Lacan at the Scene  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Lacan at the Scene (2009) is a book by Henry Bond.

Published the MIT Press, the book consists of interpretations of forensic photographs from twenty-one crime scenes from 1950s and 1960s England. The thesis put forward in the book is that homicide can be considered in terms of Jacques Lacan's tripartite psychological model, thus any murder can be classified as either neurotic, psychotic, or perverse. Bond's approach is closely linked to Walter Benjamin's assertion in that, "photography, with its devices of slow motion and enlargement, reveals the secret. It is through photography that we first discover the existence of the optical unconscious, just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis."

Lacan at the Scene is an interdisciplinary study which is simultaneously an application of the theories of Jacques Lacan in relation to offender profiling and an inquiry into the nature and essence of photography.

Bond's book considers the effects of photography on the spectator, the photographer and the photographic subject. He refers to a wide range of contextual material including "J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre and Slavoj Žižek ... and the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell, Michelangelo Antonioni, David Lynch and Christopher Nolan, among many others." The book contains a foreword essay The Camera's Posthuman Eye by the Slovenian philosopher and critical theorist Slavoj Žižek.

Many of the photographs reproduced in the book are sexually explicit—they depict murder victims who were raped or tortured before the killing.

Describing his research, in a 2007 interview, Bond said, "the press reporter's access to a crime scene is restricted, it is literally blocked by the ubiquitous black and yellow tape emblazoned with the exhortation: CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS. The photographs that I have worked with are documents made in a place that the press photographer or reporter cannot go."

Critical reception

The critical reception of Lacan at the Scene was positive including reviewers commending the book as 'insightful', 'ground-breaking', 'audacious' and 'enthralling' – writing in the peer-reviewed journal The European Legacy, Viola Brisolin said, ''Lacan at the Scene is a brilliant, ground-breaking work that will appeal to cultural practitioners and theorists, and to everybody interested in the dialogue between psychoanalysis and visual studies." Writing in the peer-reviewed academic journal Philosophy of Photography, Margaret Kinsman said "Bond's exploration ... reminds us of just how used to order we are and how shocking and easy its dissolution is ... his approach evokes a kind of aesthetic pleasure, which unsettles even as it satisfies."

Emily Nonko's review said, "Lacan at the Scene ultimately presents a complex dynamic between both psychoanalysis and medium of the camera, the way that photography permits the viewer to delve into both the murder's mind and the victim's corpse, the psychological as well as the corporeal."

Reviewing the book for Time Out New York Parul Sehgal said: "While Bond’s interpretations occasionally strain credulity, his sensibility enthralls. His goal isn’t police work per se, but to reveal how humble objects at the margins of crime scenes become powerfully allusive and lend themselves to a narrative."

Daniel Hourigan, writing for Metapsychology Online Reviews said, "for the vast majority of the discussions in the more applied third, fourth, and fifth chapters, Lacan at the Scene enjoys a lucid and precise execution. The early chapters help to bring together the theoretical, discursive, and political elements that make these later chapters capable of pursuing such a rigorous and insightful project."

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