Ambiguity + Disidentification

from You Saw Nothing: Sight, Digital Video, Post-3.11 Japan




This aesthetics of juxtaposition, reproducing the sacrilegious comparisons of pain, contradicts the conception of Pacheco-Vega and Parizeau’s doubly engaged ethnography that is directed against the perpetuation of social inequality. This ethics manifests itself in the relinquishment by the artist-researcher of her position in front of the camera and the use of the invited footage. This is to say, I Told Our Story conflicts with the ethics by bringing both her individual pain and the contemporary political situation of Okinawa onto the terrain of commensurability through the aesthetics of juxtaposition – that is, the first- person aesthetic of the selfie. Furthermore, in enacting the French woman and Laura, the pervasive sense of intimacy and opacity looking real, from which the specificity and actuality of the pain of the Japanese woman equivocally emerge, veils whether her pain juxtaposed with Okinawa is actual or fictional. I Told Our Story unfolds within this ambiguity of the first- person narrative in a style crossing the boundary between documentary and fiction. In the following sections, we reconsider the establishment of “I” in I Told Our Story and examine it as a location of power. For this examination, we employ the semiotics of the female body set up in part 1 and revisit the alluded scene of “I told our story” in Hiroshima mon amour.




We have discussed that the alluded scene is what Cathy Caruth calls “betrayal” and is the economics of remembering–forgetting or rejection–acceptance. With forgetting seen as being equal to losing the referential specificity of her wartime love in Hiroshima mon amour, I examine this loss of referential specificity as the loss of her identification. The specificity of her wartime love is at risk of being unable to maintain itself as the reference point of her identification. When she tells her story, it inevitably causes her to lose the specificity of him. As stated previously, the specificity of him had been the core and origin that she had identified herself with for the last fourteen years until her disclosure to the Japanese man. Paralysed in front of the mirror, however, her body as a site of memory, and in the economics of remembering and forgetting, is an oscillating liminal space of identification and disidentification that has determined and will continue to determine her. The immediate fresh corporeal specificity of the adulterous Japanese amour to whom she has told the story of her lost lover, the doubly complicit betrayer, is now a destabiliser of her identification with the wartime love. This disclosure as a pivotal point allows the rise of a new identification, which assumes the specificity of him as her prior identification.

I Told Our Story applies the semiotics of the female body in this context. With the artist- researcher performing the body of the Japanese woman, I Told Our Story embeds the semiotics of the female body into her body as the signifier in the following context of the identification of the nation: the masculinity of Japan to the victim countries of Japanese aggression, and the feminised subjectivity of Japan to the United States in the post-war relation. This is grounded in the melodramatic foundational narrative analysed by Igarashi, and the colonial construction of subjectivity in East Asia analysed by Chen.

Within the semiotics of the female body, the corporeal self of the Japanese woman losing the specificity of her lost lover symbolises the oscillation between the national identification with masculinity and the disidentification with femininity.

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