Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Uncanny 2010

Sigmund Freud’s essay ‘The ‘Uncanny’’ suggests that familiar things can sometimes have an unnerving effect. He uses the home and what is strange in it, peeling wallpaper or scratching mice, as an analogy for what we don’t know about what is inside our head, our individuality, our consciousness or the ego. Freud explores the modes of the uncanny in things like doubles, twins or reflections, coincidences, superstitions and suspicions that there might be something malevolent going on behind your back or under your floor.   

Daniel Price ‘When someone you love is dying’ an MPRG

Price’s entry into the Beleura National Works on Paper award, a diptych, two identical graphite drawings—a portrait of man who recently died: probably of old age. Through this stereoscopic image Price associates the uncanny double with death. A repressed double is created in infancy through identification with the small child’s reflection in a mirrora sort of narcissistic disavow of death. However, once the child develops beyond this stage the other ego becomes an uncanny harbinger of death (Freud). The idea that the soul—the body’s immortal double or a function of the ego like a duplicate backup that will preserve something of ourselves is ambivalent. It threatens to replace our very individuality with its own warped image. A phantasmic power of preservation attributed to art itself—to contain a certain emphatic characteristic, does so at the cost of a dismissal of the living subject. 

Erin Crouch & Rylie James Thomas ‘Someone Else’s House’ at Blindside
‘Someone Else’s House’ is a double slideshow of tight details of rooms focusing on elements like bathroom tiles, empty shelves and plugholes. These images suggest an unoccupied accommodation by their lack of the objects necessary for living. The projection quality is faint and the photos have dim vulnerability which alludes to the camera as ruminate or zoned-out. There is a sense of a distracted double vision—a disinterested gaze which once noticed evaporates. This correlates with the way the artists’ realised this project—both unaware that the other was documenting the details of their house as they moved out.  The coincidental nature of this artwork brings into being something surreal: some inescapable destiny.

Damiano Bertoli ‘Continuous Moment: AndAndAnd…’ shown in ‘The Nothing’ at West Space
This slide show of home interiors employs tropes of Lynchian horror in a corny and ironic way. Stills of rooms, furnished as normal, comfortable and completely expected, are empty as if the occupying family have gone off to work and school. However, these images are accompanied by menacing cords played on a synthesiser. Despite the humour in this artwork there is still something that is unnerving. The question is: is it because these familiar images are in some way alienating or are these genre tropes so pervasive that we emotionally respond to the cues? If the answer is the latter then our minds are a bit like the former—empty, alienating and clichéd.

Tony Oursler ‘Incandescence’ shown in ‘Mortality’ at ACCA
In a darkened room a bear light bulb flickers in the cadence of a mumbling man’s voice. Oursler is inspired by the same subject matter as Bertoli (horror, haunting and the disembodied ego as other). There is a spooky sense that this artwork is purely a delusion that we can’t trust our own senses. The voice is disconnected, detached as if we perceive it as coming down the wire. The voice gazes back at the viewer. The dim light evokes a primal fantasy.

Susan Jacobs ‘Speculative Measure’ & Phil Samartzis ‘The Large Glass’ shown in ‘Opening Lines’ at Gertrude Contemporary
‘Speculative Measure’, a hole in the floor, revealed an uncanny interior/exterior space in our built environment.  ‘The Large Glass’, a sound based artwork displayed next to ‘Speculative Measure’, produced a drone that perfectly suits the character of the hole. This couplet of ear and mouth evokes an internal monologue. Like the way we sometimes explain our thoughts to ourselves. The labyrinth of our mind provides uncanny hidey-holes just as the space below the floor does. Whether we consider our thoughts to be told to us or that we are articulating them to someone there is always a fantasy “other” entwined in their speech. ‘Speculative Measure’ & ‘The Large Glass’, emphasis the “other” in our thoughts; it dematerialises the voice—disconnects it from having an origin other than an underground void.

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