Posted by: Johan Normark | August 4, 2010

Introduction to Face/Off

This morning I received the language revised version of my article “Face/Off: a neomaterialistic study of the Face” which will be published in an anthology on the “archaeology of the senses.” It is the result of a workshop held at Stockholm University last year when Stephen Houston visited us. Anyway, here is the introduction of my article.

“He lost all his power. The king has lost his face” (Dirkschneider, et al. 1980)

This text shall focus on some of the sensorial parts that create a human subject. It shall therefore focus on “prehuman” processes in the sense that the human subject emerges from non-human components. The human subject is always in a state of becoming and it emerges through morphogenetic processes, not from a predefined genetic design. She is an emergent whole, emergent from a broad set of component parts that create an assemblage that we call a human subject (DeLanda 2006; Deleuze and Guattari 1987; Ingold 2000; Protevi 2009).

Of interest here is the treatment of senses, or rather their associated organs, in art. Fairly common in the Maya area in southern Mexico and northern Central America is the intentional and partial destruction of monumental art, especially monuments with the king’s face (Fig. 1). Apart from the eyes, the ears and the mouth were sometimes destroyed in the same act of mutilation of monuments. It appears that the goal was to deprive the king of his main perceptive capabilities. This defacement indicates that the portraits were vital and that the face was crucial for the king’s identity (Houston et al. 2006). However, the portrait was not only an index of the king and the divine power the ruler was considered to manifest. It was also an important part of the State.

The initial quote is taken from the song “The King”, written and performed by the German Metal band Accept (it is Peter Baltes on vocals, not Udo Dirkschneider).


  1. Great. I really look forward to that publication.

  2. It will change archaeology forever…


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