Currently reading: Mike Kelley – The Uncanny (2004) Verlag der Buchhandlung WalterKőnig, published on occasion of The Uncanny exhibition at Tate Liverpool 20 February – 3 May 2004.
In The Uncanny exhibition (originally produced for Sonsbeek 93, reproduced for Tate Liverpool in 2004), Mike Kelley takes on the role of artist as curator, or “Sunday-curator” as Kelley denotes in the 1993 exhibition text Playing with Dead Things (p.38).
Freud defined the uncanny as not belonging to the domain of the psychological but unambiguously as a category of the aesthetic and as the over-accentuation of physical reality in comparison with material reality. (John C Welchman – On The Uncanny in Visual Culture p.57). In the introductory text: “The power of these works derived from an eerie feeling of recognition, which Freud defined as the essence of the uncanny: “A hidden, familiar thing that has undergone repression than emerged from it.” The impulse to collect is described by Freud as “repetition-compulsion” in the unconscious mind. It is the conscious recognition of this familiar but repressed compulsion that produces the feeling of the uncanny.” (p.10)
Kelley refers to his collections as Harems: “A term used to describe a fetishist’s accumulation of objects, which are generally alike in character.” (p.9) “The Harems are not fixed or finite – items are added to or subtracted from them depending on their usage (things break or are lost, etc). […] The fluid nature of the Harems’ definition reveals the fact that their specific makeup is not crucial to this project.” (p.11) The Harems are of varied size and importance. “Most of this stuff is utterly mundane – the everyday crap that fills the house.” (p.12)
“For Baudrillard the fatal “indifference” or signifying systems predicated a simulation developed from a crucial point of origin in the use of the commodity economy and the exchange of mass-produced objects – that cascade of “identical objects”, as he termed them, “produced in infinite series.” Baudrillard outlines the commencement of the ambiguousness of nullifying effects he will later elaborate as simulation in L’Echange symbolique et la mort” (p.86, Gallimard, Paris, 1986) (cited by John C Welchman – On The Uncanny in Visual Culture, p.48)
John C Welchman: “The relation between them [identical objects] is no longer that of an original to counterfeit. The relation is neither analogy nor reflection but equivalence and indifference. In a series, objects become undefined simulacra of each other. […] We know now that on the level of reproduction, of fashion media, advertising, information and communication (what Marx called the unessential sectors of capitalism), that is to say in the sphere of the simulacra and the code, that the global process of capital is held together.”
“The marvelous is not the same in every period of history: it partakes in some obscure way of a sort of general revelation only the fragments of which come down to us: they are the romantic ruins, the modern mannequin, or any other symbol capable of affecting the human sensibility for a period of time.” André Breton – Manifesto of Surrealism (1924) (cited p.52)