Portrait, Lyric, Code: Reading the Face Before and After Laura Riding Jackson’s Body’s Head

By | 1 June 2022


Although her body is turned, she faces you directly. She looks ever so slightly off to her left, as if something has caught her interest just over your shoulder. The impression changes if you stand to the left. It changes again if you stand to the right. She has a round face and soft, light brown eyes. What she sees, you see. What she knows, you think you know. Most people are mesmerised by the corners of her eyes. The illusion of depth. The dishonesty of scale. What’s in a look? Is the perception of her stare the result of the elements of her face? By most artistic conventions she is not grandiose or conceptually challenging, but people still want to look into her eyes. They’re sad and indifferent but at the same time amused. Interior sensation. Passion. Desire. As Luis Buñuel understood, the closest place to terror is in the company of a woman’s eye. And yet her eyes are not terrifying, because her eyes are hardly known. Therein lies their trickery: an eternally unreadable gaze. What the face reveals is never something that signifies a ‘proposition of sorts, nor is it a secret doomed to remain forever incommunicable.’1 The revelation of her eyes, to be sure, is ‘revelation of language itself.’2 Nevertheless, stop saying that they follow you around the room. They do not follow you around the room! Verifiably, they have finally debunked the myth about her eyes. She’s not looking at you. If you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Imagine two clouds shot together by the sunset,
One river-blue,
One like a white cloth passed through a purple wine,
Dripping and faintly dyed,
Whirling centrifugally away toward the night
And later halved and rounded by the moon;
Rolled like blue butter-balls
In the palms of the moon’s hands
And rimmed elliptically with almost-white moon-stuff,
The moon’s particular godmother gift.3

‘DALL·E 2 is preferred over DALL·E 1 for its caption matching and photorealism when evaluators were asked to compare 1,000 image generation from each model.’4

  1. Giorgio Agamben, ‘The Face.’ Means Without End: Notes on Politics. University of Minnesota Press (2000), 91.
  2. Agamben (2000), 91.
  3. Jackson, ‘Eyes.’ Poetry (1925), 62.
  4. DALL·E 2 OpenAI, online.
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