ZKF-Arbeitsgespräche im Sommersemester 24

Haunted objects and the contemporary


Vortragende Person:

Dr. David Hering


An object is always haunted by something. It might be found, made, bought or given, and each set of circumstances infuses it with a field of relations; the exchange of an object, in the words of Anne Carson, forms “a kind of connective tissue between giver and receiver”. But what happens when these objects threaten to overwhelm humans? Humanity’s fears over its replacement by technology have existed for as long as technology itself. But there’s something about the anxieties that attend the contemporary combination of human agency, automation of labour, and AI that feels particularly urgent. Alongside this fear of human effacement is the anxiety that attends the superfluity of objects, of too much 'stuff', what Maurizia Boscagli calls “materiality out of bounds […] which declines its role as the eternal sidekick of the subject”. In this talk, I will be thinking about how our anxious relation to objects, things and 'stuff' might be understood through the idea of the haunted object, the object that speaks back or is infused with the spirit and history of its labour.

Datum: 2024-05-08