Notes on the Uncanny
Here in Montreal, every corner has its own video arcade and they play
a few new releases, but mostly its older, more obscure stuff. You go to
the counter and you change your money for tokens and then you pick a booth.
Each token gives you a specific length of time so the booth is like its
own universe, a regression chamber, without minutes and hours, but instead
its own unit of time: the token. And then you just flip through the channels
until you something that pleases you, something that holds your attention.
I keep expecting to see something familiar: a scene filmed in the living
room of my grandmother, or my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lett, fingering
herself through her panties as the janitor looks on. This expectation
is fed by the fact I find so many of the videos to be uncanny. They have
a quality of disturbing familiarity, a familiarity which withdraws and
causes me to become disoriented, a slight nagging anxiety. The uncanny,
the Unheimlich, occurs when a known object suddenly presents an unfamiliar
aspect. The real and imagined become blurred. There is a confusion between
animate and inanimate, the usurpation of physical reality for psychic
reality. When Freud said “Love is homesickness” he thought
it was a clever joke. This place is familiar. I have been here before.
For Freud the uncanny was exemplified by things from his immediate historical
past: wax figures, automatons. Today, perhaps the uncanny can best be
seen in old video tapes.
Here. password: badger