The “Uncanny” – Sigmund Freud

The Uncanny (1919) – by Sigmund Freud

During my symposium Shaun Hydes recommended reading Sigmund Freud’s The “Uncanny”, unfortunately I didn’t have time or space to add it in, so I briefly looked at online summaries. However it is an area I want to take forward in my final piece, my aim is to create images that are making a comment and put the audience in a reflective position. Creating an Uncanny character/image is one way of doing this. Making the audience uncomfortable enough to question the content.

803498_10151585765714179_1325119361_n

This is my exploration into the text of The Uncanny.

Key:
Quote

Page
Reference
My notes
Areas of study I derived from the text

– Aesthetics are vital to explore in regards to uncanny. Aesthetic is usually associated with theory on beauty, but it has much more to do with with the “qualities of feeling.” p.1

– “…given him and uncanny impression.” Freud talks of uncanny as a feeling, much like anyone would talk about a good impression or a bad impression. Uncanny= feeling. p1

– Freud starts by discussing previous writings on Uncanny and the limits of incomplete research, discussing E.Jentsch’s piece “Zur Psychologie des Unheimlichen” in particular.

Intellectual Uncertainty – unable to determine the human nature/ intelligence of a character. Not quite human.

– “In telling a story, one of the most successful devices for easily creating uncanny effects is to leave the reader in uncertainty whether a particular figure in the story is a human being or an automaton;” – E.Jentsch quote used. Freud openly say that he isn’t 100% accepting of Jentsch’s ideas but points out there is truth in his writings. It just cannot be used as the ONLY reason behind the uncanny feeling, he also later goes on to explore how the dead coming back to life is not always uncanny, it depends on the relationship to reality.

Hofman “The sand man” – “unparalleled atmosphere of uncanniness” Freud now refers to uncanny as an atmosphere rather than a feeling, perhaps it is both, it cannot be defined as one thing as it is not. Freud later uses the sand man to disprove Jentsch’s ideas about something new and feared being uncanny. He points out the sand man isn’t new to the man in the story, he is very familiar  and every interaction with the sand man becomes more uncanny. So perhaps it is the recollection of a feared person that casues the uncanny in this situation.

– “children do not distinguish at all sharply between living and lifeless objects, and that they are especially fond of treating their dolls like live people… the idea of a “living doll” excites no fear at all; the child had no fear od its doll coming to life, it may even have desired it.p.9 – again freud is disproving the idea of Intellectual Uncertainty as the sole reason for uncanny feelings. A child would not feel that their doll coming to life would be fearful or uncanny because they desire it and often wish for it. It makes me think of Toy Story, none of the characters seem uncanny apart from the “bad toys” if something is animated to life but is “good” we might not fear it.

The Double 

– “Hoffmann is in literature the unrivalled master of conjuring up the uncanny.” p.9

– Twins, telepathy, reoccurring faces/events/places, mirrors and shadows – all types of double which Freud shows can evoke uncanny sensations. He then delves deeper into the meaning for this looking at psychology of childhood and self-observation.

– “The “double” has become a vision of terror, just as after the fall of their religion the gods took on daemonic shapes.”p.10 The Jeckyll and hyde effect, the fear of 2 personalities.

– “a feeling came over me which I can only describe as uncanny… an involuntary return to the same situation… feeling of helplessness and of something uncanny… fateful and inescapablep.11 – Freuds personal stories which evoke uncanny, the idea of the double, when something happens again and again within a short amount of time it makes us feel uneasy or uncanny, we recognise something familiar but know it is not meant to happen.

Coincidence

-” “Well, I hope he’ll have a stroke and die.” A fortnight later the old gentleman really did have a stroke. My patient though this an “uncanny” experience.p.12 Humans strive for an explanation of coincidence  some resort to supernatural explanation, religion or magic. Freud see’s this coincidence as uncanny and purely coincidence.

Involuntary repetition & repression

– “for this uncanny is in reality nothing new of foreign, but something familiar and old- established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repressionp.13 

– “Two things account for our conservatism: the strength of our original emotional reaction to it, and the insufficiency of our scientific knowledge about it.p.13 It is often said we fear wat we do not know, in essence Freud is saying this combined with emotional reaction to the object in question leads to uncanniness.

Reality and Imagination

– “an uncanny effect is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality, such as when something we have regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality.p.15 When the line between reality and fantasy is blurred it provokes uncanny feelings.

Fairytales

– “We have heard that it is in the highest degree uncanny when inanimate objects – a picture or a doll – come to life… who would be so bold as to call it an uncanny moment, for instance, when Snow-White opens her eyes once more?p.16 The most powerful point I think Freud makes, it shows how hard it is to define uncanny and you cannot simply say that one act makes something uncanny. uncanny is not a fact it is a feeling and within everyone a certain combination of the themes discussed in this text are what cause uncanniness.

– “As soon as something actually happen in our lives which seems to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny. p17

– “Primitive beliefs are most intimately connected with infantile complexes.p.18 

Within these few pages I see a connection between the fairtytales and reality and Imagination, fairytales open with “Once upon a time in a far away land” the spectator is instantly disconnected from the story by both time and space, therefore the strange events will not effect their lives, it is too detached from reality to have an emotional effect on us.

The main topic of discussion within this text is whilst trying to define Uncanny we cannot define it. Freud taking a psychological stand point looks at examples of uncanny and what evoked the emotion within that case. Each example has to be taken individually as it could use one or multiple reasonings. The text has made me understand the uncanny a lot more and now instead of seeing a photograph and thinking something is strange about it I might have more hope at breaking down what is making it uncanny to me and possibly to others.

RPG and Virtual Reality

I have this urge with this project to produce something really technologically advanced, the one down side, I have no idea how to build software or electronics. Or even how to go about finding someone who does, and get them to do it for free.

Recently I have been watching an anime about an RPG. The first season of ‘Sword Art Online‘ see’s the creator of a virtual world release only 10,000 copies of the game, and once logged in you cannot log out. It’s his way of playing God. Also unlike normal RPGs once you die in the game you die in real life too. The series sees almost 2 years of the game inside, people start to prefer that world to the real one, get married and forget about reaching the 100th level, as their bodies in real life are laying in a special SAO victims hospital being kept alive by a drip, exploring issues of which is the real reality? I won’t go into the storyline too much as it has loads of flaws and unanswered questions but my point is that this anime has been voted by many websites the best of 2012, when I started my symposium I wanted to explore the photograph as an alternate reality but I kept on stumbling and getting stuck with no research content. So I abandoned it, but as this anime has made me think about virtual reality even more I think there is some way I can tap into this with photography. I am not sure how yet but this has got to be a way forward for not only my work but for society too. How long will it be before products like Nervgear are mainstream? (not in the crazy trapped in a virtual world way) And how can this be utilised within photography?

Upon a new fascination with virtual realities I bought this book, which I am currently reading. Once I am finished reading it I will storify my tweeted notes and see how this has had an impact on me and how the author utilises virtual reality.

image (1)
The book is going to be made into a film as well due to it’s popularity. Watch this interview with Ernie Cline the author to hear about the book plot and the plans for the film.

Freud – The Uncanny – 1919

In response to my symposium, Shaun Hydes said it might be worth looking at the Uncanny. I am not sure wether I am going to be using it because my talk already runs 11 minutes, so instead of doing an in depth analysis on the original text I will look at other people’s summaries and go from there.

David Morris’ notes

The German word “unheimlich” is considered untranslatable; our rough English equivalent, “uncanny”, is itself difficult to define. This indescribable quality is actually an integral part of our understanding of the uncanny experience, which is terrifying precisely because it can not be adequately explained. Rather than attempting a definition, most critics resort to describing the uncanny experience, usually by way of the dream-like visions of doubling and death that invariably seem to accompany it. These recurrent themes, which trigger our most primitive desires and fears, are the very hallmarks of Gothic fiction.

According to Freud’s description, the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but–on the contrary–from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it” (Morris). Freud discusses how an author can evoke an uncanny response on the part of the reader by straddling the line between reality and unreality within the fiction itself. In The Fantastic, Todorov goes to some length to distinguish his structuralist approach to this genre from a Freudian psychoanalytic approach; nonetheless, he shares many of Freud’s conclusions, especially in attributing literary terror to the collapsing of the psychic boundaries of self and other, life and death, reality and unreality.

Although Freud never mentions Gothic fiction in his essay, and Todorov partially excludes it from his, critics of the Gothic have drawn heavily upon both of them, often in conjunction with one another. Terry Castle’s article on the “other” in Radcliffe’s novels and Peter Brook’s essay on The Monk are two examples of this combined theoretical approach. Although Margaret Anne Doody does not mention Freud or Todorov specifically, her essay–which describes how Radcliffe blurs the distinction between dreams and reality within her novels–seems indebted to both of them. This emphasis on dreams is also essential to any analysis of Frankenstein, a text which is itself the product of a dream-vision and which seems to capture the very essence of the uncanny.

From this I learn that the Uncanny is something that doesn’t quite sit right, but not because it’s unusual to us, most times it is familiar but something has been added, changed or removed to make it seem strange. This is relevant to the activists work I am talking about in my project, they play with context to make sure the audience feels uncomfortable enough to question what they are seeing. I will now re-read my talk and decided wether it’s worth taking something out to add this point in.

Using video to introduce a project.

The great thing about video is that it’s an extended version of word of mouth. Why tell someone about a project when you can show and tell them at the same time? you never forget to mention a vital part, and no matter who is watching it a student a corporation or your next door neighbour they are all receiving the same information and the same experience of your project. Using video to not only promote but explain a project seems almost limitless. Here are some projects that use video to introduce their ideas well.

The table project

The table project utilise video well, I’ve seen the stop motion technique of someone drawing done countless times, but this is by far the best use of it. Using visual techniques and narration a quite complex project is explained in an easy to understand way, you could call this the projects pitch, it’s selling itself to you and want’s to make you learn more. I myself have since watching it sent it onto family who are actively involved in the church because I know they will want to learn about it from the video.

Collapsus

You could almost talk about this introduction as a trailer, it takes a different approach to mine, it’s about conspiracy and their fore doesn’t give a clear definition about what the project is, but that’s 100% intentional. There is also an explanation video, a talk through of this one. Which you can watch here. https://vimeo.com/15396143 However like mine it is a transmedia project.

The geography of youth

I love this project intro video. Wether it be because the project is inspiring or I feel like it could be a Phonar project, it is undoubtably a brilliant pitch, it’s exactly the kind of thing I’m after, using stats and figures to hook the viewer and peoples own personal stories too. It leaves me wanting more, I want to know about the project.

Noritoshi Hirakawa – The reason of life

Japanese photographer Noritoshi Hirakawa says this about his series ‘The reason of life’…

This is the view of what men dream of but can never be at the point to see. Many men have a lot of desire to see the underwear beneath a woman’s skirt. At the same time, many women think about having their underwear looked at by men. This desire is never spoke of in public. The woman is photographed by the artist at the same moment as the woman photographs herself. The camera can be a very good excuse to connect men’s and women’s desires.

 

The idea of the “Panty shot” is a common one in Otaku culture, films like Love exposure play on this “sin” and almost any 15 or over anime features at least one panty shot. One which the self-proclaimed Otaku artist Mr. also explores

Art by Mr.

Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan – Exhibition catalogue

You can read the catalogue is online here

Beautiful New World is an Art exhibition that focuses on the idea of a new world, along with the 21st century came a great expectation of peace and growth in Japan, but it soo became the most violent and destructive time in recent history. Whilst WWII was harmful, post war provided great growth for Japans economics. However in the last 30 years Japan has suffered from some horrendous events such a earth quakes, tidal waves and economy crashes. Influenced by the theme of a new world which is so current in Manga, the world being destroyed and trying to rebuild itself is featured in thousands of manga stories, these art pieces comment on the lust for a better place, an escape from reality which is so predominant in Japanese pop culture. (off the top of my head I can think of 3 or 4 manga series I have read where creating a new world is the main theme.)

The exhibition itself features the work of 34 creative people, spanning across all art forms, and is divided into 3 sections, Beautiful real world, New media world and End of the world and future world.

Section 1
Beautiful Real Wold @ Long March Project

The main theme of this section is understanding beauty and reality. Question both of their meanings and re-exploring how we understand them. The pieces are based on the representation of females in Contemporary advertising and fashion shoots. It also takes direct influence from manga..

Japanese manga and animations that illustrate gender-specific features in the boy’s world / girl’s world; and works that focus on “kawaii” culture, as well as the personal world-view of hitori-asobi(solitary play) that deviates from this culture.

Some of the exhibited work:

Teppei Kaneuji

teenage fan club #5. 2007.
plastic figure,hot melt adhesive
25x12x37(h)cm

This piece by Kaneuji Teppei has a direct reference to Japanese popular culture, using the brightly coloured structured hairstyles which feature in anime and manga to create a Big foot type creature.

Paramodel

Paramodel is an “art unit” formed in 2001 by Yasuhiko Hayashi (2001 Fine Art graduate from the Kyoto City University of Arts) and Yusuke Nakano (a Nihonga [Japanese-style painting] graduate from the same university). Their title comes from the combination of the words, “Paradise” and “model”, and the fusion of these two concepts is essentially the launching point of their creations. Although the unique talents and interests of these two individuals hardly ever intersect, they manage to work in parallel towards the same vision of constructing intricate models of Paradise using toy parts, like plastic train tracks and mini-cars. Engaging in this poetic, yet paradoxical practice of remodeling paradise, this art unit presents their visions in a variety of media, including installation, objets, animations, painting, sculpture, and photography. –www.azito-art.com/paramodel/

These pieces by Paramodel play on the miniature culture within Japan, the sushi presented on the truck plays on the idea of Kawaii culture within Japan, the need for everything to look cute and sweet.

Go Watanabe

“face (“portrait”) -8″, 2006, digital print, translucent film, light box, h.135 x w.123 x d.20 cm

All featured artists:
Aida Makoto, exonemo, Kaneuji Teppei, Konoike Tomoko, Kusama Yayoi, Murayama Ruriko, Nishiyama Minako, Odani Motohiko, Okazaki Kyoko, Paramodel, Sawa Hiraki, Shimabuku, Takamine Tadasu, Tanaka Koki, Ujino Muneteru, Watanabe Go, Xijing Men (Ozawa Tsuyoshi, Chen Shaoxiong, Gimhongsok), Yanagi Miwa

Section 2
New Media World @ Inter Arts Center

The art of new media has changed the ways in which we view the world. The works that tune into the new possibilities of communication and physical sensibilities are becoming ever important in considering contemporary society; such works take interest in what effect technological development in images and sound has on human sensations. The idea that perceives human relationships, or relationships between human and the environment as fluid, rather than predetermined, could be the driving force behind such developments. The works to be on exhibit in this section encompass a broad range of works, including not only those works that incorporate new technology, but also those that relate to the urban environment, fashion, and objects. – Taken from the online catalogue

some of the exhibited work:

Hiroshi Fuji

 

Hiroshi Fuji’s work looks at consumerism and a culture who chuck out anything that isn’t up to date. His sculptures are made from discarded items, he tries to take unwanted objects and turn them into something interesting. All the parts are childrens toys.

All featured artists:
Atelier Bow-wow, doubleNegatives Architecture, Tsumura Kosuke, Fuji Hiroshi, Ikeda Ryoji, Oshii Mamoru, Yokoyama Yuichi, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)

Section 3
End of the World and Future World @B.T.A.P.

This section touches on the deep-seated apocalyptic world-view in Japanese society and culture, together with the visions for the future that are projected as result. The apocalyptic world-view is shaped by the disintegration of society and the collapse of urban cities, caused by natural disaster, war, and genocide as such, as well as death and the fear of facing death, while the visions for the future are projected in forms of cities in rejuvenation and futuristic cities. Some of the works in this section signify eternity and sustainability in relation to these themes. – taken from the catalogue

some exhibited work

Hatakeyama Naoya

Hatakeyama Naoyas stunning landscapes toggle between the destruction of the world, juxtaposed with landscape photos with no sign of human life, making us think about the beauty of the world, and putting us in the position of imaging a new world.

Yanobe Kenji

– Project Viva Riva – Sutanda
2001 200cm × 200cm × 300cm
aluminum, brass, motors, other monuments (Revival) Play arose from the “ruins of the future.” Work was born doll suit atom was picked up in the ruins of the nursery of Chernobyl, the sun that had been painted on the wall has become a group. Doll rises senses radiation 20 times, objects located beyond the line of sight of the sun shine at the same time. Stand up on two legs is also a big step in the process of human growth and human evolution.

Tomoko Yoneda

An End is A Beginning – Tokyo, , JP – 2008-09-12 until 2008-11-30

Tomoko Yoneda’s photographs of an end is seem less kitsch and colourful as some of the work in the exhibition, however it’s message is strong. Unless accompanied by it’s title the photo holds no real connection to the idea of a new world, but with the title we imagine we have reached an end of a story, perhaps a family or couple fleeing to the new world after a long series of events.

All featured artists:
Fujihata Masaki, Hatakeyama Naoya, Miyajima Tatsuo, Miyamoto Ryuji, Ohmaki Shinji, Urasawa Naoki, Yanobe Kenji, Yoneda Tomoko

The exhibition as a whole

There is no doubt that this exhibition would have been one worth seeing. Rarely are so many forms of art in one place, the interesting idea is that all artists work is based along the idea of a Beautiful New world, but each result is completely different, and that the repetitive use of a new world narrative within Manga has a big enough influence and has become such a big part of japanese pop culture that many artists are using it as their influence for work.

 

Depicting a journey

The key to depicting a journey is not through the strength of 1 image, but a series of images. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Nan Goldin

‘Gilles and Gotscho’

I use this series a lot in my research projects, but thats because it’s impact has never worn off. When depicting a journey Nan Goldin has such an intimate relationship with not only the people but her photos that they immerse you in the Journey she is experiencing, even if she isn’t in the photos.

As individual images they are still powerful, but as a series they grip the audience in a different way. Much like a book make you wants to turn the next page, Goldins work makes you want to see more. We become involved in the journey of these two men and feel emotional attached to them

This is an example of an emotional journey, for the purposes of my project I am now going to look at a series of physical journey images.

Paul Graham

‘A1 – The great north road’

We looked at this series in photo book club last year. It’s a series of images taken between 1981 and 1982 of people and places on the A1. Paul Graham the photographer spent a lot of his childhood travelling up and down the A1 so this project is very personal to him. The A1 is considered to be the back bone of the UK, connecting the north and the south. They places along the A1 however aren’t taken notice of, they are temporary stop off points for truck drivers and families.

As a series it makes me stop and think about all these places I have driven past and never taken a moment to stop and reflect. And although the series was made before I was born, I know I have been to places like this recently. Making these photos timeless, they depict a place which never expands, it is always there just doing it’s job, which in todays society is quite refreshing a comforting to see.

PHOTOSENSE day 2

Another day of trying to establish PHOTOSENSE as it’s own brand and we have all written at least one post on each of the senses we are exploring, sight, sound and touch. We have already gained one wordpress follower too, and our twitter is ever growing. We are going to treat the blog as a hub for all the information we gather, a collective research blog which will later be edited down and re-presented as a radio show/ a series of shows. Have a look at the new blog posts from today which explore a wide variety of topics.

Another feature we added was the category selection at the top, allowing readers to choose their area of interest.