Roswell The Footage: Alien Autopsy (1995).
Abstract Representational Space: Uncanny Aliens and Others
(Pandora, or Prometheuss Return)
by Tabitha Goode (1996)
". . . while Woman-as-Other is a fixed concept
inscribed in Western binary oppositions (either
metaphysics[Jacques] Derrida, or ethics
[Frederick] Jameson and [Friedrich] Nietzsche)
the construction of the sign of Woman located in
specific discourses is a historically shifting construct.
In other words, this is to propose that the
constitution of the femme-fatale-as-sign depends
upon what else (besides Woman) is considered to
be culturally invasive or culturally and politically
Other at any historical point." 1
The problematics of representing the female body in a way which does not code it as a passive object for male voyeuristic pleasure, has long been an issue for feminist practitioners and theorists. Parveen Adams considers the work of the controversial female surgical artist Orlan in The Emptiness of The Image (1996), and I will contrast this to RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy (1995).2 I will also consider the re-reading of myths by feminist theoreticians, prompted by Laura Mulveys work on Fetishism and Curiosity (1996) and her call for a reinterpretation of the tale of Pandoras Box.
The Roswell Autopsy is a grainy monochrome film of a dissection performed on an apparently non-human, yet female, corpse. It fascinates not only because it originates within a militaristic mystery from the State of New Mexico (1947), but also because of the enigma of the representation of the body, especially the unnerving gaze of the eyes.3 In this paper I will examine the film in comparison to a history of predominantly Jewish and Christian myths expressed in cinema, literature, and art which define the appearance of the ideal womanthe first womanLilith,4 Eve, Pandora, or the tale that predates any of them, Inannawithin the context of assumptions drawn from the image of the femme fatale.5
The Alien Autopsy connotes a mythic presence, but also straddles the borderline between truth (nature) and fabrication (culture) a traditional binary opposition in occidental thought. Although it is ambiguous, and may be proved to be a cinematic construction, or a
genetic experimentation, or a bona fide extraterrestrial biological entity, the representation can be contextualized within a history of misogynistic depictions which have pervaded culture since the original example of Adam and Eve.6 Where woman is considered guilty, sadistic pleasure may be gained from her punishment and exclusion, and previous fin-de-siècle cultural production is full of the fear of not being able to return to the privileged position once defiled by the Other realm7 thus denying womans curiosity and self-determination.
Under the Knife: Orlan and The Alien
"She is changing . . . from one register to another
. . . Refiguration . . . the urge to refiguration involves
a wish . . . to become The Woman. That
is to become the phallus through castration . . .
[She is] . . . turning the knife against castration." 8
Orlan has engineered art projects around nine operations which remake her appearance, and the series as a whole is entitled The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan or Image-New Images.9 Orlan engages with the problematics of dissection and peeling/unveiling which feminist theorists have critiqued as masochistic compared to the sexual sadism of the anatomists ruthless penetration,10 the thrust of the male creator. But her work is also a task of incorporating the image of goddesses from mythology and art historysuch as Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa and the goddess Dianaas a computerized process
of hybridization, resulting in both virtual and Carnal Art.11 She explains,
". . . I devised my self-portrait using a computer to combine and make a hybrid of representations of goddesses from Greek mythology. I chose
them not for the cannons of beauty they are supposed to represent (seen from afar), but rather on account of the stories associated with them.
Diana was chosen because she refuses to submit to the gods or to men, she is active and even aggressive . . ."12
Orlan uses a narcissistically secretive and masochistic experiencethat of corrective cosmetic surgeryand turns it inside out decloaking/demasking her face and body to the curious gaze of her worldwide spectators.13 The horror is not simply in the flesh being cut, after numerous injections with four-inch needles into the side of her head, but in the lifting of the flesh and the insertion of the surgeons fingers whilst Orlan remains conscious. She says, "Only a few kinds of images force you to shut your eyes . . . [when the] . . .eyes become black holes in which . . . images are swallowed up. . . .During surgery I read texts as long as possible, even while my face is being
operated on [producing] an image of a cadaver under autopsy which keepson speaking, as if its words were detached from its body."14
Anxiety and dis-ease are produced in the spectator with the knowledge that this woman is consciously and deliberately doing this to herself, andin the same sense that photographer Cindy Sherman reproduces a fetishized and stereotypical image of femininity from cinematic history (in her self-portraits of the Untitled Film Stills and Untitled Series of the 1980s)this ruins the consumption of the image for the cloaked pervert, who turns away punished for his voyeuristic desires.15 For if she is not hiding, and not being acted upon overtly, is she (Sherman or Orlan) not in fact the active controller
herself? If so, she should not appear as victimized, but rather as the phallic instigator; although, I would stress that such reversal is problematic when we still operate within a patriarchal epistemology, which defines our bodies according to the Western ideal. Orlan intends to operate against this consumerist body fascism saying: I am at the most extreme point of this confrontation . . . I believe that the body is obsolete.16
Orlan has climbed into cyberspace with the punning title of her new show, This is my body . . . This is my software, culminating in the loss of her body completely for a live performance entitled Woman With Head . . .17 where she spoke to herself via an enormous projected virtual head.18 As a hybridization with an independent life in binary code, Orlan becomes a cyborg a hybrid of machine and organism19 mapping her image through social and bodily reality20 and gains in similarity to the Roswell Alien (which is also a hybridization: between human and alien; human and genetic engineering; human and bionics/prosthetics) feeding a world of voyeurs via the Internet. Audiences are puzzled by the enigma of the body which they experience only as an electronically remapped image in both examples. The difference between Orlan and the Alien lies in Orlans use of narration which creates an active role for her in a situation which could otherwise be read as passive and operated-upon. Not only does Orlan quote from key theoretical textsfor example, Julia Kristevas The Powers of Horror (1982)but, she also produces a plurality/excess, of her own words. In Woman With Head . . . Woman Without Head (1996) her virtual other self demanded . . . Orlan, Where is your body? to which she replied by chanting repeatedly Magic, Illusion, Simulation, Virtuality.21 Compare this with the Alien (although Orlans work predates the film) and, despite the fact that she has never referred to it, we know the film must be deliberately fabricated (or else misidentified), and yet it defies such discovery like a magic trick, which is exactly what Orlan has brought to her art via her self-representation. Orlan has replaced her body and thrown away the deceiving skin22 not altering its reception by the addition of speech alone, but by transforming it into sound and text having become language itself.23 The body in RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy is only the material of its being and silence, indescribable by being out of the register of our knowledge. Nedira Yakir describes how Orlan seems to stand in the place of everybody, and so, possibly, every corpse. Speaking of Omnipresence24 she said, Orlans face being carved, her skin being penetrated and lifted, lips pierced, bleeding nostrils pulled . . . [reveals] a body with its external identifying features of the self peeled off, rendered in its universal bleeding flesh . . . the living cadavre [sic].25 Orlan constructs herself as a sacred monster trampling upon the modern pressure to self-improvement by cosmetic surgery, for in becoming manufactured she pays with falsity and seams. This not only confounds our desire to be remade in a beautiful image, by voyeuristic repulsion, but additionally reveals the lack of a demystification possible through an unlayering of the (female) body. Parveen Adams describes this effect as proving that representation does not uncover to the predatory eye or to the gustatory penetration of the eye,26 but instead can only emphasize the exteriority and progressive emptiness of the image. Adams shows that Orlan disturbs, at a fundamental level, the basis of Western epistemology the binary opposition fixation of phallic/castratedby showing that the two sides of her face do not fit, and that therefore the interior and exterior are not opposites but referents with positional differences:
"The usual regime of spatial relations is guaranteed by one crucial condition: that the registers of inside and outside fit . . . coincide in an unproblematic
form . . . this isomorphism applies not only to the spatial categories . . . but also to . . . occidental thinking habits mind/body, essence/appearance, subject/object, male/female . . . phallic/castrated . . . not in contradiction . . .[but] strewn with strange thresholds and hybrid forms."27
Through surgery Orlan steps into the role of The Woman . . . the uncastrated one, the phallus28 taking power by reconstructing her image while erasing her original naturally-given self and constructing Omnipresence by Orlan, 1993. © Orlan anew through the action of creating the art object. RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy (1995).
She challenges the knife and triumphs over the either/or of oppositionary, occidental stance to conflate the interior with the exterior and become the phallic and [simultaneously] the castrated29 radically altering our image of the pathologized woman. Through her reiterative operations as horrific video documents, and her authoritative possession of language (her mastery of the discourse) Orlan has altered our experience
of the image.30
". . . castration occurs . . . [in] . . . the space between the bloodied place which we see all around her ear and the face as it lifts from its customary base. Something flies off; this something is the security of the relation
between the inside and the outside. There is an emptying out of the object. . . Orlans urge to create can be summarized: Let there be space."31
Orlan uses a debased language, the rhetoric of surgery, and although Adams describes this as creating a new space (the space which is new from the point of view of knowledge32), it is not really new so much as previously unseen. There is a long tradition of the surgical exploration and unveiling of the female body, and it is loaded within the discourse of male dominance, not only of the gaze, but also of erotic penetration. It is linked to a history of unveiling which Orlan may submit to willingly and engage in actively, but which nevertheless contextualize the spectacle in a representational discourse detonated against the autonomous, self-defining woman. Omnipresence by Orlan, 1993. ©Orlan
Ludmilla Jordanova describes this medical and art historical context in terms of a special kind of eroticism . . . violence . . . epistemological, actual and representational. . . literal . . . dissection of female corpses or the performance of . . . surgery upon women . . . [is] representational violence . . .[and connects with] any literary or artistic device, or indeed any idea, which invites readers and viewers to collude with sexually aggressive fantasies and practices.33
Jordanova links such realism in art to pornography, the continuation of the perception of Woman as Other, as neurotic experience as opposed to male muscular action and as fundamentally sick, suffering and diseased.
She cites the work of Jules Michelet, including LAmour (1858) and La Femme (1859), as one origin of text amongst many which celebrate the dissection of the female form as a powerful route to the truth of the feminine enigma. Believing in an inherent vulnerability
of women34 Michelet presumed the gender of his readers to such an extent that he said you are her health, and she is your illness . . . woman is not only ill but wounded35 by the menstrual cycle. The spectacle of the prone woman on the dissecting table at postmortem
was a privilege to be consumed by the healthy masculine appetite; pitied perhaps, but basically flawed, she was his prize to be unveiled, promising him the secrets of nature to which he assumed an inalienable right: Der Anatom (The Anatomist) by Gabriel Max, 1869.
"[Michelet] described the post-mortems he attended in order to demonstrate his thesis about the inherent vulnerability of working women . . . a broader
narrative . . . [took] . . . shape, that of woman, her social and moral condition. It was by seeing her body being dissected and analysed that Michelet imaginatively constructed a general scenario . . . woman, other, nature, death and pathology . . . manifest visually, in the dissecting room."36
More recent sources in Jordanovas work illustrate a more specific reason for an interest in the passive and defenseless body beneath the anatomists knife, equating surgery with sexuality. She quotes the American surgeon and author Richard Selzer, who employs romantic concepts of love and home-coming whilst describing how in operations:
the flesh splits open with its own kind of moan . . . like the penetration of rape.37 One wonders how he presumes at such details. Hugh Dudley, another professional surgeon, notes: Some surgeons would say it is like going to bed with a beautiful woman. You have a real climax [during surgery] . . . great power . . . they are
subservient . . . You have the power of life and death . . .38
While such comments are made (both as recently as 1982) by surgeons who continue to be respected and employed, it seems impossible to divorce gender stereotypification from the act of cutting flesh. It seems intimately connected to the sexualheterosexual positions of masculine dominance which link to the perception of the gaze as actively male:
"When a woman transgresses . . . the issues are secrecy, visual deception, and suffering. Men desire to possess both women and knowledge . . . The representation of a womans body in the process of being dissected appears
to be a historically specific theme. It bears directly on the idea of unveiling which has at any one time both a mythical dimension and a rooted sociocultural
one. In the case of dissection, an actual female body could be possessed, made to yield up secrets, generate knowledge."39
Inverting the Myth and Unveiling Pandora. Pandora, in the Greek myth, was a beautiful woman, manufactured by the gods to seduce and
bring harm to man. She was sent to earth with a
box that secretly contained all the evils of the
world. The box and the forbidden nature of its
contents excited her curiosity and she opened it.
So evil escaped into the world and woman
brought misery to man. Only hope remained.40
Orlan says that myths of Greek goddesses inspire her work and . . . underlie it in a symbolic manner,41 so I will refer to Pandora as the most appropriate by dint of her curiosity. As a parallel to the story of Eve, this tale attaches the judgement of guilt to the image of the woman, so that her body becomes loaded with meaning regardless of the behaviour or intentions behind that superficial veil:
The urgency of the binary opposition in the critical discourse surrounding Pandoras Box [directed by G. W. Pabst (1929)] has to do with the ability to ascertain guilt . . . guilt does not necessarily attach itself to the woman
through intentionality or motivation. Her sheer existence, particularly in its spectacular capacity, is often the cause . . ." 42
Can we re-read these restrictive representational codes by using the damaged and over-exposed cinefilm of the mysterious female body? The military cameraman who shot the Roswell film, and who remains anonymous,
43 describes a link via his first encounter in the following text which accompanies the film on RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy:
They were Circus Freaks, creatures with no business here. Each had hold of a box which they kept hold of in both arms, close to their chests. They just lay there crying. Once my tent had been set up I started filming . . .
the Freaks were still crying, and when approached screamed even louder. They were protective of their boxes but we managed to get one loose with
a firm strike to the head of a Freak with the butt of a rifle.
The only image we receive of the Freaks is a naked immobile female, on her back, who is progressively cut into by two military surgeonsmale and femalewho are anonymously concealed behind white uniforms. The film is silent and has a camera-angle which rocks
to and fro, along the leg and up the thigh, between the legs avoiding the face, avoiding the gaze of the monster on the slab. The damaged parts of this disabled body (which may be a human with chromosomal peculiarities) first began with a burnt wound on the thigh, but we have watched a vagina-like gash grow from crotch to gullet, like a victim of Jack the Ripper (like the death of Lulu, played by Louise Brooks, who is murdered by that same sexual maniac in Pabsts film Pandoras Box). Then the inhuman remains are shovelled out by the handful, lingering upon a fistful of something which is cut from the abdomen, reminiscent of the standard horror image of the phallic mother who . . . is thought . . . to have a penis hidden inside her body.44 The image is shadowy, so incomplete as to be unclear, but the implication is that she dared to invade male military territory and
that this is her punishment.
The Roswell Alien can be contrasted to Pandora who is after all the prototype for the exquisite female android and, as a dangerous enchantress . . . also the prototype for the femme fatale45 because she is a humanoid female,46 carrying a box of mysterious origin. Ray Santilli has stated that all the creatures were female,47 and this is confirmed by the lack of a penis and the feminine shape of the hips, although there are no secondary sexual characteristics in evidence. On arrival this childlike Other inspired fear, repulsion, and violence from the military men who hid behind the post-war American governmentanxiety ridden and guilty shiftily shuffling the paperwork to make her disappear.48 The shock of RoswellThe Footage is the presentation of a visual metaphor, horror story, or myth as reality, and yet it completely adheres to literary and cinematic type, not within the context of horror, but presented as medical and historical fact. This makes the level of unveiling problematic to an objective interpretation as it can be construed as sadistic punishment. But in the light of the artwork created by Orlan, where the cutting reveals the flesh which proves there is no face behindthe mask 49 the implication is that this is no masquerade. However, both the Alien and Pandora suffer by having their image constructed and defined through the male gaze, with a subsequent loss of subjectivity, and both threaten an explosion of Otherworldly desire. Their words are
not heard, and so both are dependant on: an inside/outside topography. . . [and seem to conceal or mask] either an interior that is mechanical or an outside that is deceitful . . . [being] only readable in death.50
In Pandoras Box: Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol, Dora and Erwin Panofsky discover overt examples in which Pandoras box is read as a vagina/womb, a noticeably secret but sexual space of origin. However, it is worth noting that the artist (Abraham van Diepenbeek) and the author (Michel de Marolles) are both men, and this becomes obvious by their fear of infection from womens sexuality when Marolles points out that Pandora is holding her box . . . lowered to that part . . . from which has flowed so many of the miseries and anxieties that afflict man [his birth/life for example?!]
. . . there is always something bitter in the midst of a fountain of pleasure . . . the thorn pricks among the flowers.51 This implies that the box, or the mask, or the fetish which distorts her image, is engineered by the male gaze to deny knowledge of womans potent womb: The phantasy of woman as castrator is as terrifying asif not more terrifying thanthat of the castrated woman. It can also be used to explain why the male might desire to create a fetish, to want to continue to believe that woman is like himself, that she has a phallus rather than a vagina. In this context, the fetish stands in for the vagina dentatathe castrating female organ that the male wishes to disavow . . . The image of woman
as castrator and castrated is represented repeatedly in the mythology of all patriarchal cultures. She is either the tamed, domesticated, passive woman or else the savage, destructive, aggressive woman. The phallic woman is the fetishized womanan image designed to deny the existence of both these figures (woman as castrated/castrating).52
With Pandoras looking into the boxinto the hidden space53we are given a clue to the answer which is in knowledge, although patriarchal myth negates this by focusing on the moment of transgression only: Although Eves [or Pandoras] story highlights the knowledge theme, the epistemophilia inherent in the drive of curiosity, the myth associates female curiosity with forbidden fruit rather than with forbidden space.54 While men write the myths and theories, define the image and narrate the tale, womens knowledge is not passed back into the fabric of society and she is doomedas a femme fatale with penis envyto go on repeating the same mistakes: . . . speaking the same language together, were going to reproduce the same history . . . the same old stories all over again . . . The same difficulties, the same impossibility of making connections.55 This is
why when we hear words such as the thorn pricks amongst the flowers we must interpret them according to where they originate, before accepting them at face value as authoritative, descriptive, and unprejudiced, otherwise they may affect and constrict our subsequent understanding. Pandora, like Eve, was created to resemble the gods in appearance. She was crafted by Hephaestus and Zeus, who fashioned a sweet and lovely maiden shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face.56 She was created as a destructive but irresistible gift/bride wearing silver and gold, a robe, and a crown. The Greek author Hesiod describes her as a steel trap from which there is no escape.57 Like the wooden Trojan Horse, she is manufactured and conceals a hidden threatening presence. The radical feminist philosopher and myth
critic58 Mary Daly would advise us to reverse what we hear, if we are to allow a space for the voice of the muse. We may see and hear the concealed enigma by first uncovering the patriarchal veil: "reversal the fundamental mechanism employed in the world-construction and world-maintenance of patriarchy, the basic method employed in the making of patriarchal myths . . . INVERSIONturning everything inside out and
On Dalys advice I will turn from Hesiods description of Pandora as a cleverly manufactured trap to a text by Marina Warner who describes Pandora and her historic representation as fraudulent. Warner makes it clear that the myth is as constructed as Pandora herself is said to have been:
". . . female forms are associated from the very start with beauty and artistic adornment and its contradictory and often dangerous consequences. . . .These mythological principles, confusing women and art, together underpin
the idea that man is a maker and woman made, in mythic reversal of biology . . . in both rhetoric and iconography."60
An alternative, yet comparable mythic tale of the first individuating female, the Sumerian text of InannaQueen of Heaven and Earth,61 predates the Christian Bible by two thousand years. The tale is described as opening a space/creating a new space: enter the place of exploration: the place where not all energies have been tamed or ordered.62 Inanna opened . . . her ear, her receptor of wisdom, to the Great Below and abandoned the seven temples of Heaven 63 to descend to the Underworld which could also mean the unconscious, or the uncanny (which I will come to later),64 or even more simply the planet Earth. She took the seven me [attributes of civilization emphasizing order] . . . into her hands and with these in her control and possession she was able to place the crown upon her head, and wrap the royal robe around her body.65 Inanna goes to the underworld, where she is divested of her robe and crown, and the seven me are taken from her leaving her defenseless. She thereby loses her subjectivity and becomes nothing more than an object, but it is her sisterEreshkigal, Queen of the Underworldwho has the power to make this transformation, and it is her gaze which destroys Inanna
until her reincarnation. Thereby we find both the castrator and the castrated in the image of woman:
"Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death . ..
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A rotting piece of meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall." 66
Turning the plurality of this archaic seven67 into the occidental phallic singular, and shrinking this one in its importance to become nothing but a pot shrinking from jar size, that is from the approximate size of Pandora herself, to the small box68 which can be held in the palm of one hand, may mythically illustrate the development of the girl childs consciousness from the confident possession of a phallus in her imagination to the patriarchal realisation that her subjectivity is of
little importance. 256 That her opinion is not so powerful or important as the boy childs is made clear by way of genital symbolism:
"She thought she had, in her clitoris, a significant phallic organ . . . But the sight of the penis . . . shows the girl to what extent her clitoris is unworthy . . . She understands the prejudice . . . that is her fate . . . to accept castration
. . . as a fait accompli: an amputation already performed . . . compared to the boy she has no sex . . . only a truncated penis." 69
So the Goddess is reduced to a naked, rotting corpse, hung on a peg, pigeonholed, labelled unworthy. Inanna can be contrasted to Pandora, and both can also be likened to Eve and Lilith. Inanna and Lilith came
first and described themselves as equal subjects, while Pandora and Eve were manufactured: does not name herself, and inspires desire rather than experiences it . . . for [her] subjectivity is in fact denied.70
The creation of these submissive, secondary characters literally covers over the history of their foresisters.
"The Abject Self, The Android and the Uncanny Alien:
Frontiers-Women and Femme Fatales. The shadow on the edge of bourgeois culture is variously identified as black, mad, primitive, criminal, socially deprived, crippled or (when sexually assertive) female . . . distorted to emerge as melodramatic shapesmonsters, snakes, bats, vampires . . . femme fatales." 71
When myths present self-defining and assertive (phallic) women as doomed to fail, inherently evil and dissembling, it has an adverse effect upon the self-image of the female subject, and the perception of her in historic representations. This is most noticeable at the close of the nineteenth century, a time not just pessimistic and defeatist, but fatalistic72 when the rise of feminism and the Suffragettes brought a fear that the Angel in the House73 was renouncing her duty and
consequently placing the role of masculinity in jeopardy. A backlash ensued which depicted with hostility any woman who was not the embodiment of late Victorian feminine virtues (namely passive and submissive) and this culminated in the rise of representations of the
sexually threatening femme fatale character (see Henri Martins Towards the Abyss). Designed to be culpable and guilty, she was a textual stereotype ritually punished and held in the binomial oppositions which are constructed within occidental epistemology, so that she could only represent an absence of logic, chaos, darkness, death, all that lies beyond the safe, the known, and the normal.74 257 In a way which is
comparable with the image of the alien in late twentieth-century culture75 the femme fatale expresses a plethora of anxieties at once [and] . . . is a sign, a figure who crosses discourse boundaries . . . [being] found at the intersection of Western racial, sexual and imperial anxieties.76 The positionality of patriarchy, phallocentrism, places all women as marginalized as the limit or borderline of that [symbolic] order . . .to represent . . . [and] . . . share in the disconcerting qualities of all frontiers.77 As a frontiers-woman, the femme fatale character of filmnoir, and the female vampire of literature and the horror film genre, form a history of representations which code the Roswell Alien as an evil, needing to be vanquished and expelled to preserve the unity of culture from the chaotic animalism of the corrupted and corrupting Other. In the fin-de-siècle literature of the late 1800s this character was literally pathologized as the missing link.78 Thus the independent (or free-spirited woman) at that time, like the otherworldly alien of contemporary culture (or the abject corpse) falls beyond the limit79 and threatens a disturbance to identity, system [and] order.80 When the cultural mirror reflects us to ourselves as strange, lacking, incomplete and anxiously uncontrollable, neither subject nor object 81since we are not the manufactured/fabricated idealwe become alienated from ourselves: . . . different from uncanniness, more violent too, abjection is elaborated through a failure to recognize its kin; nothing is familiar, not even the shadow of a memory.82
Towards the Abyss by Henri Martin, 1897 .
The abject is also linked specifically to the female as it is defined in terms of an inside/outside dichotomy and equated with pure and impure. In this sense it is strongly connoted by pregnancy and birth which transforms
[the] . . . body into an open wound.83
Abjection causes a vortex of summons and repulsion [which] places the one haunted by it literally beside himself [sic],84 and it seems that this then becomes the trap itself, where we are caught in the dichotomy, or boomerang effect whereby, as with disavowal, we know but all the same . . .85 we want to believe something else. Hoping to ascend to the glorified heights of the constructed commodity, we become trapped by the double-bind; manufactured we are false, and otherwise we are flawed. The riddle, the puzzling enigmatic position from which no action may be taken envelops the image of the Woman, who is then caught by the characteristic of fetishism, the disavowal of her difference:
Abject terror . . . is gendered feminine . . . Woman is victimized because she is blamed for the human condition . . . His eyes may be put out, his hand severed . . . his belly gashed, or his genitals sliced away or bitten off . . .The avenging heroine of the slasher film is not the Freudian phallic woman whose image is designed to allay castration anxiety (we encounter her mainly in pornography and film noir) but the deadly femme castratrice, a female figure who exists in the discourses of myth, legend, religion and art but whose image has been repressed in Freudian psychoanalytic theory largely because it challenges Freuds view that man fears woman because she is castrated . . . woman is constructed as castrated in many films precisely because man fears that she is not castrated.86
The image of Woman as artificial android, or as puppet to male desire, has haunted the cinemathe shadowlandsince its inception,87 and so the figure in RoswellThe Footage comes as no surprise, taking its place beside its fragmentary shadow sisters from art and literature and cinematic history: Where is she . . . she is in the shadow . . . Night to his daythat has forever been the fantasy. Black to his white.88 It has even been established that the construction of the fabricated, idealized female body . . . [is] the fantasmatic ground of cinema itself.89
The figure of Olympia as she appears in E. T. A. Hoffmans The Sand Man (1816) is a prime example, and I will focus upon her as perhaps the first cinematic representation of an erotic female android90 because she raises an issue relevant to the Roswell Alien, namely the threatened loss of ones eyes as a symbol for the threat of castration. In Hoffmans tale, Olympia, the automaton, is said to have the boy-protagonist
Nathaniels eyes; this represents his repressed anxiety about castration threats from his father (or the alternative father-figure of the Sand Man).
In his exploration of the psychoanalytic meanings concealed within the text, Sigmund Freud notes that anxiety about ones eyes, the fear of going blind, is often enough a substitute for the dread of being castrated.91
Such a menace to ones eyes . . . connected to the castration complex 92 is represented in RoswellThe Footage by several signs on the body of the alien, as if it is specifically designed to connote castration anxiety (examples include the leg wound, the toothless mouth, and the bald head). If we are to take the body as constructed, as a cyborg, android, or otherwise fabricated doll, then we find similarities between it and Freuds definition of the uncanny written in 1919. He illustrates three points in particular which form a definition of the uncanny: when an inanimate object becomes too much like an animate one;93 something that ought to have remained hidden but has come to light;94 and when primitive beliefs which have been surmounted seem once more to be confirmed.95 The last point refers to a belief in ghosts, gods, or any paranormal activity which is assumed to have receded as civilization is presumed to have advanced.
The Roswell Alien could be said to be spooky, haunted, or animated, inhabited by spirits96 because the eyes seem to follow the surgeons and the cameraman, which is impossible since this body is apparently dead. Most disturbingly, tweezers are used to remove flexible dark lenses which cover the eyes, revealing them to be rolledupwards.
The tweezers approach the eyes and there is uncertainty at the specific intrusion of the sharp metal with the wide-open vulnerable and enlarged eyes. The uncovering reveals another layer which disturbs the viewers faith in the hoax scenario, since plastics at the time were Bakelite brittle, and the eye seems not overtly alien or strange, but human in quality. RoswellThe Footage evokes the tale of the monster created by Doctor Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelleys 1818 novel, since it is the monsters eyes which frighten his father the scientistwatery eyes . . . his eyes . . . were set on me.97 Frankenstein is so disturbed by the gaze, that he literally takes flight in horror, but cannot escape the accusatory glare, the blank stare, the look of the subject he has created. In the tale it is this element which forms the principal source of uncanniness . . . the emergence of the gaze [is]the opening of a
hole in reality which is immediately also that which comes to fill it.98
This again ties the Alien to Orlan as the monsters terrible appearance is only a mask, opening an unfillable gap . . . at the moment when the face is lifted.99 For, as with Orlan, this hole in the field
of representation . . . [is also] what comes to the place of lack to cover it over.100
This confusion about the organ of the subjective gaze, and the implication of a phallic visual threat to the phallocentric society which excludes it, is reminiscent of what Parveen Adams describes as the space which is new from the point of view of knowledge101
which is also evocative of the space repressed or released by the myths I have related. It is pinpointed at the moment when the whites of the eyes are revealed (see the Neurotrancer image) targeting the victim and seducing the viewer with an equation of the Alien to a
religious Madonna in pious pose. At this moment there is a call to launch into the space of the uncannythe forbidden space described by Laura Mulvey. The Aliens expression has been brought to light by this disrobing, and her uncanny, unfamiliar, and yet humanesque
appearance is shown in stark relief against the probability of her realityher existence as flesh and blood. This is the boundary, or mid-point, between the positions of phallic and castrated, abjection as repulsion, or the uncanny as what we want to believe. It is the
moment when the castrated image becomes the evocation of the femme castratrice:
". . . ejected beyond the scope of the possible, the tolerable, the thinkable.
It lies there quite close, but it cannot be assimilated. It beseeches, worries, and fascinates desire . . . Apprehensive desire turns aside, sickened, it
rejects. A certainty protects it from the shameful . . . that spasm, that leap is drawn toward an elsewhere as tempting as it is condemned." 102
The Aliens post mortem has not yet disclosed its secrets, or else we cannot clearly perceive the film due to the cultural saturation of similar depictions. If we read the body as constructed, as a fabricated Trojan Horse, it is because we have been conditioned to distrust such
images by decades of representations which define Woman as a deceitful impostor, as a veiled and fetishized mask behind which there is no phallic significance. Masquerading as something she is not, we
cannot trust her, and the autopsied body confounds this distrust by being presented to the viewer as an alien/extraterrestrial/Other. If it is discovered that she is a human who has been genetically manipulated
perhaps a post-war inheritance from Nazi scientists or a chromosomally unusual childthen her image can only increase in horror as we realize her abjection, misrecognized and defamiliarized, as she moves from cinematic hoax into the realm of victim, unrecognized,
debased, abused, and abandoned.
If genuine, the image in RoswellThe Footage is that of a being whose physical body is only the container of its perception. It has a higher consciousness revealed by flickering eye movement which seems unperceived by those who hold the knife. Their hands dissect it in the search for knowledge, unaware of what seems apparent, at least to this viewer fifty years later. The body seems to be patiently waiting, rather like Christ on the cross, perhaps this is the second-coming, and again the question is askedwhy have you forsaken me? Yet knowing the necessity of the sacrifice, she seems to suffer in immobility as if undergoing surgery, until it is too late and she has been disintegrated. Imagine a heart transplant operation where the doctors left you in an unfinished condition and you were somehow unable to gain their attention. She was a giftlike Pandora (meaning all gifts)which the soldiers broke on Christmas Day, as it were. Dissection does not give knowledge about the mode of beingtaking a computer apart does not show
you the capabilities of the software program, it takes imagination and sensitivity to access. At that time access was denied due to the fearful response of the defense system. Considering this bald creature to be a Freak, possibly even an aggressive invaderdespite its appearance as a frightened, crying, wounded, and fragile child they chose in the name of normative masculinity to smash its skull and dismember it. Its body image was not conducive to considerate treatment, for even as a
recognisably human female figure with hair and breasts, Orlan must utilize charm and communicability to facilitate her treatment successfully.
Additionally the Alien is reported to have smelt offensive (perhaps presenting or being perceived to present a chemical hazard) and theprotective uniforms of the military may have prevented the recognition of its signals. Perhaps it is merely the decomposition of the filmic emulsion playing tricks on my perception causing the appearance of eye movement, yet it seems to be that the monster, as in Shelleys morality play, may have been on the verge of life. Perhaps, like Frankensteins monster, its gaze was too terrifying.
While Orlan insists on movement and speech, refusing to play dead (even while undergoing the infliction of the open wound, the obvious loss of blood, and endurance of discomfort, if not extreme pain) the Alien appears to remain immobile by a sheer act of will. It is inanimate, and yet blood seeps from its wounds and its eyes fluctuate from appearing closed to being wide open. She seems to conceal consciousness while Orlan flaunts hers, and in a sense this lessens the impact of both events since the Alien seems unreal and Orlan either mad or insensitive. Pandora can also be attributed with these characteristics thus diminishing and denigrating her importance, but Inanna reclaims the image of the adventurous heroine and protagonistic explorer
by escaping all three definitions.
She is neither deranged in her intentions, nor numb to suffering, and she is not a fabricated android. But to discover such a guilt-free image, it is necessary to look back to the original Inanna/Lilith figure, a representation uncontaminated by fetishism or patriarchal ulterior motivation. While Orlan celebrates the loss of her body, and thus of gendered stereotypification, the Alien equates the feminine with non-humanity in an
ultimate expression of fin-de-siècle or millennial anxiety, where Woman is equated with the missing link and the uncanny Other. If by allowing us to see her inside, as Orlan does, the Alien mends the gap, then we can see she is phallic, defining and controlling her appearance by positive action. But if she is revealed as an artificial construction comparable to Pandora, we must be suspicious of the harmful message contained within her composition.
Where we are not granted the phallus/phallic significance for reasons beyond our own control, it is clear that there are clues concealed in the fabric of societal structure which must be identified and disarmed.
Technology plays a role in this empowerment process as
Orlan illustrates, teaching us to move faster and with less of our bodies, to move with our minds into cyberspace. Perhaps this will be the space where cultural producers can negotiate and remake the desirable or the frightening image through which we can understand
new positions as ungendered beings, or cyborgs. Or perhaps technology is the tool through which we can unmask the Alien as a frontièrsfemme-castratrice who can collapse phallocentrism by the power of her gaze; we can but hope.
As with the majority of depictions of women, it is the image which is focused upon rather than the person. The image has life, status, potency, and the accruement of wealth, whereas the model (in either sense) is turned to shadow and divorced from the real. She is undeniably a primordial foresister in many respects, but whether
she is a genetic exception, or a time and space traveller is lost, either in the stormy winds of a strange night in 1947, or covered and separated by the misogynistic mythology of late-patriarchal capitalism where the creation of media ratings and financial gain outweigh the importance of her identity and humanity. Abstract representational space is fighting to be excluded from the saturated money fascism of an expandingly global (originally Western) ideology, where the poor,
disabled Other is excluded and repressedpossibly by a burgeoning of superstition designed to strip them of wealth. I desire the hypothesis of a creature who came from a bright light in the sky, but my desire is sickened at the abjection of the abnormal, or non-ideal, female
There is a third stance we can turn to in the name of radical feminism and say that if we assume this body is a natural genetic syndrome occurrence, she may stand in the place of the unbelievable to test our acceptance in pre-millennial culture of another conscious position. I hope the truth out there, or not, is not brought and
stowed in a safe, as the other (possibly explanatory) reels are said to have been. We may never truly know a singular pure truth, but our shared consciousness will form our realitylet it be a diverse space
to create in, not a bought and paid for plot.
I wish to thank Ray Santilli for my research copy of RoswellThe Footage, and Maureen Ismay for help with Inanna, Mary Daly for her book Beyond God the Father (1973), and Olivier Richon for bringing the importance of the uncanny to my attention. (Written 1996, published in Camera Obscura, Angels Aliens Dinosaurs).
1. Rebecca Stott, The Fabrication of the Late-Victorian Femme Fatale
(London: The Macmillan Press, 1992) 44.
2. The Roswell Autopsy is a black and white cinefilm released on video
as RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy in September 1995. Highlights
had been screened within Secret History: The Roswell Incident
aired on Channel 4 TV (UK) on 28 August 1995. Martin Walker writes:
We were shown the clips, and sworn to secrecy (until now), by the
British documentary film-maker John Purdie of Union Pictures. On
August 28, these two brief clips of film, which purport to record the
US Air Force autopsies of two crashed alien beings, will be screened
simultaneously as part of Purdies Roswell documentary on Channel 4
in Britain, on Fox-TV in the US, in Japan and in Europe, Space
Oddity, The Guardian 25 July 1995: 3. It was also shown on the TFI
Network in France as reported by Robin McKie, Science Editor for The
Observer, who said It is either the science story of the century or the
greatest hoax since Piltdown Man, Alien Autopsy Film Baffles Scientists,
The Observer 23 July 1995.
3. Descriptive Breakdown of RoswellThe Footage: Alien Autopsy (1995),
showing a dissection performed on an apparently non-human, yet female,
Reel Number 53, Body No. 2
The prone figures eyes look closed, and then open, and then closed
again. A shot in close-up, eyes open with dark lenses covering the
globes, and then no lenses, and then eyelids shut with dark greasy
eyeshadow. Then open, and looking to its left at the cameraman/viewer.
Leg exploration by woman surgeoneyes look closed again. When
surgeons examine the crotch, the eyes are open and looking to its left.
Eyes look closed, but peeking (i.e.: dark area under the lids becomes
reduced, and eyelids close again). Piece of burnt leg tissue is removed
Reel No. 56, Body/Leg No.2
Shot of hand and toes (polydactyly) with six digits on each. Quick shot
of open-lensed eyes and then film is over-exposed; eyes look eyelidded
and eyeshadowed (i.e. greasy black lids). When whole film darkens,
eyes lighteneither shiny and reflective at that point, or open.
Reel No. 59, Body No. 2
Surgeons cutting chest skin flap away; out of focus body organs. Eyes
look open, looking at surgeon on her left. Surgeons put chest flap over
her chin, and black shiny covering in place over her eye.
Reel No. 61, Chest No.2
Hard object removed from the abdomen cavity. Eyes black. Chest/abdomen
tubing is cut.
Reel No. 62, Head/Eyes No. 2
Surgeons remove handfuls of internal organs, film darkens, figures eyes
twinkle enigmatically. Metal dish used to collect an indistinguishable
organ. Surgeon on left bends down as if kissing her forehead. Film
darkens again and her gaze shifts to cameraman/viewer. Surgeon uses
tweezers to remove the black lenses; as this happens, in mid-movement,
film cut to slight change of shot and overexposed image lightens. Whites
of eyes revealed. Horizontal video glitch gives appearance of eye blink.
Cutting into skull, film over-exposed into whiteness.
Reel No. 63, Hand No. 2
Jaw held by woman surgeon while the other surgeon cuts skull. Top of
her head is pulled (reflected, in surgical terms) over her eyes.
Reel No. 64, Head No. 2
Surgeon makes tiny incremental cuts on lower edge of her head. Saw
used on skull. Light varies from light to dark frequently. Surgeon seems
disturbed. Cameraman moves around the back of the surgeon filming
his white coat while peeking over his alternate shoulders to view the
Reel Un-numbered, Brain
Three rapid shots in succession while dura (brain membrane) is cut and
brain pulled out. Brain seems dark and out of focus, but also nonhuman,
two handfuls of white stuff follow.
4. Barbara Black Koltuv, The Book of Lilith (USA: Nicholas Hays, 1986).
Lilith is also known as Blood Sucker . . . Alien Woman, Impure Female
(xi) and predates Eve, being opposite in character. Liliths mythic aim was
to create an egalitarian relationship with the first man: Liliths claim to
equality is based on the fact that both she and Adam were created from
dust or earth; however, Lilith refuses to be merely earth for Adam. She
wants the freedom to move, act, choose, and determine. These are the
qualities of the individuating feminine ego as it is born out of inert passive
5. The femme fatale character is an image of the sexual woman as evil
and threatening because she is alien and Other, because her sexual
Otherness stimulates fantasies of castration and devoration (Stott
43). She is therefore a phallic figure who is able to castrate as a punishment,
but as a Woman she is also the castrated Other.
6. Ludmilla Jordanova notes the implications of several art historical representations
of dissection as connoting an unveiling which suggests
shame and modesty, originally, presumably, that of Eve . . . Second,
veiling implies secrecy . . . feminine attributes, cannot be treated as fully
public, something dangerous might happen, secrets be let out, if they
were open to view, Ludmilla Jordanova, Sexual Visions (Hemel Hempstead,
UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1989) 92.
7. Stott 45.
8. Parveen Adams, The Emptiness of the Image (London: Routledge,
9. Orlan, The Reincarnation of Saint Orlan begun in Newcastle, UK: 30
10. Annette Michelson, On the Eve of the Future: The Reasonable Facsimile
and the Philosophical Toy, October 29 (1984): 11.
11. Orlan, I Do Not Want To Look Like . . . Womens Art Magazine 64
(1995): 6. [Note: WAM has been retitled Make (London: Womens Art
12. Orlan, I Do Not Want To Look Like 8.
13. Orlan describes her work as making a transparent, public event out
of a private act . . . to show that which is usually kept secret . . .
[establishing] a comparison between the self-portrait done by the computer-
machine and the self-portrait done by the body-machine producing
a hybridisation which is intended to function against the norms of
beauty and the dictates of the dominant ideology. And she endures the
most painful and horrific scenes, although she insists that she feels no
pain and does not suffer masochistically: It is my public, above all,
which suffers when it looks at the images, and I myself when I look at
the video clips, Orlan, I Do Not Want To Look Like 910.
14. Orlan, I Do Not Want To Look Like 68. My emphasis.
15. Laura Mulvey writes, The lure of voyeurism turns around like a trap,
and the viewer ends up aware that Sherman, the artist, has set up a
machine for making the gaze materialize uncomfortably in alliance with
Sherman, the model, Laura Mulvey, Fetishism and Curiosity (London:
British Film Institute, 1996) 68.
16. Orlan, I Do Not Want To Look Like 9.
17. Orlan used the illusion of the bodiless woman, whereby her head alone
appeared on the surface of a table (for example, at the Institute of
Contemporary Arts Totally Wired Season, London). This is a traditional
technique which was employed at the turn-of-the-century in freak
18. Orlans virtual head projection was created using a state of the art
medical laser system with the assistance of Dean Brannagan and Dr. Alf
Linney from University College Hospital, London.
19. Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of
Nature (London: Free Association Books, 1991) 149.
20. Haraway 150.
21. Rachel Armstrong, Woman With Head . . . Womens Art Magazine
70 (1996): 17.
22. Armstrong 17.
23. Armstrong 17. My emphasis.
24. Omnipresence is a video of Orlans seventh operation which took place
on 21 November 1993. Implants were placed like horns/bumps on
either side of her forehead.
25. Nedira Yakir, Speaking With Womens Art Magazine 70 (1996): 16.
26. Adams 146.
27. Adams 1412.
28. Adams 153.
29. Adams 153. My emphasis
30. Adams 159.
31. Adams 1534.
32. Adams 159.
33. Jordanova 6061.
34. Jordanova 67.
35. Jules Michelet, LAmour (1858) quoted in Jordanova 789.
36. Jordanova 100.
37. Jordanova 152.
38. Jordanova 150.
39. Jordanova 96; 98.
40. Mulvey 53.
41. Orlan 8.
42. Mary Ann Doane, Femme Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis
(London: Routledge, 1991) 154.
43. John Purdie, speaking on behalf of Secret History: The Roswell Incident
said, We know the man who took the film, and even though he complains
his life will be made a misery once he comes forward, we are hoping
to persuade him to explain what happened on camera . . . We are taking
an objectively agnostic line, quoted by Martin Walker, Space Oddity,
The Guardian 25 July 1995: 3.
44. Barbara Creed, The Monstrous Feminine (London: Routledge, 1993)
45. Mulvey 55.
46. Chris Stringer, a paleontologist at The Natural History Museum (London)
says The figures certainly look human like, but equally were not
human. From the same source, Dr. C. M. Milroy, Senior Lecturer in
forensic pathology at Sheffield University describes the bodies, quoting
from his report on the autopsy film: Overall the appearances were
those of a white adolescent female with a humanoid body . . . The eyes
appeared larger than normal and the globes were covered with a black
material which was shown being removed, in Robin McKie, Alien
Autopsy Baffles Scientists, The Observer (London) 23 July 1995: 3.
47. Tabitha Goode, telephone conversation with Ray Santilli, 30 August
48. Described as a Freak and therefore having no place in society available
to her (or her sisters) all knowledge of her arrival did recede, and
documentation became invisible for forty-eight years. James Bone writes
that . . . the administrative records at Roswell from March 1945 to
December 1949 and all outgoing messages from October 1946 to December
1949 had been destroyed more than forty years ago. James
Bone, Military reports on UFO destroyed, The Times (London) 31
July 1995: 8.
49. Adams 158.
50. Mulvey 55.
51. Dora and Erwin Panofsky, Pandoras Box (1956), quoted in Mulvey 58.
52. Creed 116.
53. It is interesting to note that the veil/cover/box could refer to the lenses
shielding the Roswell Aliens eyes or to the pregnant appearance of the
pre-pubescent body with its swollen abdomen. In terms of Pandoras
box/gift, this could imply a womb with a concealed fetus which can be
interpreted from the autopsy imagery.
54. Mulvey 60.
55. Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which is Not One (New York: Cornell UP,
56. Hesiod, Works and Days (circa 700 B. C.), quoted in Mulvey 54.
57. Mulvey 55.
58. Maggie Humm, Feminist Criticism: Women as Contemporary Critics
(Hertfordshire, UK: Harvester P, 1986) 101.
59. Mary Daly and Jane Caputi, Websters First New Intergalactic Wickedary
of the English Language (London: The Womens P, 1988) 93.
60. Marina Warner, Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female
Form (London: Picador, Pan Books 1985) 239.
61. Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer write that Inanna, or the
Moon Goddess Diana, is an identificatory symbol for women . . . [and
is called by many names] Ishtar, Mari . . . Isis, Hecate, Pasiphae, Selene,
Brigit, Cybele . . . Lilith [and] Persephone, Diane Wolkstein and Samuel
Noah Kramer, InannaQueen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories
and Hymns from Sumer (London: Rider 1983) xv.
62. Wolkstein and Kramer xix.
63. It is interesting to note here that the star cluster called the Pleiades
which is also know as the Gates of Heavenis barely visible to the
naked eye and yet no other star group has been mentioned as frequently
in the literature and mythology of world cultures . . . in every
instance, the tiny cluster of seven was portrayed as female: the sisters,
the virgins, the maidens, the goddesses, Gary Kinder, Light Years
(London: Penguin, 1988) 141.
64. Freud defines the unconscious as that of which we are not aware, but
the existence of which we are nevertheless ready to admit on account of
other proofs or signs, Sigmund Freud, The Essentials of Psychoanalysis,
trans. James Strachey (London : Hogarth P, 1986) 1356. I find this links
to the uncanny as being a realm of signification (semiotics) which is
normally absent and yet appropriate when present. Everything that is
repressed must remain unconscious (142). The character of the alien
(UFOnaught, or flying saucer occupant) is repressed in contemporary
culture by being equated with lunacy and fantasy. The abject and the
uncanny are both also repressed which is why I equate them with the
alien and the female as excluded from discourse (alien here may also
mean subjected to xenophobia).
65. Wolkstein and Kramer 53.
66. Wolkstein and Kramer 60.
67. Seven mythic representations of Woman, or the seven masks of The
Monstrous Feminine can be defined by the terms: archaic mother,
monstrous womb, vampire, witch, possessed body, monstrous mother
and castrator (Creed 1). More contemporary labels are: the Wife,
mother, daughter, virgin, whore, career woman, [and] femme fatale
68. Mulvey 67.
69. Irigaray 39. Feminist theoreticians have subjected Freuds description of
such so-called penis envy to reversalboth Melanie Klein and Karen
Horney have inverted or turned around, certain sequences of consecutive
events that Freud established (Irigaray 52). The term has been
unpacked from the literal to the symbolic representing womens resentment
of male privilege, or material gain to an understanding of mans
biological envy of womens reproductive powerswomb envy. See Maggie
Humm, The Dictionary of Feminist Theory (Herts, UK: Prentice Hall,
70. Warner 222.
71. Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (London:
Metheun, 1981) 1212.
72. Stott 4.
73. Stott 14.
74. Stott 37.
75. Ian Katz reports: Aliens have arrived. Relegated for years to celluloid
fantasy and the wilder chat-show shores, tales of human encounters with
extra-terrestrials are suddenly mainstream. . . . the somber Washington
Post observed in a front page article that close encounters of the third
kind have moved from oddball subculture to a unique place in American
cultureneither quite believed nor dismissed out of hand, but treasured
as a mystery. Ian Katz, Aliens Land on Main Street, The Guardian
25 July 1995. Janet Daley writes that The Roswell Footage may be . . .
one more symptom of the collapse of cultural confidence . . . [because]
. . . we want to know that we have friends in the void and likens the
body to the ideal, pre-sin original Eve saying This is the dream of
paradise before the Fall, The Aliens of our Fantasies Were Once a
Threat . . ., Janet Daley, The Times [London] 27 July 1995: 12.
76. Stott 30.
77. Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics (London: Metheun, 1985) 167.
78. Stott 112.
79. Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror (New York: Columbia UP, 1982) 3.
80. Kristeva 4.
81. Kristeva 1.
82. Kristeva 5.
83. Creed 48. My emphasis
84. Kristeva 1.
85. Octave Mannoni (1969) quoted by Mladen Dolar in I Shall Be With
You on Your Wedding Night October 58 (MIT Press, 1991): 22.
86. Creed 11630.
87. In early cinematic history we find the depiction of the heroic inventor,
Thomas Edison, creating the android Hadaly, a replica of Alicia Clary
in the tale by Villiers de LIsle Adam entitled The Eve of the Future
(1886), and so the natural and real woman becomes obsolete, inferior,
and replaceable from the very start of cinematic exploration.
88. Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman (Manchester: Manchester UP,
89. Michelson 19.
90. Mulvey 55.
91. Sigmund Freud, Art and Literature, ed. James Strachey (London: Penguin
Books, 1990) 352.
92. Dolar 10.
93. Freud, Art and Literature, 335.
94. Freud, Art and Literature, 364.
95. Freud, Art and Literature, 372.
96. Dolar 15.
97. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus (London: Penguin,
98. Dolar 20.
99. Adams 158.
100. Adams 151.
101. Adams 159.
102. Kristeva 1.
Insert text here...
Abstract Representational Space: Uncanny Aliens and Others is an article written in response to historical cinematic representations of females, and the exclusion, exploitation, stigmatization, misinformation, denial and abuse that they have received, which is still going on, but can be changed by empowerment, which we hope to achieve this millenium. Specifically it was triggered by the Santilli Autopsy Footage, which has had men giggling and gossiping (as always) and while the topic has thus been derided, denigrated and despised - I uphold my right to describe it from my point of view.
Ten years down the line it remains as enigmatic as the Turin Shroud.
And I am concerned by the disappearance of Mr Ray Santilli who vanished into obscurity with his wife after a distressing miscarriage. He closed his business, he moved his office and he has taken an enormous amount of stigma. I hope he is alive and well, but how are we going to know now that he is in hiding?
I was alone when I saw this Footage for the first time on August 28th 1995. In my flat on Camden High Street, I tuned my portable tv and found an image of a desert. I began watching what I found to be a military mystery, with b/w film from the '40's and '50's. Airplanes/Aeroplanes, bombs and scrubland - the threat of nuclear annihilation. That was fine and what happened next was a shock.
Lightning flashed up and there was a prone body. I was appalled - it seemed to be in 'a state of grace' ie demanding respect and reverance through faith, like a holy relic - yet it was paraded like a Frankenstein. The documentary threw it at the viewer like a horrific freak show exhibit. Yet what it was seemed so out of place in the desert landscape format. I felt sick and scared at how victimized she was. I came to standing in the corner of the room watching a grey spinning thing dissolve. It wasn't flies, it wasn't smoke. I rang Channel Four and kept ringing for a couple of weeks until I had spoken to John Purdie. I tracked down Ray Santilli's Merlin Office in Baker Street. The secretary gave me a free video and I clutched it to me as if it was an icon of the Virgin Mary.
Earlier I had been afraid that this was some sort of pornographic abuse, a snuff movie where a live actor is used and murdered in the making of the film (later I saw ufological cartoons with the same idea depicted) and on that basis I complained, to the police and to the film censors.
I have a very kind letter from John Purdie (Producer) who was obviously strongly affected by the documentary and went on to make Riddle of the Skies in 1999, as was Tim Shawcross (Director) who published The Roswell File book in 1997.
I spent the next six months or so, afraid that something other worldly would approach me through the kitchen (I kept the door shut). I heard them request contact and I psychically replied "I'm not ready yet". The fear and the nausea remained for a few months more and one morning the wall dissappeared and there was a 'weapons platform' outside, I guess that was a dream or a representation. One Channel Four employee told me that they had to stop thinking about the Footage in order to be able to hold down their job and keep their life stable. I focused my interest in it into art and theory. Weird things had happened before that, but that was an intense time - where connections of meanings spun together and the mysterious yet interrelated nature of knowledge was a tapestry of fine intricate pattern. Weird things have happened since. The main thing was that to me she seemed alive. Her eyes showed presence, awareness, movement. Unable or unwilling to move, she is at the mercy of the standing people. They cut her apart. They do not seem to respect her and this haste, this clumsiness is what viewers pick up on when they criticise the footage. They say if that was an alien the doctors would take their time and would not scoop the innards out like dog food, however if as reported there was a 'terrible smell', then that would be a good enough reason. They like to write it off as a 'hoax' because it is uncomfortable. It is cruel. This cruelty was picked up on in the movie of the incident - Roswell as a cruel diservice done to Jesse Marcel. But as a woman, I see it more clearly from a feminist angle - in the context of women who up until the 1960's were incarcerated in mental institutions for having children out of wedlock for example. We know this is an issue because one person in particular has dissappeared from the narrative of the Roswell Incident and that is the nurse (Naomi Maria Selff). You may say that this Footage (six fingers, six toes) is not similar to the reports of aliens (four fingers no thumb) given by Roswell witnesses, and this should make it more important for us to find out who this was.
If Santilli wanted to make a hoax, would he not as he has said himself, make it look more alien, more like the reports which have been coming out since 1978? Why is it so human and yet not human? Why six fingers instead of four? The Christian Bible says we were made in God's image - doesn't that mean that 'aliens' (or celestial beings) would look like us?