Pointing at the Other
In one of the most famous propaganda posters from the early twentieth century, the image of Uncle Sam addressed the passers-by that they are the ones who must unconditionally respond to the call-up: “Your country needs YOU”. This message is intensified with his extended pointed finger. Observers being addressed by the poster, regardless of their will and/or intention, are chained by its signification, while the pointing gesture misses them. If everything is already present in the slogan, why is it then necessary to add the image of pointing? Even though the attempt to capture the positive patriotism of the masses fails, it does not lead into its opposite state of treachery, but into the sublation of the immediate ‘here and now’ through negation and thus returning to the starting position which no longer has the same character as in the beginning. What initially express the spirit of the time (“Your country needs YOU”) exposes in the next moment its perverse side (“I Want YOU).
When using language, we are not aware of the impact of our own words and pointing similarly raises the dilemma of what is actually produced by its gesture. In both cases, we create a irreparable split between the imaginary experience and the field of intersubjective network. What is then the specific function of pointing as an attempt to capture reality? The pointed finger is namely not trying to touch a pre-established meaning of the image, since meaning is not provided as an prefabricated dress, but is constructed with the gesture of pointing itself, therefore retroactively becoming the always present Urbild, which fills the entire canvas of signification.
Likewise, we cannot reduce pointing solely to the fixation of meaning in the symbolic field, which is clearly highlighted in the conceptual proximity of German words Deuten (to explain, but also to point) and Bedeutung (meaning, importance), since the formal structure itself requires a unrepresentable contingent material. The big Other, the symbolic order, is always barred, failed, crossed out, mutilated, and the contingent material element embodies this internal blockage, limit, of the symbolic structure.
This leads us to the essential quandary. Where are the limits of the body, if pointing can enable us to go beyond the body itself and touch the body of others, and how to think this separation of subject from itself, a paradigm that has been detected by Freud in the children’s game Fortsein. It becomes clear that pointing is not an innocent function, as explicitly depicted in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), because we are unable to capture the image such as we see it. Here and now is always elsewhere. Consciousness always limps behind it and consequently leaving only an empty shell, which can be filled with any content. As a result, we lose the desired notion. As stated by Lacan “this is not it”, but is as such still something. And it is this manifestation of empty nothingness, which testifies to the fact that pointing produces a piece of the real.