The Uncanny by Mike Kelley

The Uncanny by Mike Kelley was described by the artist as a response to art world discourse at the time (Tate Liverpool 20th February- 3rd May). The exhibition was purposely designed to be curated in an old-fashioned way to contrast against the unorthodox curation and placement at the time. The work was based on an essay by Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny 1919” where Freud describes the phenomenon as ‘a hidden, familiar thing which has undergone repression and then emerged from it’.

Kelley mentioned the importance of traditional curation through the majority of the exhibition, with an end twist of an anomalous room containing a collection of Kelley’s uncanny objects. These were named ‘Harems’ which is defined as ‘a fetish accumulation of objects which are generally alike in character’, Oxford Dictionaries. These were placed for the audience to question the purpose of the exhibition itself. Kelly explains that the presentation at first sight is a collection of organised objects which represents an experience of ‘repetition compulsion’. This term was created by Freud within the original essay to described a psychological encounter where an individual repeats a traumatic event. This combined with a conscious feeling of familiarity constructs an uncanny feeling. Through the exhibition the uncanny was produced through Harems and images related to the human body, resulting in the audience distrusting their own mortality.

I was directed to the work of Kelley to discover how to enhance the sense of surrealism and familiarity within my practice. My current project is also related heavily to the body which are the main influences throughout the uncanny experience. I am hoping to achieve an experiential outcome where the audience is interactive within observation and may not fully comprehend what the object is at first glance. Once the audience begins to understand the concept and message behind the work they may change their opinion of the aesthetics of the piece and begin to wonder which forms represent each body part. Kelly’s work can be rather disturbing and I am aiming for a more motivating response, however the sense of familiarity with both soft objects and body parts.

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