Fiction as absence
Marking the absence or failure of a place or a person, residue appears through a change in power. Read from a psychological perspective as the uncanny, the absent lack of a power system causes a sense of ambiguity that manifests as its own presence. This may be between good and bad, pleasure and displeasure, fear and comfort, the uncertainty of not having a complete picture is the inception of a fiction that may take the monstrous form of a ghost or a subtle yet incongruous shift in the everyday, though infrequently fully exposing itself.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) was the original Romantic Gothic novel, marking the beginning of a long lineage of strange monsters. The fiction of Shelley’s creature, abandoned and wandering the wilderness alone, is a remarkably well sustained image in the collective imagination.
Contemporary American film maker David Lynch has structured many of his narratives on the sustained logic of an uncanny lack of certainty, yet constantly counterpointed with the utterly familiar. The residue of a power system that has been lost or moved is a constant atmospheric device that pulls the audience into a united sense of there being a tangible yet unseen presence.
The performance walks of Belgian-Mexian performance artist Francis Alÿs enact some sense of residue, marking a void or shift in significance (Medina et al. 2007). The collective creation When Faith Moves Mountains [i] took place on the outskirts of Lima, Peru mobilized a small army of workers to shovel sand in the hope to shift a mountain. While the metaphor hoped to draw attention to a political situation, it was the palpable presence of absent consequence from the labor that remained.
Medina, C, Alÿs, F, Ferguson, R & Fisher, J 2007, Francis Alÿs, Phaidon Inc Ltd.