PHO705: Phenomenology and the Simulacrum Specters of Marx

Spectres of Marx

This reading is used to extend research-driven practice into Themes of Politics and History. (Derrida, 1994)

The blog title has been chosen as a phenomenology of personal experience in relation to objects. And the Simulacrum as a means by which the camera creates a version of reality. From the photograph of healing glow a version of reality abstracted in a direction based on personal experience of place and of people.

And so “… to render an account of, the effects of ghosts, of simulacra, of ‘synthetic images’, …” (Derrida, 1994) Page 94.

In discussing exorcism as a means of creating death and its comparison to a Coroner issuing a certificate in which that which was living is no longer alive. “… the dead can often be more powerful than the living …” (Derrida, 1994) Page 60.

There are many references within the text with some connection to the appearance of ghost images amongst the abstract work of the photographic project.

Out of original photographs of healing sites, there appeared from time to time an occasional ghost image. In the previous module, there was a flood of such images. This leads to the question being asked about the appearance of ghosts. There is a strong emotional effect in finding spectres and while they can be seen by the author, they were also clearly spotted by visitors to an exhibition of the work.

Derrida is a renowned philosopher who in writing about the spectre of Marx, yes in a context of the fall of communism, covers throughout the text the theme of apparitions.

In a discussion of the phenomenological and of the simulacrum there appears the following observation:

“For there is no ghost, there is never any becoming-specter of the spirit without at least an appearance of flesh, in a space of invisible visibility, like the dis-appearing of an apparition. For there to be (a) ghost, there must be a return to the body, but to a body that is more abstract than ever” P 157.

The photographic project takes that which may be invisible and makes it visible and does so from flesh and in making an abstract form. As Derrida contemplates the Specters of Marx, then so the project contemplates the spectres of ancestors. The theme thus far has been versed not as those lost but of those who suffered their loss. The mother who lost her son or soldier who lost a brother.

“Mourning always follows a trauma” (Derrida, 1994) Page 121 strikes a chord. On discovering the trauma of those previously not known there followed no doubt a form of mourning, even if displaced from the family it directly impacted onto to those who uncovered the events.

As quoted (ibid) forms of trauma, the classification of which is attributed to Freud include psychological trauma (the power of the unconscious over the conscious ego), and biological trauma. In the photo project, psychological trauma could be linked to the unconscious element of creating abstract imagery including ghost images, while the biological may be responsible for creating identification and the effect on the body. If so, these are powerful creative processes.

On writing on “Time is out of joint”, as Derrida wrestles with an interpretation of “… one time in the past, how would it be valid for all times?” (ibid) Page 61 again one is reminded of the photo project having a theme from mitochondria being unchanged for thousands of years and so of 100 years of history being collapsed into a moment.

By pure coincidence the last portfolio exhibited was monochrome with the red of blood – the cover of this book is monochrome and red.

Ghost Dance

Ghost Dance. (McMullen, 1983)” Through the experiences of two women in Paris and London, Ghost Dance offers a stunning analysis of the complexity of our conceptions of ghosts memory and the past.” – IMDB. This arthouse film is available on YouTube and features Jacques Derrida as himself.


Derrida, J. (1994) Spectres of Marx. New York, Abingdon Oxon: Routledge. Available at:

McMullen, K. (1983) Ghost Dance. France, England: YouTube. Available at:

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