Consider a representational painting, say, of a dog chasing a ball. The dog may not be a real dog, and the ball may not be a real ball, but what about the chasing? I want to say this: the chasing is real and, moreover, the sense of the painting, its capacity to cohere into something other than a jumble of unrelated patches of color, hinges upon the reality of the chasing which it embodies.Question: How is "the chasing" real?
The conversation about the chasing is certainly real and ongoing. The conversation about the chasing is concurrent with the reality of the painting itself. We can go there to see it. But the chasing itself? Isn't "the chasing" a name, not a real? --"The Chasing" is a name for an event revealed but always already passed into interpretation, at best, recollection, at least. The attempt to capture--to freeze in perpetuity a perspective--is real only in the sense that we can attempt to capture it. Once captured, it is a document: that one perspective ably reproduced according to means and desired amount.
"The reality of the chasing" (which the painting embodies, to use Jay's words) also assumes that a useful manner exists to put a dog and a ball into relationship with the other in space, regardless of time. But that reality is not just the material ingredient for its self-composition. That reality, unnamed and instantaneous, includes the viewer who must be in an appropriate position both physically and psychologically to see the dog chasing the ball. The relationship, if presented with skill, will be "a dog chasing a ball" but never "the dog chasing the ball." Language wouldn't work right if it were that one dog always chasing that specific ball. The quality of the real is not based in a static reality but in all the possible chasings that it approximates for all people at any given time.
The reality of your home, for example, is not the house itself. It is the house and in addition all the things you ever have and will come to want it to be and in subtraction all the things you have not wanted it to and will not want it to become yet it is or will be anyway. This might be called the housing of your house.
The chasing, then, is phenomenal and brings out of the painting as a communicable idea that a dog can chase a ball and this one may be chasing that ball. It also stirs associations we recollect in connection with chasing. The chase has a look. But the chasing is not real it is at best a potential view. Always fleeting.
Might the reality of the chasing be the reality of the repressed? What I see is in many ways always a return. I may not see the chasing. I may see the looking--my looking at the painting, my painting the painting, or my looking at the dog's looking at the ball. Moreover, I may see the people looking at the painting further down the hall.
The chasing may, in the end, be representative of my ability to see anything at all. As such a view, it represents a challenge to the real. It says, "You, real, are only able to reside in language, in my ability to say it is so. The rest is struggling to say what I mean."