“Only rarely does a psycho-analyst feels impelled to engage in aesthetics investigations, even when aesthetics is not restricted to the theory of beauty, but described as relating to the qualities of our feeling. He works in other strata of the psyche and has little to do with the emotional impulses that provide the usual subject matter of aesthetics, impulses that are restrained, inhibited in their aims and dependent on numerous attendant circumstances. Yet now and then it happens that he has to take an interest in a particular area of aesthetics, and then it is usually a marginal one that has been neglected in the specialist literature. One such is the ‘uncanny’. There is no doubt that it belongs to the realm of the frightening, of what evokes fear and dread. It is equally beyond doubt that the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, and so it commonly merges with what arouses fear in general. Yet one may presume that there exists a specific affective nucleus, which justifies the use of a special conceptual term. One would like to know the nature of this common nucleus, which allows us to distinguish the ‘uncanny’ within the field of the frightening.” Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny p.123 para 1 & 2, Penguin 2003
This project, called ‘Adjusted Views’, was set by Dusan Decermic, Course Director of the MA Interior Design at the University of Westminster. These are extracts from the brief: ‘for this project you are asked to select a space in the existing building. It is intended that you disregard small cell like rooms and choose a larger space for your project.’ ‘Rather than focusing on movement this project is concerned with formal, static relationships and the gaze of the viewer.’
Working with the image of an abandoned swimming pool, I chose to alter the atmosphere of the place by introducing elements that change the viewer’s perceptions of the foreground, middleground and background. I chose this photograph taken during a site visit because this isn’t an ordinary room but the remains of a swimming pool so its sunken aspect is unusual. It’s scale is also very large and there’s a strong light coming from the left while the arches at the top echo a former splendour despite the damage and decay. In reality, the space has already been noticeably adjusted over the years when the water was removed and subsequent decay allowed to set in. It appears that a new opening was also created in the background.
In the new image, the gaze of the viewer is constantly shifting and the relationship between foreground, middleground and background is unstable yet clearly defined along an invisible line, drawing the gaze from the butterfly outside the frame towards infinity (and back). So the gaze is not the act of looking itself but the viewing relationship characterised by this staged set of new circumstances. Time appears suspended and the allegory of renewal is expressed by the symbolism of the butterfly. The richly dressed banquet table contrasts with the decayed room and also implies invisible bodies. Not knowing where the occupants are, who they are or what happened to them brings ambiguity to the scene.
The image is framed as where 2 others (The Waiting Room and Horizon) and mounted on the wall of an abandoned house in central London alongside the costume used for the waiting room performance. This set the stage for a reading of an essay ‘Substitute Memories’, on the way photography has altered our perceptions of architectural spaces and consequently our collective memories. The gloomy light of the winter afternoon and dilapidated room added drama to the performance.