face; and the absence ofthat nose is a horrible thing to look at!
that there is a non-signifying interiorwhose pressure to appear is The novelist ignores the conventions of logical analysis and the
skin of a mask. so quite correctly. But surely
concealed only by the temporary and mendacious analysis of visual perception, and does
one sees what one sees? It to 'see'
The trauma, for the subject, is occasioned by the sudden appearance might be possible something that
of 'stuff, the stuffwhich threatens to overwhelm and engulf the isn't there, just as it is possible to see something that is there. All
and to c?ntaminate the subject with its own lack of manner of distortion might be allowed to fall between the act of
subject,
meaning. seeing and the facts of what is there, distortions that would fall
somewhere between hallucination and inattention. But to stare at
not there seems tomake no sense (nor to have
But thisway of stating the argument, here and in the previous something which is
article, places too much stress on the excessive materiality of any reference). How could we tolerate such an underdetermined
the ugly. Inmany filmswhich turn upon the threat to human world as one inwhich I can stare atwhat isnot there? If something
excess frequently takes a literal form. The is not there, it should not be there to stare at. 'If absent, then not
beings by aliens, this
dynamic of the subject's relation
to the alien is that theway inwhich present' might be the schoolmaster's report on the alternatives
the alien contaminates space expresses itself as a ceaseless move offered by existence, .where presence and absence must be taken to
- - be mutually exclusive arid jointly exhaustive categories. But it is just
towards a pursuit of the subject. The ugliness of the alien always
to
betray itself through
an indistinctness of form; the alien is such a world that the ghost comes to trouble, and just such a logic
begins -
equivalent,
not to its form, but to the stuff that leaks through its that he comes to haunt. The ghost teaches a lesson in complexity
form. The movement of the alien towards the human being is also that in an in-between world the status ofwhat is present and what
The is absent is not so swiftly resolved. True, viewed from the point
expressed by the increasingly liquid character of the former.
firstcontact the alien makes with the human subject is though the of view of presence, the nose is absent. In the inventory of per?
a aremany nose there isn't.There isno nose
transmission of kind of ontological drool. The defences of the ception there things, but
are redoubled in the attempt to brush off this stuff,the ugly, here. But negation is the enemy of this kind of clarity. It refuses
subject
to be moment
and to re-establish the radical physical difference between the subject simply the opposite of affirmation. At the very
and the ugly object. At the lastmoment before which the subject is when negation denies the existence of an object (There is no nose
a response here . . .), behind the back of the proposition it creates a 'negative
engulfed by the stuffof the alien, the subject produces
- that of as an
which already announces itsdefeat vomiting. Vomiting object', the shadow of object which isn't there. Now, viewed
a defence contains the - to vomit is a last from the point of view of absence, a 'no-nose' begins tomake itself
following paradox that
ditch attempt to expel aspects of the impending ugly object, but at manifest; indeed, it is thatwhich is a 'horrible thing to look at', the
the same time it is already identifiedwith the ugly object in precisely absence of that nose. The consequence of this is the idea that the
that action of spreading itselfabout. The final collapse of the subject relations between what is present and what is absent are relations
and its defences comes about in precisely the action of the ugly which are not mutually exclusive. An absent object may be present

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can
even as an a
object of perception in world of all that ismissing. The experience of loss and the fear of punishment easily find a path
existence of objects, and themodalities of their existence, must be to each other. Loss can easily be experienced as a punishment;
viewed not exclusively from the point of view of presence but from can easily take the form of loss. In either case the subject
punishment
the point of view of its 'ghost' - the negative world of inverse is threatened with the loss, not of a thing, but of something which
two terms which may apply to the was included in the definition of the it I am not.
objects. Far from there being thing.Without
existence of an object, there are at least four. From the side of Or we could say that the ghost haunts or 'underwhelms' the
presence we may state, 'There is a nose' or 'There is no nose'. But me in a world where I lack thatwhich I
subject. The ghost places
already the negation begins to point to another world, which
we need in order to be. If the original definition of the ugly was that it
can formalize in the a
following way: 'There is no-nose', and its overwhelmed me in its excess, that it closed in on me and blotted
further negation, 'There is no "no-nose"'. It can be immediately out theminimal extent of narcissistic self-possession which I need
one vital consequence of in order to be separate in theworld, here I face the opposite case, but
grasped that negation is that, far from being
a
singular and decisive operation that mirrors affirmation, it is a case inwhich the outcome is the same. I am underwhelmed by

something quite different. Affirmation and negation are not the object, which takes away what I need to be. Excess and lack tend
symmetrical.Negation keeps open
a relation to the
ghosts of objects, in the same direction, though they take different routes. The lack
- that
to a world of shadows without
objects. In unconscious lifenegation takes two differing forms, and two differing logics of the
must be as a than a limitation, or a trace
regarded productive force rather ghost, and that of themask. The ghost is of representation

privation, of objects theremight be for experience. Freud insists that which lacks themeans to come into existence. It haunts us. That
the unconscious does not understand negation in its conventional is, it robs us of our conviction that we exist. If it touches us, its
sense, any more than itunderstands the conventional categories of coldness robs us of the heat of our substance. Even to see it is to
space, time and causality.4The unconscious isnot governed by those our
begin to lose sight of theworld, for it transforms the relation
transcendental categories by which philosophers have sought to between what is normally seen and what is not seen.- In seeing
to be called the 'mind'. It is we lose our our
police the operations of what used negative objects footing in existence. We glimpse
an lack of life, the death ofwhat we to live.Traditionally this is
possessed by unstoppable positivity. The unconscious experience need
of a 'negative object' is positive, real and direct. 'There is a "no the vdnitas, the reminder ofmortality. In terms of building it appears
nose"', is the propositional form of the scene-shifter Jean Busquet's as those spaces which can be of as a vacuum,
thought negative
experience. The consequences for the investigation of unconscious constructions inwhich we experience-a kind of horror. A missing
relations to objects and spaces are radical and blunt; the subject stair is not simply dangerous; itneeds us to lose our footing, indeed
relates (in the question of ugliness) not only to those objects and itneeds our footing.We are always less by being here. The 'ghostly'
spaces which are there and should not be, but also to those objects space is at the opposite pole from the undead. The undead are not
and spaces which are not there and should be. not dead: they are far too much alive, they manifest an
simply
But why is the ghost's missing nose so ugly? Or, in the context of altogether excessive life.6 But this invasive contaminating life is
this argument, why is amissing object equivalent to an excess? In the of all It has a murderous vivacitywhich gorges
stripped signification.
case of the excess, what is at stake is the threat to the subject, the upon meaning, wolfing down signs and transforming them into
threat that the subject would be overwhelmed. Itmust follow that mere existence. The
ugliness of this contagion is the degrading, the
themissing object must have the same effect. Psychoanalysis has at liquidation of all forms of representation. Not only does it consume
least two distinct accounts of what ismissing. It conceives of the meaning, it ruins whatever representation may be left.The face
sources ofmissing to two separate one ceases to express, the exterior ceases to is left is a mere
objects according logics; in signify.What
case it is of
punishment, in the other case it is'of loss.Now,
although mask. And a mask cannot cloak or contain existence. It no longer
the sources of punishment and of lossmay seem utterly distinct, in produces the effectof depth. If anything, itheralds itspowerlessness
to a
practice they become importantly linked and intertwined. I may signify by becoming masquerade. It is the cosmetic which
sufferpunishment as a forfeit, as a loss, as a configuration of what on to the horror
always gives spread by surgery, to the subcutaneous
is vital. Or Imay experience loss as a punishment, thatmy loss is a existence itno longer encases but rather underlines. Buildings which
of me. Within the discourse of are a face-lift of not be a
sign of reality's persecution given distracting detail may installing
psychoanalysis this is usually presented as a differential speculation mediation of representation, but proving thatmasks cannot signify.7
on the role of the penis and the breast. A
phenomenological drama The ghost and themask are twoways inwhich ugliness works to
- on one on
is drawn out of each organ the drama of castration, the destroy the stability of the subject's footing in space. Both work
hand, and of separation on the other.5 Each infant in the 'long different levels of lack. The ghost wishes to our
signify but needs
march' to becoming an ex-child must negotiate the passage of existence in order to do so. The mask is the moment when the

separation and the fear of punishment which is given its emblem in labour of representation has already succumbed to the thriving
the anxieties around castration. Such a passage isnot constituted by case the
emptiness of existence. In each subject is threatenedwith the
an event, a trauma and its aftermath, but rather in the continuous, fate of becoming the ugly object. If the ghost haunts me, I will
ceaseless relation, with its irruptions, its repetitions, its histories become a ghost. Iwill lack the existence I need in order to signify,
between the subject and absent objects. To many theywill seem and Iwill become the trace ofmeaning without a life. If I live among
quixotic and arbitrary. It is enough here
to keep inmind that the masks Iwill abandon myself to the sensation of the existence that I

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can no twoways of lacking involve becoming
longer express. These
Notes

which is not there and should be. 1. This article is a continuation of the article published inAA Files no. 28 (Autumn
something
Ugliness in its radical and violent operations exposes the 1994)? PP- 61-6.
2. ibid. p. 63.
to
precariousness of the subject, especially the subject's relations
3. I use the term 'narcissism' here to indicate not a pathology, but the everyday
in space. Whether are as those which
objects objects experienced illusion of a coherent world
-
indeed the illusion that there is a world which
are there and should not be, or as objects which are not there and in turn is linked to the possibility
coherently presents itself for experience, which
should be, the subject experiences the profound threat of facing an of the subject maintaining a coherent
body image. This register,which Lacanians
internal incoherence; Viewed in this light,we can imagine thatwhile nominate as the 'Imaginary', is presented in Lacan's paper 'Le Stade du miroir
comme formateur de la fonction du Je', reprinted inMerits (Paris, 1966).
as was insisted in antiquity, the negation of beauty,
ugliness is not, standard edition, vol. XIX (1925), pp. 235-6.
4. See: Sigmund Freud, 'Negation',
it is possible thatwe might read the canons of beauty as at least in
5. An early example of the intertwining of ideas of castration and of separation
part a defence against the precariousness of the subject if exposed from the breast may be found in A. Starcke, 'The Castration Complex',
to the ugly object. In terms of that precariousness, what else is the International Journal ofPsychoanalysis, vol. II (1921). In this article Starcke writes
fundamental alliance between beauty and symmetry but thework of of the weaning of a child as a 'primary castration'. Freud, by contrast, as is clear

into a subject who is in the text 'Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety', clearly dissociates himself from
inducing the illusion of coherence and ideality their capacity
the conflation of castration and separation, while acknowledging
in fact always close to the edge? Put bluntly, such doctrines and
to combine in experience.
are a defence against
practices of 'beauty' and of idealization 6. I owe this point to Slavoj Zizek.
precariousness, a narcissistic turning away from ugliness. Perhaps 7. These formulations arose in discussions with Parveen Adams, to whom I am
classical conceptions of'mere' beauty mark themoment when this indebted. Her own view of the matter is contained in The
Emptiness of the Image
factwas partly recognized, that 'prettiness' has become a mask which (London, 1995).
so has not
actually draws attention sowhat has been repressed and
been repressed.

The question arises ofwhat other relation the subject might


take to ugliness, a relation which does not repeat our
conventional responses. It has been argued that the subject
usually reacts to the ugly object with all the symptomatic actions of
defence. The subject tries to clean it away and, when the object
refuses to go, the subject retreats to a repertoire of acts of turning
away, of hiding and of vanishing. In effectwe block our eyes and
we turn away. But what characterizes the defences is not so much
that they are a certain kind of experience but that they suspend the
experience of objects. Experience is neutralized in favour of
indifference.The subject hibernates from objects. Instead, we now
have technologies of indifference, and possibly architectures of
indifference, objects and spaces that assist in the defence which
? ?
emerges as being nowhere with nothing. It is there nowhere that
we are the means
hang about, killing time. The defences whereby
the subject avoids life and death, both at the same time. The
mechanism of the defences has yet to be described but a start can
be made through an investigation of boredom. The defences provide
no means of a to
establishing productive relation ugliness. And yet
theremust be other relations to ugliness which do not start from
beauty and end in boredom. For the element which is indispensable
to to productivity: it is that of vivacity.
ugliness is also indispensable
The question of the animation of the subject's relation to the object
is not one which has emerged within the discourse of aesthetics.
Indeed, the traditional stress upon the disinterested character of
aesthetic experience has blighted speculation about what is
But before we can that we will need
interesting. approach question
to address, in another article, the renewed problem of what makes
a or alive.
building dead

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THE UGLY [part 3]
Author(s): Mark Cousins
Source: AA Files, No. 30 (Autumn 1995), pp. 65-68
Published by: Architectural Association School of Architecture
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/29543975 .
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THE UGLY
Mark Cousins

If the argument in the previous two articles1 is entertained, then that thought will escape from theological control, or that the
a number of consequences flow from it.The as an institution, is themore
question of ugliness printing press will destroy theChurch
is reformulated and the aesthetic and ethical issues surrounding radical idea that printing will kill architecture. Hugo's account of
the relation of beauty and ugliness are transformed. For, while architecture is that, up to the invention ofmovable type, architecture
to be considered asmerely the negative of beauty, was 'the great book of mankind' was the record and
ugliness continues (p. 194). It
the critical field will continue to be swamped with the traditional monument of collective existence. Indeed, architecture was a species
- each
nostrums of an empty enthusiasm for art.Muses and schoolteachers ofwriting raised stone was a letter, each capital on a column
will insist inmuch the same dull way that the aesthetic imperative bore a meaning, and the letters and words, spelt out of wood and
is to avoid ugliness and to cultivate beauty. If it turns out that this stone, were records of the community.
is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know, then art faces a
dim future.But in any case those sermons on beauty, which demand Solomon's Temple, for instance,was not simply the binding of the sacred

thatwe turn away from ugliness, are redundant, for that, as I have book, itwas the sacred book itself.On each of its concentric enclosures
the priests could read the novel translatedand made manifest to the eye,
in its
argued, is the spontaneous reflex of the subject. Ugliness
and could thus follow its transformationsfrom sanctuaryto sanctuaryuntil
in its within the a
positive dimension, force, provokes subject in the final tabernacle theygrouped it in itsmost concrete form,which
a retreat. The retreats and out in the
turning away, subject hangs was stillarchitectural: the ark.Thus theword was enclosed in thebuilding,
space of the defences. The aesthetic attitude, far from animating the but its imagewas on the envelope, like the human figure on a mummy's
even demands the nullity
subject with desire, wilfully produces and coffin, (p. 194)
of experience which characterizes the defences. The aesthetic attitude
and the economy of the subject together co-operate to promote a In this sense, architecture was the dominant form of expression
response to the ugly which seeks to obliterate the ugly through the and the record, the 'great script', of the human race. Letter asmonu?
cancellation of experience. The real problem is not the ugliness of ment, monument as script.Hugo's description echoes Hegel in his
the object but the subject's relation to the defences. Far from Aesthetics. Architecture is a symbolic form of art, in so far as it

revealing the fastidiousness of the lover of beauty, it betrays the manifests or embodies insights and thoughts, rather than being
cover and an environment for
cowardice that lurkswithin many an aesthetic. This cowardice shows merely a useful artwhich provides
itself in a sudden reduction of interest in the object, in the lulling of tower of Babylon
things already shaped in independent ways. The
sensation, in the blurring of perception, in the indifference to space. is the example Hegel provides: 'In the rich plains of the Euphrates
The subject hibernates in dead time, in the boredom of the defences. an enormous work was erected; itwas built in common, and the
It is clear that the true antithesis here is not that between beauty aim and the content of the work was at the same time the com?
and ugliness, but between vivacity and .. what? . For reasons Iwill munity of those who constructed it.'3The building is the people
term not be For as for
suggest below, the thatmight be used probably should writing itself, reading itself. Hugo, Hegel, this origin of
'death', although it is difficult to avoid. For the quality I am
trying architecture obeyed a logic of development which would ultimately
to suggest is thatwhich characterizes the defences. It is not somuch own character. For, as successive forms of authority reuse
destroy its
death, as playing dead. In fact, death has a crucial role in vivacity; the architectural forms of earlier authorities, a stimulus is given to
and, ifanything, playing dead involves a certain conservative relation stylistic change. Hugo interprets theGothic succession to Roman?
to life- it conserves itself,but only by architecture as the projection of a power struggle inwhich
suspending itself. 'Vivacity' esque
and 'playing dead' as qualities of the subject's relation to the object the aristocracy challenged papal authority, and inwhich the artist
do not fit as a distinction between life and death. But, before these secured a licence to innovate. 'The book of architecture belonged
no more to the
complexes of subjectivity
can be unravelled, the question of the life priesthood, religion, Rome, but to imagination,
must a kind of free
and death of the object be considered. poetry, the people.' (p. 196) Architecture became
was an
speech. 'St Jacques-de-la-Boucherie wholly oppositional
Afamous answer to this question may be found inVictor church.' (p. 197) Since therewas no other freedom of thought, it
was a freedom inscribed in
Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris.1 One of the novel's buildings. Hugo seriously contends that
characters, the archdeacon Claude Frollo, declares, 'This this iswhy somany Gothic cathedrals came into being: 'Having no
will kill that,thebookwill kill thebuilding.' (p. 192)Beneath the other way of declaring itselfbut in stone masonry, thought rushed
to it from every direction.' (p. 197)
interpretations of this sentence which would entail the prediction

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contends that up to the fifteenth century architecture was France have been removed from the facade. These are part of the
Hugo
no concept
humanity's record of itself to itself: 'During that time countless degradations and mutilations which time and men have inflicted
of any complexity appeared in theworld which was not made into on the venerable monument. Time has chipped away at the building;
a . . . the human race never had an
building important thought political revolution has smashed its rosewindows and statuary.But it is
which itdid not write down in stone.' (p. 195) But why stone?Why architecture which has attacked the building most successfully. . . .
not in a manuscript? Since the life of an idea Mutilations, amputations, dislocations of its limbs, 'restorations'are the
depends upon its
durability; since, if a monument is to survive as a record, itmust Greek, Roman and barbaric work of professors quoting Vitruvius and
...
live,must survive, itwill choose the durability of stone over the Vignolo.
To the centuries and revolutions, which at least devastated

a
fragility of manuscript. Stone is themedium with which
tomark impartiallyand on thegrand scale,have been added the swarmof architects
the future,with which to legislate on earth. But the appearance of from the schools, licensed, sworn and accredited, degrading with all the
discernment and choice of bad taste, substituting Louis XV chicory for
the printing press utterly transforms this relation and kills the
Gothic lace to the greater glory of the Parthenon, (p. 123)
stone were replaced by Gutenberg's
building. 'Orpheus' letters of
letters of lead.' (p. 198) Printing sets up a new form of the indes? The death of the building is laid at the door of time, of revolution,
no no
tructibilityof thought. Thought is longer embodied; it longer but chiefly of architects.
takes the form ofmonumental objects which take possession of time This is not just a question of an original, pure stylistic integrity
and space. Thought can now reproduce itselfwith theminimum being diluted by inappropriate additions and modifications. For it
? is of the essence of Notre-Dame, to Hugo, that the
of labour and materials. It becomes ubiquitous everywhere in according
general yet nowhere in particular. The durability of stone is replaced cathedral was always a hybrid. 'It is a transitional building. The
by the immortality of mechanical reproduction. Saxon architectwas just completing the firstpillars of the nave when
InHugo's account thought begins towithdraw from architecture. the pointed arch arriving from the Crusades installed itself vic?
The Renaissance is regarded as decadent; what was alive and modern toriously on those broad Romanesque capitals designed only for
in the Gothic into the pseudo-antique. As the record of
declines round arches. The pointed arch, dominant from then on, construc?
human thought, printing supersedes architecture. At the end of the ted the rest of the church.' (p. 124) This hybrid form demonstrates
chapter
we are leftwith a
changed authorial mood. Suddenly Hugo 'that architecture's greatest productions are not somuch theworks
has thewarm phantasy of printing creating itsown vast, unfinished of individuals as of societies; the fruit of whole peoples in labour
architecture, with people scurrying about the scaffolding of this rather than the inspiration of men of genius; the deposit left by
second Tower of Babel, and the printing press below, churning like a nation; the accumulation of centuries; the residue from successive
a cement mixer of human discourse. By this timewe are some way a
evaporations of human society; in word, types of formation.'
a to these effusions, lies in the
from the original chilled exclamation of theArchdeacon Frollo, that (p. 125)The lifeof building, according
'Thiswill kill that.' (p. 192)He saysthiswhile gesturing
with his organic character of its construction. Lacking the singular intention
a
right hand towards printed book, and with his lefthand towards of a plan, the building breathes the lifeof an organism. 'That is the
Notre-Dame, which, 'with its twin towers standing out in silhouette way of beavers, that is theway of bees, that is theway ofmen. The
against the starry sky, its stone ribs and monstrous crupper, looked great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a beehive.' (p. 125) If thiswere
like an enormous two-headed sphinx sitting there in themiddle of the case, then the death ofNotre-Dame dates from its 'decline' into
the town.' (p. 190) being justa building,a buildingwhich is tendedandmended by
This death, the death of architecture, seems both grandiose and architecture. For once the additions come from architecture, that
whimsical, an announcement in the mode of eschatological is, from trained architects, the cathedral loses its connection with the
to intellectuals so that they communal vitalitywhich gave it life,and which it expressed. Build?
journalism bequeathed by Hegel might
tell fellow citizens that an epoch was at an end. It belongs to the as itwere, been unconscious. 'It all takes place without
ing had,
longmuddle of periodization. The death of architecture here is the trouble,without strain,without reaction, according to a tranquil law
one modality of expression to another. of nature. A graft occurs, sap circulates, vegetation occurs.' (p. 125)
supposed transition from
This 'death' belongs to a genre of births, deaths and revivals as In this account, then, the death of the cathedral comes from two
recorded by philosophical histories. causes: the printing press and the rise of the profession of archi?
But inHugo's novel the fate of Notre-Dame itself does more tecture. They are two sides of the same coin - the severing of the
than obey the law of this historical development. Certainly the relation between the building and the community, from the former's
cathedral died in the fifteenth century, certainly itsdeath is related role in representing the latter.But neither of these accounts provides
more than
to the 'dead' character of architecture in themodern period. But its typical nineteenth-century tropes for the death ofNotre
death is complex and enigmatic; its death is equivocal, and raises Dame. The organic character of the community, the communal
the question, not ofwhat caused itsdeath, but ofwhat kept it alive. character of art, the expressive character of social phenomena are all
The initial account is one which describes Notre-Dame in the nine? terms of historicist criticism. Yet there is another
frequently used
-
teenth century as a
building which has been damaged. The flight space inwhich the death of the Cathedral can be thought out
of stairswhich once raised the cathedral above the existing ground within the narrative itself, and in the secret which is contained
level, the lower series of statues which occupied the arches in the within the narrative. In the first edition of the novel there is a note
three doorways, and finally the upper series of the early kings of which explains that the author was prying about Notre-Dame when

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he found on thewall of one of the towers the following word carved isboth toomuch and too little,an attributewhich suggests the name

byhand: Quasimodo with which he is christened by Frollo, who adopts him.


The deformity ofQuasimodo's physical appearance ismatched by
'ANArKH'. He wondered whose hand had incised these lettersand what a distorted internal life.This is not a to be kissed into
frogwaiting
they signified. Since then thewall has been distempered or scraped and a a
the inscription remains only in the author's memory. The erasure of the prince, but vivid, excessive and repulsive being. Yet Quasimodo
- As a consequence
finds his place inside and all over Notre-Dame.
word repeats theprocess ofmutilation which has been visited upon Gothic
of his adoption by Frollo he inhabits the cathedral, becoming its
buildings. The man who wrote theword is erased, theword is erased,
perhaps the church itself may be erased.This book was written about that bell-ringer;indeed,he is adopted by thebuilding.Although the
turns on the person of
word. (p. 12) question of sanctuary, in the narrative,
Esmeralda, the relation between the building and Quasimodo is
The word ANATKH was written by Claude Frollo, the cathedral's one of can be not in
really sanctuary. Sanctuary thought of, here,
archdeacon whose spiritual ambitions and austerity have led to a terms of the spaces of competing jurisdictions, but of a spatial

passion for alchemy and for the gypsy girl Esmeralda. He inscribes acceptance without conditions. The space of sanctuary is not the
theword in a despairing recognition of being caught up in a drama a not a space where I am placed in
product of social contract; it is
that will bring catastrophe upon everyone. Thus ANATKH is a web of and It is a space which accepts the sub?
rights obligations.
conceived as the irreversiblemalevolence of fate. In Frollo's gloomy ject unconditionally. Whatever crime the subject may have com?
cell a fly seeking theMarch sun blunders into a spider's web. It col? mitted, however repulsive the subject, the sanctuary accepts the
lideswith the fatal 'rosewindow' of theweb. Frollo reflects that in existence ofwhomsoever seeks refuge.
This relation meant forQuasimodo was 'his
pursuing the object of his desire, knowledge, he had not recognized thatNotre-Dame
theweb that destiny had stretched between him and the light, 'that egg, his nest, his home, his country, his universe'. Between the two
. . . there grew a relation 'of mysterious
pane of glass beyond, that transparent obstacle separating all pre-existent harmony'.
from the truth.' ANATKH isnot only came 'to resemble it, to be encrusted on it. . . .His
philosophical systems (p. 299) Quasimodo
fate in itsblind determination of the course of things; it is thatwhich we
protruding angles fitted, if may be allowed the comparison, the
acts concave of the to be not just its
through the unconscious desires of humans. The pursuit of the angles building, and he seemed
object of desire secretly prepares the form of the subject's nemesis. denizen but its natural contents.' (p. 166) Sometimes the relation
Blind to the conditions of desire, the subject unconsciously works seem like the relation between the maternal body and the
might
to fulfilhis own downfall. Turned towards the
light,with his back infant: he crawls across every part of the cathedral. But in this
to the dark - far from the the relation it is the child who animates themother: 'Itwas as ifhe made
being path towards object of beauty,
this is theway of passive co-operation with catastrophe. The beauty the immense building breathe.' (p. 169) Thus it isQuasimodo who
of knowledge and the beauty of Esmeralda will kill Frollo, for he the alive. at one point calls the building a
keeps building Hugo
cannot desire them except as an as the reward as if the relation between them isnot merely that between
exceptional triumph, 'carapace',
for a life of austerity and celibacy. Unconsciously, stone and flesh, but a moment between
the objects of something between the two,
desire are in fact the death of his life, just as his life has been the expression and impression.
mortification of desire. The more he wishes, themore he becomes Quasimodo breathes life into the building, not in spite of his
themessenger of death. ugliness but because of it.The building, unlike the Parisians, does
The source of life in the novel is his adopted son, Quasimodo. not turn away from what is there and should not be, but, rather,
The Quasimodo of the novel should not be confused with the makes a space for the horrorQuasimodo embodies. This guarantees
charm and pathos of the baby/man portrayed by Charles Laughton its strength and its presence, which is undefended and alive. Of
in the film The Hunchback course there can be no to an
ofNotre-Dame. Above all,Quasimodo is simple translation from the narrative
ugly. His first appearance in the novel, in the contest for the Pope architectural proposition, but the tale ofQuasimodo's relation to
of Fools, with that Notre-Dame suggests a parallel with the question of the use of
-
ugliness vivacity. The response to the hideousness ofQuasimodo,
tetrahedralnose, thathorseshoe mouth, that tiny lefteye obscured by a who stands for all that the world abandons on the steps of the
shaggy red eyebrow,while the righteye lay completely hidden beneath an cathedral, assumes the form of sanctuary, a space which models the
enormous wart. Those irregularteeth,with gaps here and there like the
condition of being without defences, without turning away or
battlements of a fortress,that calloused lip, overwhich one of those teeth
non
without turning away the object. Indeed, this provides the
protruded like an elephant's tusk, that cleft chin, and above all the facial
answer as to what killed Notre-Dame. Not the
expression extendingover thewhole, amixture ofmalice, amazement and philosophical
not the of architects, but the death of
sadness, (p. 58) printing press, depredations
Quasimodo. 'So much so that for thosewho know Quasimodo once
This description of Quasimodo reads like an inventory of the existed, Notre-Dame today is deserted, inanimate, dead. There is
- the feeling that something has gone. That immense body is empty;
negation of beauty his irregularity,his lack of recognizable form,
theway inwhich people turn away from him. He was found outside it is a skeleton; the spirit has left it.' (p. 536) This poses the question
Notre-Dame in 1467, on a bedstead where infantswere abandoned of how the forcewhich Quasimodo representsmight be articulated
to public charity.The four bonnes
femmes bending
over him recoil.He in terms of architecture.

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The place of the termANArKH inHugo's novel produces a it.Language opens itself to this experience when murder is referred
novel in which the narrative hurtles to its several to as
'cleansing,
or
'purification'.
catastrophes. The word, scratched on thewall of Notre Within the defences and within themortal ferocity of the ego's
Dame, signifies a recognition of the harsh dramas human beings are denial of itsdeath, Freud proposes a conception of ANArKH which
compelled to enact. ANArKH is the revenge destiny takes against isquite different fromVictor Hugo's. In an essay of 1915,
'Thoughts
the paltry efforts of human beings to achieve some autonomy in for theTimes ofWar and Death', Freud meditated upon the con?
their affairs.Not content with crushing its subjects, destiny defeats sequences of the FirstWorld War for subjective life.4Despite its
its victims by a destructiveness the war had a positive feature. The reality of the
signing diabolical alliance with their unconscious 1
so the instruments of their own
wishes, that they become possibility of one's own death had transformed the psychic SS
destruction. In the novel, all desires open on to the death ofwhat is economy. 'Life has indeed become interesting again; ithas recovered
loved. Desire turns upon its object with unintended fatality. The its full content.' The sheer proximity of death had initiated a
investment of a wish is destiny's ruse to provoke disaster. To wish
changed relation between the defences and libidinous energy. In
is to kill. To scratch ANATKH marks the entry into a secret, short, the acceptance of death, the inability to hide from it behind
powerless knowledge of themalign game whose pawns we are. The the defences, has the perhaps unexpected consequence of eroticizing
course open to desire is to seize and on its
only pillage what itmay reality. Freud sums this up by insisting upon the task that the
way to the And so it
may seem strange, then, that this secret acceptance of one's own death entails: 'Si vis vitam, para mortem.'
gibbet.
word, ANATKH, was a favourite word of Freud. (If you want life,prepare for death.) What is at stake here iswhat we
Indeed itwas so treasured a word that Freud never pushed itout should call, not the life, but the vivacity of the subject. Far from
into theworld as a concept, but kept it at home, as an emblem of vivacity and death being opposed to each other, Imust accept the
what can never be fully avowed. Itwanders through his writings as latter in order to accede to the former. Vivacity is the capacity of
ifa familiar; he bestows itupon friends in letters and conversations the subject to endure, indeed to enjoy, a realitywhich includes his
as themark of thatwhich is known own death, without a defensive wall.
by those who have recognized retreating behind s
the need to befriend death. In his writings itflashes past in remarks The ugly - be it in the form of something that is there and should
which are scandalous in their simple disregard for the proprieties of not be, or in the form of
something that isn't there and should be 1
- can be an
public discourse. artistic resource of great value, though it is a value which
I
(so
Its bearing upon the question of
ugliness is abrupt and radical. is quite detached from the beautiful. Initially itwill take the form of .ST
If ugliness describes a situation in which the subject feels to the undefended spectator or reader a situation which is
offering
overwhelmed or undone, inwhich the propositions and location of fundamentally interesting. Not surprisingly, traditional aesthetics
the subject seem on the verge of being swept away or swallowed up, makes little use of the value ofwhat is interesting,for it stresses the
then everywhere the experience of ugliness tends towards the fear fact that the aesthetic attitude is itselfdisinterested. But an artwhich
of death as a subjective insistence. 'I cannot be here; the object takes is interesting, which mobilizes libidinal energy without its being ft!

all.'We have seen that the reflex of the subject is to scurry into the side-tracked into the defences, is one which is able to stage the
realm of the defences, into the quotidian suspension of experience dramas inwhich the subject will find itself caught, but in a zone of
-
of turning away, closing my eyes, shutting my ears, being bored, representation. This is not the place to discuss the uses of ugliness 3'

killing time, being nowhere, waiting. In economic terms this in art and architecture, but it is the justification for its use as a
describes a moment when all investment iswithdrawn from the positive term in the artistic investigation of the possible modes of Si

object and is now expended upon the affective and perceptual tasks relations between a subject and an object. Such production is in fact
of being without objects, through the consumption of things. But central to contemporary work, which has far exceeded the capacity
the defence is against, not death, but the fear of death, just as of aesthetic analysis to comprehend and judge it.
not the fact of death but the fear of death. This is
ugliness presages
because, for Freud, death occupies an odd place. Unconsciously I
Notes
know nothing ofmy death; I am invulnerable and only you can die.
1.Mark Cousins, 'The Ugly': Part i inAA Files no. 28 (Autumn 1994), pp. 61-4;
The fear of death arises, not from the unconscious, but from the
Part 2 inAA Files no. 29 (Summer 1995), pp. 3-6.
super-ego, from the fear of punishment. This iswhy ugliness can 2. Victor
Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris (Oxford, 1993).
take the form not only of what is there and should not be, but of 3.Hegel's Aesthetics, translated by T. M. Knox, vol. II (Oxford, 1975), p. 638.
what is not there and should be. Both describe a subjective formula 4. 'Thoughts for the Times ofWar and Death', Sigmund Freud, standard edition ?fr
inwhich I may be annihilated as a a
punishment. Both describe 1985), vol.
(Harmondsworth, 12, pp. 57-89 (p. 80).
formula in which I retreat into the defences. But
subjective they
also explain a furthermanifestation of the reflex from ugliness ? the
a to destroy the
awakening of wish object. If I unconsciously know
nothing of my death, I consciously experience it,none the less, as the
approach of the punishment. One resolution of this contradiction is
to unleash a murderous ferocity, to kill. Such a response may
explain
the violence with which the ugly object provokes thewish to abolish

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