Monday, 30 June 2014

Uncanny Fusion: Journey to Mixed-up Files

A true story.

The above autobiographical video UNCANNY FUSION forms part of a piece "of truly subjective, creative film criticism about the spectatorial experience." My accompanying text (from which a short excerpt is given below), was prefaced by a theoretical introduction co-written, in part, with Christian Keathley who also made a video and wrote an autobiographical refection for this work. This work has just been published as 'The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations and videographic film studies' at PHOTOGÉNIE 0, 2014:

After several years of prolifically making video essays about films, of enjoying playing with their particular modes of disclosure and ‘unconcealment’ (as I reflected in a 2014 article), I began to be drawn to using video practice to work through some verbally quite inexplicable (or, at least, difficult to explicate) but recurrent spectatorial experiences.  I started to mine the potential connections between personally charged cinematic moments to test out Mikhail Iampolski’s understanding of how, through the insertion of a ‘“source” of a cinematic figure into a film as its subtext, the intertext can also function as a generative mechanism’ (246).  While Iampolski wasn’t writing about literal forms of ‘insertion’, how better to explore such filmic connections generatively than to remix them using the practices of audiovisual montage?  My earliest experiments, and this impulse, are described in my 2013 essay “Déjà-Viewing? Videographic Experiments in Intertextual Film Studies.”
     I didn’t fully explore in that text why I set out to do this, although I did mention an aspect of my adoption story for the first time in published work. But I was at least partly inspired by an encounter with the written work of Winnicottian psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas, specifically with his book The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known, which is mentioned by Kuhn in her Screen article “Thresholds: Film as Film and the Aesthetic Experience.”  The ‘unthought known’ of Bollas’s title – a deeply resonant concept for me as soon as I came across it, rather like Sprengnether’s notion of the ‘buried metaphors’ by which we live – refers toheretofore inarticulate elements of psychic life’ (210).  Ian Hunt concisely describes this concept as referring to ‘the ways in which individuals may organize their lives around an event or a traumatic pattern of experiencing that, although at some deep level known, can only with difficulty be claimed for conscious thought’. For Bollas, the unthought known can be intuited, inter alia, in the déjà-vu experiences of  ‘aesthetic moments’, occasions during which ‘an individual feels a deep subjective rapport with an object [...] and experiences an uncanny fusion with [it, with the sense] of being reminded of something never cognitively apprehended but existentially known’ (16).  As Ian Woodward and David Ellison write, this kind of experience
is a type of ‘spell’ that holds person and object in symmetry and solitude. In this experience of deep rapport, the person is provided with a feeling of fitting with an object. Bollas notes that this type of experience is often non-verbal, given its location in early childhood experiences [of parenting or ‘environmental’ idioms], and he argues that such experiences are difficult for even adult subjects to articulate precisely because they are reminders of past instances of integration and transformation between subject and object through the qualities of objects. (48)
The sense of uncanny recognition I experienced when I learnt that the unthought known might trigger powerful psycho-somatic aesthetic experiences was what set me off on the path that led to the [above] videographic study.  This video not only attempted to relate the (true) story of just such a (cinematic) aesthetic moment (one of a number that I have experienced in my life).  It actually provided the space and the form, across a production period lasting several years, in which I was able to articulate or, at least, to reproduce what, in the process of editing, I came to understand for the first time about this uncanny experience of connection.
Extract from Catherine Grant's autobiographical text in Catherine Grant and Christian Keathley, 'The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations and videographic film studies', PHOTOGÉNIE 0, 2014. Online at: