Gaze and Landscape in Sasquatch Expeditions

Authors: Paul Kingsbury*, Simon Faser University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Landscape, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Bigfoot, British Columbia, Joan Copjec, Gaze, Jacques Lacan, Landscape, Sasquatch
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Geographers, most notably Gillian Rose, have theorized the landscape in terms of the ‘gaze’ wherein the former is looked upon by the latter. Drawing on feminist and film theory’s readings of Jacques Lacan’s early essay, ‘The Mirror Stage’ (1949), these studies conceptualize the gaze in terms of a masculine narcissistic identification that feminizes nature, as well as an ambivalent voyeuristic pleasure that must be repressed in order to affirm distance, objectivity, and neutrality. Following Joan Copjec’s (1994, p. 34) critique that such readings omit Lacan’s revision of the gaze as the impossible real or objet petit a in Seminar XI (1963-4), this paper offers an alternative theorization of gaze and landscape in terms of the “‘unformed’ (that which has no signified, no significant shape in the visual field) and the “‘inquiry’ (the question posed to representation’s presumed reticence)”. I argue that this Lacanian gaze qua the impossibility of seeing what is lacking and the object-cause of the subject’s desire is central to the role of landscape in two Sasquatch investigations in British Columbia. Specifically, I illustrate a gaze located on the side of the object (rather than the spectator) that neither sees nor validates in the following two ways: first, in terms of the unformed or the faults in landscape’s representations exemplified by blurred images (known as ‘Blobsquatches’), faint pathways and footprints, and so-called ‘observation decks’. Second, in terms of the inquiry wherein landscape’s representations are questioned via investigators’ calls, wood knocks, and sound recordings.

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