Click on the image to view the post!
The Multiple eXposure Project

<<< the multiple exposure project >>>

home what we do projects texts network contact
The Multiple eXposure Project is a multimedia, multi/trans/inter-disciplinary artistic practice and research-based initiative that explores the many layers of image-making, participatory photography, visual ethnography, and performative encounter(s) between the image and the spectator; the subject and the viewer. As what the name of the project implies, this endeavor is profoundly interested in the notions of the “multiple” and the “exposure” both in their literal and symbolic sense.

Firstly, The Multiple eXposure Project seeks to examine the multiple potentials of image-making or photography (digital and analogue; still and moving) as a medium, a performance, and an instrument of social engagement and (ex)change, and the overlapping of it with other disciplines. As part of its exploration, this project involves a series of visual, photographic or lens-based workshops in collaboration with non-profit, grassroots volunteer groups. The concept of the multiple is also applied under the framework of collaborative work – of bring together multiple individuals with multiple philosophies into a plurality of shared experiences.

Secondly, The Multiple eXposure Project is equally drawn to the idea of “exposure” (subjection, experience, vulnerability, coverage, documentation, and so on) in the process of socially-engaged image-making that exposes what needs to be exposed; clarifies the obscure; and concerns itself with a gamut of critical questions and discursive issues of representation.

Through image-making, we aim to expose and get exposed.

Public Interrogation: Outside the White Cube (December 1-31, 2015)

Public Interrogation: Outside the White Cube
Organized by The Multiple eXposure Project
Location: Public Spaces, Metro Manila, Philippines
Date: December 1-31, 2015

December 1-2 (8pm-10pm): EDSA Avenue cor. Kamuning Rd. Quezon City
December 5 (7pm-9pm): Ayala-Paseo Pedestrian Underpass, Makati City
December 13 (6pm-7pm): Alabang-Montillano Footbridge, Muntinlupa

Click here to view the Catalogue:

Public Interrogation: Outside the White Cube is an alternative, traveling, curatorial project that features image-based works across different disciplines and media by emerging artists whose works discuss the notion of the “public” and its complexities.

What is public? What counts as public? The “public” is a multi-layered concept defined differently depending on how the term is used and framed. It is a notion devoid of singularity and is, grammatically speaking, a terrain of contradictions. As a noun and an adjective, the public constitutes the people, masses or community, and suggests anything that is staged, accessed, or seen out in the “open.” The public can also be used as a verb to describe something one does, as in make public or publicize, suggesting the movement or shift from the inside (private) to the outside (public). Paradoxically, however, the same term also points to the limits of such openness and movement. Given that it simultaneously refers to something “involving and provided by the government”, the public is always at risk of becoming merely an apparatus of the sovereign state and its institutions, thus making the flow of its production, distribution, and consumption partial and counterproductive.

Public Interrogation: Outside the White Cube seeks to re-frame the practice of curating and spectating images outside the exclusionary, institutional borders of the “white cube” or gallery space. Public spaces are used as an exhibition site to stimulate a mode of spectator experience that revolves around displacement of the passersby (public) from their “habitus” by interrupting the flow of pedestrian traffic. We alter a familiar public space and transform it into an unusual, dialogic site for image projection and exhibition, taking advantage of its accessibility and site-specificity in order to redefine the ways the spectators look at and engage with images. Adopting “guerilla urbanism” as a curatorial strategy, we make sense of the immediacy of the “public” and reflect upon its context, meanings, and intersections with representation, place, and discourse. In so doing, we intervene and reformat aspects of the urban landscapes and emphasize the “counter-spectacle” in art viewing and appreciation. This project also underlines the inherent ephemerality of an open-to-the-public display in relation to time and space. As a “traveling” exhibition which heavily depends on projection technology and public space as its “frame” or “canvas", this project celebrates the momentary nature of image-viewing, consumption, and mobility in the metropolis at a time of constant flux and transition.

List of Works and Artists:

Video Arts
Borders - Anne Murray (USA)
The Separation Loop - Leyla Rodriguez (Germany)
Gnomonicity - Amitesh Grover (India)
36&71 - Anthony Stephenson (USA)
Sully - Marbella Carlos (Canada)
You See Davis - Rembrandt Quiballo (Philippines, USA)
Untitled (Sleeping People in a Train) - Hannah Reber (Germany)
Into the labyrinth - Geordy Zodidat Alexis (France)
The Safest of Hands - Clint Sleeper (USA)
Hunt/Find - Dani Salvadori (UK)
Leaving My Skin - Ellen Wetmore (UK)
Presence of Absence - Matt Lee (India)
Untitled – Mohammad Namazi (UK, Iran)

Still Images / Photographs
Right Time Right Place - Robert Rutoed (Austria)
Peripheral Strangers - Julie Dawn Dennis (UK)
De Staat (The State) - Maarten Tromp (Netherlands)
Ruinophilia - Anna Garrett (UK)
Circling the Square - Arturo Soto (Mexico)
The Spectator, the Viewer, the Observer and the Perceiver – Francine LeClercq (USA)
Magic Rooms - Carlos Collado (Spain)
Date of Consumption - Lita Poliakova
Street Photography - John Robert Luna (Philippines)
Walls - Elena Efeoglou (Greece)
Fitting Room – Megan Mace (South Africa)
Street art you can take home (for free) - Lorenzo Bordonaro (Portugal)
Victim – Solomon Eko (Nigeria)

Performance Videos / Public Interventions
Balloon Performance - Louise Winter (UK)
Somarts Mural Dance - Johanna Poethig (USA)
Unpatentable Multitouch Aerobics - Liat Berdugo (USA)
Disclaimer at Manchester Art Gallery - Laura Gower (UK)
Sustaintability – Dani Lamorte and Veronica Bleaus (USA)

Animations / Digital
Job Interview - Dénes Ruzsa and Fruzsina Spitzer (Hungary)
In Between - Sofia Makridou, Theodora Prassa (Greece)
Decadence of Nature - Olga Guse (Russia)
AsianGirl N40°42'54.488" W73°59'30.313" - Victoria Elle, Rocky Li, and Jennifer Mehigan (USA)

Get Featured in our Blog!
We are currently expanding the content of our blog and we would like to feature multidisciplinary/multimedia artists, photographers, image-makers, visual artists, performers, and so on, their portfolio, artistic practice, and research interests. The feature section serves as a virtual, archival gallery and a platform for free promotion. This call is open to all artists – individuals or groups; amateur or professional – anywhere in the world.

If you think your works are relevant to The Multiple eXposure Project, send your artist statement, sample of your portfolio, photos, videos, press releases, and other related materials to

Moving Still: The Multiple eXposure Project Zine 2.0

The sophomore issue of The Multiple eXposure Project zine has been uploaded! You can read the e-zine at ISSUU or download the PDF version HERE.

New media and video artists included in the publication are as follows:

Jessica Buie / Liat Berdugo / Laura Hyunjhee Kim / Nicola Hands / Tony Radin Jacobs / (c) merry / Talia Link / Justin Zachary / Adrian Errico / Matteo Pasin / Jean-Michel Rolland / Manasak Khlongchainan / Boris Contarin / Hüseyin Çife / Suman Kabiraj / Patrick Moser / Francesca Fini / Aaron Oldenburg / Benjamin Grosser/ You Qi / Dénes Ruzsa / Fruzsina Spitzer / Fran et Jim / Amelia Johannes / Heidi C. Neubauer-Winterburn / Jess, Lau Ching Ma / Scott F. Hall / Eleni Manolaraki / Elise Frost Harrison Banfield Jack Rees / Daehwan Cho / Wu Siou Ming / Masako Ono / Bárbara Oettinger

Editor's Note:
By Sherwin Altarez Mapanoo

I n this sophomore issue of the Multiple eXposure Project zine,“Moving Still”, we feature a heterogeneous breed of new media and video artists whose experimental and provocative works emphasize the potency of “videos” or “moving images” in the exploration and expansion of self-representation in the discursive flow of transmission and mediation – from the screen to the spectator; and the perceptive to the conceptual.

Selected artists here make use of the “screen” as medium and performance space. By displaying, curating, and performing in front of the screen, self-image-formation is enacted while relying on playful encounter with unknown spectators in order to weave different webs of interpretation. In this regard, the screen operates as an intermediary in the artist’s performance that brings connections to identities, personal narratives, history, everyday politics, and imaginaries.

The symbiotic relationship between the screen and the subject cultivates the construction of an image or spectacle that is consumed – temporally and spatially - in a doubling of intermediation. They deflect and reflect a plethora of shifting, hybrid pretexts about ourselves within the digital ecology where the delineating lines between the public and the private; the human and the mechanical; and the material and the virtual boundaries become blurred.

Given their hyperreal structure, these video performances, visual interventions, and recorded choreographies trigger a mode of mediated encounter that heavily manipulates moments of reality – of space and time. Intimacy and presence are concomitantly altered as these pieces can be incessantly scrutinized by the gaze of many anonymous viewers floating in the digital currents, allowing us to re-locate the individual and re-think about the concept of selfhood more fluidly.

Self-as-Subject: The Multiple eXposure Project Zine 1.0

We are pleased to announce that the very first issue of the Multiple eXposure Project zine is now accessible online! You can read the e-zine at ISSUU or download the PDF version HERE. Feel free to share!

Below is the list of contributors (artists and writers) included in the publication:

J.D. Doria / Dr. Sayfan Giulia Borghini / Aldobranti / Olga Sidilkovskaya / Ana Rita Matias / Anne Paternotte / Rudi Rapf / Leigh Anthony Dehaney / Laura Knapp / Jennifer van Exel / Derya Edem / Arushee Agrawal / Utami Dewi Godjali / Çağlar Uzun / Mahmoud Khattab / Noel Villa / Dawn Woolley / Teresa Ascencao / Kalliope Amorphous / Katrina Stamatopoulos / Gaspard Noël / Florian Tenk / Petra Brnardic / Sana Ghobbeh / Alonso Tapia-Benitez / Libby Kay Hicks / Agent X / Rina Dweck / Yoko Haraoka / Claire Manning / Pietro Catarinella / Anne Beck / Gabriel Orlowski / Ralph Klewitz / Anthony Hall / Alessandro Martorelli / Robin Gerris / Carol Radsprecher / Veronica Hassell / Daniela Olejnikov / Jayson Carter / Nathaniel St. Amour / Jonathan Armistead / Piotr Boćkowski

Editor's Note:
By Sherwin Altarez Mapanoo

"Who are you?” “Who am I?” “Who do I think I am?” “What am I made of?” There is nothing simple about such inquiries as they pose a number of phenomenological and ontological issues.

To ask yourself or someone about self-definition is to deal with its vicissitudes and fluidities, oscillating between the ego and the alter ego; the naturalistic (Hume) and the metaphysical (Kant); and the reflexive perception of one’s body and the relational introspection with the “Other.” The self is, arguably and fundamentally, a complicated subject matter. It is an ever-evolving object, a corporeal being, an affective body, a precarious entity, a discursive phenomenon, and so forth.

Divided into three interrelated chapters, this zine features oeuvres by artists and writers from different localities around the world and, as what its theme implies, is an exploration of the “self” and its manifold permutations – its presence, identity, representation, liminality, and (dis)embodiment - in this day and age of digitality, hypermobility, and hyperreality.

In Chapter 1, The Self as I/Other, authors reflect on the dialectics between the ego and the alter ego and the multitude of ways the “self-as-subject” is defined by both internal and external contingencies, or philosophically speaking, by the binaries – “I” vs. “not-I.” Many of these selected pieces are visibly entangled with the act of self-mirroring, which is inherently reflective and performative: it involves the constitution of subjectivities based on visual imaginary reflected on the mirror that does not necessarily resemble the complex structures of the material body. What I highlight here is the notion of self-perception (internal) in relation to one’s experiences and the (external) world. As Anthony Giddens puts it, “A person's identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor - important though this is - in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual's biography…cannot be wholly fictive. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing 'story' about the self.” (54).

In Chapter 2, The Fetishized Self, we see interconnected self-representations that examine the convergence of idiosyncratic fantasies with the phantasmagoria as an offshoot of the fetishized commodity. When I refer to the term, phantasmagoria, I emphasize the volatile strings of imaginations through which the public and the private dimension of identity becomes obscured, blurring the demarcating lines between reality and fantasy. This section functions as a provocation of the fetishization of self and the centrality of the individual as authority. Through role-playing, the self, as a fetish object imbued with power and discourse, becomes an agency displaying and interrogating the politics of gender, sexuality, identity, and bodily desire.

Finally, in Chapter 3, The Fragmented Self, the fragmentation of identity framed within the digital, virtual, or hyperreal context is explored. Featured works here represent the various modes the anonymity, simulation, multiplicity, and control in data superhighway allow the transformation of the self into fragmented, hybrid subjects. The concept of “self-fragmentation” also revolves around the nature of post-modernism: the absence of absolute truth and the presence of disembodied self.

Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity, 1991.

Featured Artists
Click on the image to view the post.

The Art of Imitation: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joseph Roach, and the Uncanny

By Sanjita Majumder

Essay originally posted in:

The article uses a conversational interview between June Stein and Philip Seymour Hoffman published in the BOMB Magazine, spring edition 2008. The essay highlights some intimate revelations of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s approach to acting and directing using as road-map Joseph Roach’s book, The Players Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting.


Excerpts from the article, a conversation between June Stein an actress, and lecturer at the film department of the Columbia School of Arts and Philip Seymour Hoffman has been reproduced in parts to develop ideas on acting. PSH (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has a number of versatile films to his credit was both as actor and director. On the morning of 2 February 2014, PSH died of a heroin overdose. The Guardian reported that 46-year-old Hoffman was found clad in underwear, lying on the bathroom floor with a needle in his left arm.

BOMB Magazine that published the artist-in-conversation article was established in 1981. It is an archival forum that aims at recording in-depth conversations of artists by pairing them on basis of relevance of their work to each another. The artist-in-conversation facilitates and promotes a dialogue between practice and theory of art. Choosing a research subject that alternates between practicing and theorizing ‘acting’ should begin with a definite acknowledgement of the limitations of constructing any kind of overpass between these dichotomous views of—active and subjective ‘practice’ v/s passive and objective ‘theory’. The interview begins with June Stein posing a question to PSH on how being an ‘actor’ articulates or translates into becoming the ‘director’ of a film? In some sense, Steins’ simple question about the nature of inter-exchange between the two roles (actor/director) provides the much anticipated momentum for our reflections on the application of a theoretical possibility of acting onto a subjective embodied experience of playing a role on stage/screen.

The theme of this text on PSH and Joseph Roach remains circulating between the triad of—(a) the Cartesian mind/body paradigm, applied to (b) the paradigm of the actor/director functions, directed toward the larger dichotomy of (c) practices v/s theories. Can the dualities in some measure be eliminated in the suggestion that one habituate in-between liminal spaces. Can one suggest that habituating the in-between otherness requires a certain disposition or perhaps even a commitment to the vulnerability? The vulnerability and danger inherent in occupying a zone of discomfort like the eternal migrant shuttling through transits zones, transfixed in perpetual discomfort and un-belonging. June Stein points out in the interview, ‘that the machinery of the human being will do anything it can to stay comfortable. It takes a certain amount of consciousness to commit to taking the risk of remaining in an uncomfortable place (italics for emphasis)’. An excerpt from the dialogue shows a parallelism Stein draws between this uncomfortable place of uncertainty and John Keats illustrations of ‘negative capability’. Stein mentions this in passing and it is quickly buried in PSH continuing his theory about the uncomfortable place of uncertainty.

Screenshot, Philip Seymour Hoffman by June Stein for BOMB Magazine.

Stein who otherwise sticks with lesser metaphysical concepts and more scientific models like that of the ‘mirror neurons’ also draws the reader’s attention to an article published in Dialog, the newsletter of Philoctetes Centre. The article based on the science of mirror neurons points out the reason behind activating an empathetic response in the audience. Mirroring in audiences is triggered only if the actor is experiencing an emotional state authentically. In response to this PSH's comment is that the audience/spectator just like the actor prefer to inhabit a space of certainty, hence the instinctive attempt to avoid experiencing a distressing emotion and the preference for more cerebrally challenging work. To which, June Stein adds that the prime task of the actor is to remain committed to the risk involved in remaining with the uncertainty of experiencing distressing emotions. Recently upon reading Stanislavsky’s Creating a Role, I encountered a similar idea about the actor’s task of harnessing and analyzing feeling– ‘The second stage in the great preparatory period is the process of analysis … The analysis made by an artist is quite different from one made by a scholar or a critic. If the result of scholarly analysis is thought, the result of artistic analysis is feeling. An actor’s analysis is first of all an analysis of feeling, and it is carried out by feeling. (7)

This integration of the scientificity of mirror neurons and the precision of machine like training regimen that the actor’s body/mind endures in order to channel feelings into role-playing or acting is the central thematic of the text here. The central question that rises throughout the text seeks to probe the very (im) possibility of molding intangible feelings and emotions into an instrument of analysis. Considering the body is viewed akin to a machine enduring or internalizing the methods of physical transformation using various actor-training techniques like method acting, at what point (historically and conceptually speaking) does the study of acting begin to conceive of emotions as an entity divorced from the subjectivity of the subject. At what point does the intangibility of emotions become an objective tangible body of knowledge– a set of organized theories about acting that go on to becoming guidelines or manuals for practicing artists. Here my resistance and attraction both stem from an inherent contradiction in this idea, that the most uncontrollable and intangible aspect of human behavior, such as emotions and passions can be controlled and mechanized through scientific laws.

In The Players Passion, Joseph Roach maps the historical relations between the objective sciences and theories of acting and the body. In the preface, Roach elaborates how the philosophical and scientific issues that brought into focus, relations between the mind and body that have always been crucial to any inquiry concerning the fate of the actor. It was conducted through the study of the actor’s use of ‘movement, gestures, characterization, motivation, concentration, imagination and memory.’ (13) Look at Roach’s explanation regarding the aim of research in The Players Passion- "I want to demonstrate how the revolutionary achievements of eighteenth century theory, outstandingly those of Denis Diderot, seemed to promise answers … by approaching the actor’s body as a physical instrument, like a piano or a clock, whose capacities and limitations can be objectively analyzed and whose mind and body comprise a material continuum, subject to physical laws in its entirety." (13) So far, The Players Passion is a historical narrative that explores documentations of material and tangible feelings and emotions in the instruction manuals for learning the art of acting. Roach’s text is a testimony to the relation between acting and science in European history, one that documents and projects an objective, mechanized, and exteriorized expression of passions and emotions that ran parallel to the scientific/medical inventions that were born in same era. Roach highlights these concrete mechanized themes in relation to the actor and her body from the previous centuries.

Jean Ganière, engraver, 17th century "Boy With Vertical Flute"

For instance, while deliberating upon the application of post-Cartesian science onto acting techniques Roach mentions Aaron Hill’s analogy between the actor’s body and a stringed acoustic instrument. ‘The passions are . . . what the keys are in a harpsichord. If they are aptly or skillfully touched, they will vibrate their different notes to the heart and awaken the music of humanity (Prompter, no.64, 80)’ (104). Further Roach reflects on this analogy between the actor’s body and a stringed instrument as one that originates from the revision of ‘acoustic’ model of the human nervous system favored in the eighteenth century medical sciences. Conceptually, the seventeenth century model of the nervous system stressed on the principle of ‘hydraulics’ or the ‘pneumatic push of animal spirit through hollow tubes.’(104) Whereas, the eighteenth century model emphasized how the nervous system was comprised of solid bodies and strings that worked by transmitting vibrations. In Roach’s view, ‘seventeenth century authors (of acting manuals) favored images of bodily and vocal eloquence based on wind or brass instruments, those in the eighteenth century showed a decided preference for strings— violins or harpsichord.’ (105) We see the medical sciences depict the human nervous system using musical instruments— those that emit and weave together different variations of sound to evoke feelings. While acting theories corresponding to its times also began to depict the intangibility of passions by adopting the hydraulic model from hollow tubes to vibrating strings in resonant spaces. In a manner, Roach’s methodological approach towards acting techniques depicted as metaphor of various medical discourses also serves to illustrate the continuous draining of the concept of acting from any subjective content towards more mechanized models of industrial and technological progress. This occurs till the subjectivity of the actor wholly disappears from view shifting focus wholly onto mechanized models of acting, like that of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s bio-mechanic etudes that seek to maximize the utility of the actor. Yet, the excluded subjectivity of the actor re-appears in the content or thematic of these performed expressions. The content always expresses the irrational forces of the disappearing body of passion and feelings. The return of the irrational feelings that once concretely embedded in melodramatic acting becomes the actor’s mastery over the body as a rational and controllable instrument creating art. At which horizon does the balancing act occur, where the disappearing subject meets the instrumental object to fall into a polyphonic state? Raja Rao who spend ten years in exile from France (1930-40) wrote in a letter to Ivar Ivasak (editor of World Literature Today) — "I write this letter to you, at the hour of dusk, the auspicious hour, because it is non-dual, and therefore transcendent: the moment when the day and night do not meet, but leave a depth of silence, and so the edge of sound, lingering towards its origins. It's a noble hour because it affirms the unnameable." (1988) Similarly, one keeps an eye out for these dusks, these noble hours that appear in some fracture of time reconciling a long clash between the rational and irrational. As PSH pointed out in his interview— it is all a matter of negotiating effectively between an objective and subjective approaches. To quote PSH ‑‘ As a director, you watch other actors and you see yourself . . . You have a very strong, objective sense of what the actor’s going through, because you’re an actor. You know that they’re subjective, in the moment, and that, up to a certain point, as bright and as talented as they could be, they’re very unaware (unconscious).’

Marvin Carlson at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.

In PSH’s interview a space for reflecting on these distinction between subjective (actor) and objective (spectator) does emerge at some point. Especially how the two are theoretically conceived—first, in PSH’s acting method there aren’t any clear distinguishable boundaries between the actors’ own subjective emotions and emotions portrayed by the character in the act of performing. In the sense, no logic or laws can distinguish how the actor uses his own pool of subjective emotions to animate the character that he/she is portraying. As PSH explains that the actor can perhaps distinguish that the character he is playing rarely behaves like he himself would in a given situation, but in the process of acting he cannot remain separate or even disparate in the objective view on his character. This is because the actor needs to inhabit the character in all its other-ness of emotions /passions/feelings. Even if the emotions and passions are alien to him he must co-inhabit the mental space of the character to embody it. PSH is drawing attention to this when he mentions that, ‘When I’m acting, I’m less aware’ indicating the self-effacement of subjectivity in the act of inhabiting other-ness.

Thus in practice, the theoretical distinctions of ‘actor’, ‘spectator’ and ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ aren’t easily separable from one another. But in the instance of PSH, where the ‘actor’ and ‘director’ are both encapsulated within the same person there emerges a highly challenging view on practicing the habitation of contradictions and uncertain spaces. These contradictions always give an opportunity to expand: PSH elaborates that as a director the objectivity required to create is largely acquired from his own subjective experience further as an actor the subjectivity is further sub-divided and broken down to a smaller subjective component— ‘You (can) watch other actors and you see yourself.’ This “yourself” that you see in others allows you to reflect on your own subjective experiences that improves your skill as the creator/director. Yet I don’t want to indicate that PSH himself is the locus (loci) of the subjective and objective, the meeting grounds for understand the role of the actor and director. It is just articulation that PSH successfully manages to draw forth in the conversation with June Stein to represent the turmoil of playing a difficult role.

Sigmund Freud described on the feature of ‘haunting’ an essay on The Uncanny as early as the first half of the twentieth century. The concept of The Uncanny (1919) based on an earlier theorization of The Unconscious (1915) where in Freud described the ‘uncanny’ as ‘that species of frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar [to the subject].’(124) Freud investigates the conditions on which the ‘familiar’ turns into the uncanny or frightful through the etymological roots of the German equivalent for uncanny, i.e. Unheimlich. In this essay Freud concludes that the word Unheimlich, derives from Heimlich, which is a sort-of antonym for the same. The etymological meaning of Heimlich varies between tame (i.e. not wild), belonging to the family (domestic sphere, familiar, tranquil etc.). While the second etymological derivate of the word ‘heimlich’ hints at an underlying idea that something is concealed, kept hidden, secrecy and mystery. According to Freud, unheimlich is an event that occurs only in encapsulating the clause of hidden-ness existent in Heimlich that is through the second meaning of heimlich where unheimlich no longer remains an antonym or the opposite of heimlich. In other words, when the unheimlich observes an additional characteristic of re-appearance to the appearance of what was hidden. Here, the signifier ‘unheimlich’ takes over the signifier ‘heimlich’ I by adding a reiterative quality to it. At this juncture, heimlich and unheimlich no longer remain opposites (antonyms) but the meaning of both signifiers becomes ambivalent as they merge into each another. If an equation could be formulated for this concept, it would be described as, Unheimlich = Re-appearance + Heimlich, this exemplifies that it is the ‘re-appearance’ that both distinguishes and holds together the variable of ‘heimlich’ and ‘unheimlich’. Therefore, Unheimlich is never the same event as the heimlich, and even in the process of reiteration it is a new event that remembers the old one.

In theatre, the concept of haunting can be found in Marvin Carlson’s The Haunted Stage that draws attention to the material aspect of recycling and reproduction within theatrical production. According to Carlson, the restorative/reiterativeprinciple of theatre also lends it a quality of the ‘most haunted of human cultural structures.’ (2) Carlson goes on to coin the term ‘ghosting’ as the phenomenon of haunting specific to theatre. In the text Carlson regularly emphasized that his interest in developing the apparatus of ‘ghosting’ to view theatre alongside its inherent potential as the most haunted of cultural memories, attempts not just to view theatrical representation of re-writing/re-constructing history through textual and literal interpretation of dramatic works but in a manner also attempts to encompass the material aspects of performance such as the actors’ body – ‘ When we move from dramatic text to its physical realization in the theatre, the operation of memory upon reception become even more striking. . . Often these memories [pertaining to the actors body] have been consciously utilized by theatre culture, but, even when they are not, they may well continue to operate affecting reception in powerful unexpected ways.’(8) The unconscious reception of the actor’s body in relation to live-performances provides good point of entry into plotting co-ordinates between the idea of ‘ghosting’ in theatrical productions and Freud’s conceptualization of ‘The Unconscious’, which manifests itself in consciousness only through a symptomatic embodiment of repetitive acts.

If the Uncanny or haunting signals at the interstice between re-appearance and what was previously concealed or hidden, then it largely refers to what has yet-remained unconscious but has the potential to be brought out into the light of consciousness. For if in the Freudian view the Unconscious represented a reservoir for all that which has been concealed from the subject’s consciousness due to ‘repression’, in the Uncanny there appears a dread of the re-appearance of what was once familiar to the dreading subject. In Fixation upon Traumas: The Unconscious, Freud went on to uncover that there was a connecting link between the repetitive act and the point where the subject has remained fixated in his/her unconscious because of a traumatic experience. Freud credits Joseph Breuer for this and emphasized that trauma and its repetitive symptomatic act are interchangeable. To quote Breuer ‘not merely is the meaning of the symptom invariably unconscious; there also exists a connection of substitutive nature between the two’ (560). Freud argued that psychoanalysis worked precisely within the domain of the interchangeable nature of the repetitive acts (symptoms) and the unconscious activity. Thus forwarding the hypothesis, that for psychoanalytic cure to occur, the analysand must discover the hitherto unrealized connection between his/her symptomatic repetitive act and the antecedent fixation on trauma in their unconscious, which has so far remained hidden (through repression) from their consciousness.

PSH touches upon this, maybe diffusedly when he elaborates the necessity of inhabiting spaces of uncertainty especially when the actor begins to invest his/her own emotionally subjectivity into playing the role of the character that is being performed. He emphasizes that the actors first instinct is to make himself feel comfortable to which June Stein adds that this is just a ‘security blanket’ and PSH continues that ‘eventually something will settle in or the actor will find something out in the moment and they’ll go.’ PSH explains that as the actor repeatedly practices portraying the character he/she is enacting two things can happen; either ‘something will settle’ as a successful performing of what the character demands or ‘the actor will find something out’. In the case the latter occurs, PSH indicates that an uncovering of something unpleasant or the re-appearance of something that is at once familiar and frightening occurs, in keeping with the Unheimlich. PSH adds that ‘the more talented people are, the more clever that they become about trying to map the story in such a way that they don’t actually have to experience it. They know the little price that will be paid each night they have to do it.’ In this case, the actor cannot successfully maintain and objective distance from the character as far as his subjective use of emotions and memory is concerned, a kind of slippage occurs.

A mid 20th-century stage dramatization of the Sandman by E. T. A. Hoffman.

Interestingly, Freud also argued that the subject cannot himself/herself derive the connecting link between their own trauma (past) and its repeated re-appearance (present) of the symptom because of the barrier of their own subjectivity; the connecting link can be observed by an ‘objective’ outsider, namely the analyst who then proceeded to bring it forth into the consciousness of the subject. What distinguishes the symptomatic re-appearance of a traumatic event from the appearance of a “Ghost” is essentially the association of haunting with the re-appearance of a dead object. It is essentially the state of ambiguity between ‘animate-ness’ and ‘inanimate-ness’ that allots the re-appearing object a spectral quality.
In the Specters of Marx Derrida alludes to this inherent polarity between ‘the living’ and ‘the dead’ abridged in the form of spectral appearances. In the Preface to this text on the spectrality of Marx in modern democratic societies Derrida adds that, ‘what happens between the two, and between all “two’s” one likes, such as between life and death, can only maintain itself with some ghosts, can only talk with or about some ghosts.’ and thus any reflection on history, cultural inheritance and memory can only address itself to and in turn be addressed by specters. Derrida speaks in the context of Marxism but the conceptual device resonates with the same dimensions of haunting, repetition, re-appearances, and ghosts. To conclude this piece, after all the re-visitations and digressions with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the method of acting he subscribed to was an emotionally charged art form that eludes literary/textual or even archival representation because of the ephemerality of the lived experience. The process of creating something wholly through an art form as subjective as acting entails the habitation of uncertainty through consciousness. As PSH went, ‘It’s all risk! Living a life is basically about you entering one situation after another that you may or may not want to enter. Everything has stakes, everything has meaning, everything has consequences….’


Carlson, Marvin. The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine, University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the new International, Trans. Peggy Kamuf, Intr. Bernd Magnus and Cullenberg, Routledge,1994.

Freud, Sigmund, The Uncanny, Trans. David Mclintock, Penguin Books.

Freud, Sigmund. “General Theory of the Neurosis” in The Major Works Of Sigmund Freud, William Benton Publisher, Encyclopedia Brittanica Inc.

Roach, Joseph, The Players Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, University of Michigan Press, 1993.


All content found on this blog © The Multiple eXposure Project unless otherwise stated.
✖ Layout Codes by: Fiffy
✖ Animated Gifs from: Giphy

Free Domain @