The Topography of the Non-Conceptual Fantastic
The topography, themes and myths of the fantastic all work together to suggest a movement towards a realm of non-signification, towards a zero point of non-meaning, and a valueless realm devoid of human reference or concern. The represented world of the fantastic is of a different kind from the imagined universe of the marvelous or the uncanny, and it opposes the first’s rich, colourful fullness, and the latter’s internal obliteration of the real, with relatively bleak, empty, indeterminate landscapes, which are less definable as places than as spaces of the impossible, as white, grey, or shady blankness’s. The fantastic, moves us towards the non-conceptual.
Unlike faery, it has little faith in ideals, and unlike science fiction, it has little interest in ideas. Instead, it moves into, or opens up, a space of possibilities without / outside the cultural or symbolic order. It strips us of our anchors in either secular of religious systems of meaning, allows the unknown to shock us into new forms of awareness and modes of being. Distortion, deformation, the disintegration of our normal modes of apprehension and reasoning release and trigger the darkness in objects, things, and entities to reveal itself through anamorphic displays of disgust, grotesque, and macabre formlessness and namelessness. Unlike marvelous secondary worlds, which construct alternative realities, or the uncanny psychological realms of repetition and death, the shady worlds of the fantastic construct nothing and leave us in the abyss of uncertainty in-between the marvelous and uncanny unable to choose one or the other. They are empty, emptying, dissolving. Their emptiness vitiates a full, rounded, three-dimensional visible world, by tracing in absences, shadows without objects. Far from fulfilling desire, these spaces perpetuate desire by insisting upon absence, lack, the non-seen, the unseeable.
The subversion of western metaphysics – of epistemology and ontology – is at the heart of this new fantastic. No longer bound by consciousness and the eye, concept or affective relations, set adrift from knowledge, comprehension, and reason which are all bound to the gaze, to the ‘eye’ and the ‘I’ of the human subject whose relation to objects is structured through the field of vision. In fantastic art, objects are not readily appropriated through the gaze: things slide away from the powerful eye/I which seeks to possess them, thus becoming distorted, disintegrated, partial and lapsing into invisibility. Objects suddenly have a life of their own without us, a weird mode of being that cannot be known but only suffered.
Conceptualism is the view that cognizers can have mental representations of the world only if they possess the adequate concepts by means of which they can specify what they represent. By contrast, non-conceptualism is the view that mental representations of the world do not necessarily presuppose concepts by means of which the content of these representations can be specified, thus cognizers can have mental representations of the world that are non-conceptual. Consequently, if conceptualism is true then non-conceptualism must be false, and vice versa. This incompatibility makes the current debate over conceptualism and non-conceptualism a fundamental controversy since the range of conceptual capacities that cognizers have certainly has an impact on their mental representations of the world, on how sense perception is structured, and how external world beliefs are justified.
The point is to ask if concepts change our perception of the world, or does the world change our perceptions by way of nonconceptual engagements? Is the world substantial and fixed, or does it continually change and metamorphosize depending on our mental make up? Substantial formalism or Desubstantialized formlessness? Is the world One and Continuous or Two and Self-Divided? Immanent or Transcendent?