Undead Melancholia; from Lost Modernism to Haptic Antagonism
Clark, Simon J.. 2013. Undead Melancholia; from Lost Modernism to Haptic Antagonism. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]
Abstract or Description
My written thesis modifies George Romero’s zombie in an effort to exhume the critical potential of melancholia. The notion of melancholia as a dissenting condition has been rendered obsolete within contemporary culture. I equate the shift from melancholia to depression with the emergence of the postmodern climate that collapses radical opposition from the outside by assimilating dissent within its own operations. The subversive qualities of melancholia are superseded by the classification of depression as a dysfunctional inability to assimilate the logic of capitalist production.
I initially formulate my own psychoanalytical term – undead melancholia – to describe the figure of the zombie. I then use the notion of sublimation to rewrite undead melancholia as a utopian phantasy of transgressive subjectivity in which life willingly acquiesces to an emancipatory marriage with death. This fiction of a radical new strain of zombie is understood as a melancholic phantasy of an oppositional critical strategy that has now been lost within contemporary homogeneity.
I then discuss the zombie as an abject walking corpse that collapses Symbolic meaning altogether. This reading of the zombie undoes my own formulation of undead melancholia as a transgressive subject position, and re-articulates it as a haptic materiality beyond subjectivity instead.
I finally propose a performance practice that might ape the materiality of undead melancholia by interrupting the formal and normalised protocols of contemporary culture. This performative melancholia, as a haptic antagonism, would refuse to consent absolutely to the status quo, asserting that the homogenous procedures determining contemporary cultural production are contingent negotiations rather than essential conditions.
My recent performance practice involves staging unexpected musical interventions at various conferences, symposia, art events and exhibitions to which I have been invited as a guest speaker. This work confounds the professional protocols and the normalised codes of behaviour associated with these events.