Spectres in the studio : Time, memory and the artist's haunted imagination

PhD Thesis

Macintyre, Alasdair. (2022). Spectres in the studio : Time, memory and the artist's haunted imagination [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Arts https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8y264
AuthorsMacintyre, Alasdair
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

I spent a week in a haunted house and that is what inspired this project. I then discovered hauntology. Hauntology is a concept that was developed by French philosopher Jacques Derrida and articulated in his 1993 lecture Specters of Marx. Hauntology is a theory reliant on time, where the historical past and the envisaged future bleed in to the present moment. A concept that recognises the ghosts of the past that are bound to return again and again to haunt the mind, as well as spectres that represent expectant futures that did not eventuate. While hauntology (also known as spectral studies) has been used as a thematic device in the fields of music and literature as both a creative and a critical tool, it has not been utilised to the same degree in the visual arts. This PhD by creative project aims to correct that by using hauntology as a framework through which to explore my own visual art practice. To do this I have made a body of work that reflects my own life experience and memories as read through a hauntological sensibility. By beginning with an overview of hauntology and then reflecting on the recursive nature of memory evidenced throughout my previous artworks, I suggest in this thesis that hauntology is an interesting and revealing framework through which to better understand the nature of both my art practice and contemporary art practice in general.

In my discussion, I examine the parallel themes of memory and collapsed time, as well as motifs such as the ‘white-sheet ghost’ and abandoned domestic spaces. Inspired by this research, I have created a body of work using hauntology as my visual framework, exploring my own haunted memories and moments in time from my own past (that I have never attempted to do previously). One of my aims was to address certain incidents and moments from my own life that have stayed with me, and how my haunted imagination can inform my art practice. The creation of artworks about these past events neither dulls nor exorcises the memories but allows the artist to better comprehend the range and depth of human experience and the way it contributes to, haunts, our subjectivity both in the present and, probably, in the future. The final body of work was exhibited on the Australian Catholic University campus in Brisbane to complete this project.

Keywordshauntology; ghosts; art; spectres; derrida; time; memory; haunted; imagination
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8y264
Page range1-213
Final version
File Access Level
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online26 Aug 2022
Publication process dates
Completed24 Jul 2021
Deposited26 Aug 2022
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