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The Forum > Article Comments > Putting the best face on an obsession > Comments

Putting the best face on an obsession : Comments

By Elspeth Probyn, published 5/10/2005

Elspeth Probyn reviews the new makeover genre in television shows.

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Giorgio Agamben is perhaps the most well-known continental philosopher who is influenced by Foucaultís post-humanism: philosophy for a time after our selves. Agambenís book ĎMeans Without Endsí devotes a chapter to faces, distinguishing between two types: the face, and the visage. Agamben says that the face is simply our opening to the outside world, the blank space at which we encounter others. By contrast, the visage is not such a blank space, but is the face that has learnt to inscribe onto itself the characteristics of our own identity. From the face alone we can tell very little about a personís selfhood, but from someoneís visage we are prompted to interpret who they are and have been.

Why do children tend to have the most beautiful faces? Maybe in part it is because they havenít yet inscribed their identity onto their selves; they havenít learnt to adopt a visage. Plastic surgery is an attempt to use technology to Ďregain our youthí; maybe it is an attempt to use technology to move toward the beautiful self-effaced state of children; or rather, it is the attempt to make us look as though we have effaced our selves, without having done so.

Insofar as our culture tells us to continually express ourselves, to inscribe our selves onto everything we can, including our faces, the technology of plastic surgery is more useful. Itís not necessarily that we need plastic surgery to express ourselves, but the obverse: we need it to technologically construct the pretence of the face, because in the era of identity and its politics the visage is the normal, normalized, state of our face. In this sense, it is a brutal technique of self-management.
Posted by Wesley, Thursday, 13 October 2005 11:15:05 AM
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