concept of the ‘uncanny’ is one of the most floating in contemporary aesthetics. The ‘uncanny’ delineates a strange
proximity between the known and the unknown, either as something
familiar presenting itself under an extraneous shape, or as something
extraneous revealing an element of familiarity in its features.
Structurally close to other experiences of
‘defamiliarization’ theorized between the 19th and the
early 20th centuries (e.g., the Marxist notion of 'alienation', Russian
formalists’ definition of ostranenie [Sklovskij],
Brecht’s ‘A-effect’), it reverberates in 20th century
debate, from psychoanalysis (Lacan) to deconstruction (Derrida, Royle),
from literary theory (Todorov, Cixous, Kristeva) to philosophy of
history (de Certeau), and eventually to architecture (Vidler). In our
perspective, the tension individuated by Freud between
familiarity/un-familiarity (homely/unhomely, Heimlichkeit/Unheimlichkeit)
can still be used as an approximate framework in which to place the
manifold aspects of uncanniness. Specifically, the semantic area of the
intended as the perimeter of familiarity) can be interpreted as a
‘semiotic code’, namely as a constellation of sign
relationships defining a horizon of expectation in which interactions,
causes, and effects, seem to follow a series of rules. From this point
of view, the uncanny is related to scientific paradigms and
epistemological practices, insofar as these define what a given
cultural context interprets as natural or un-natural, or rather super-natural.
two keywords of our proposal, ‘techniques’ and
‘uncanny’, are interconnected, since they both refer
to a common cultural background, that of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment western culture.
The epistemological model of
critique produces a number of techniques in the sense of both
structured thought and scientific practices. In the ‘culture of
critique’, the subject is split, as reflected in the double
genitive in the expression ‘subject of observation’. This
causes a constant abstraction from individual experience to a common
and collective level.
therefore propose to interpret the uncanny as a model for understanding
the interrelation between possible and impossible, norm and deviation.
This conference is organized within the frame of theBerlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry’s current core projectTension/Spannung, in collaboration with theFriedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies,
Freie Universität Berlin. It aims to gather scholars and artists from
different disciplines and backgrounds to engage in a three-day
interdisciplinary workshop, where participants are expected to present
their papers (15 minutes). Texts will circulate among attendants before
the beginning of the workshop, in order to build up a basis for discussion. The workshop will be complemented by two public
keynote addresses and the screening of The Dangers, a movie bySiouxzi L Mernagh, followed by a discussion.
events are public. We kindly ask those interested in attending the workshops to register in advance by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.