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Mourning by Proxy: Notes on a Conference, Empty Graves and Silence

Fodorova, Anna (2005) Mourning by Proxy: Notes on a Conference, Empty Graves and Silence. Psychodynamic Practice, 11 3. pp. 301-310. ISSN 14753634

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Fodorova, Anna

The paper was partly inspired by the conference 'The Ability to Mourn' organized by Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library that took place on the 25th January 2004 at the German Embassy in London. The paper was commissioned by the journal 'Psychodynamic Practice' on the strength of my previous article.

The paper expands and forms a part of my ongoing research about our relationship to objects and their loss. It applies psychoanalytic theory to the relationship to our internal objects as well as to concrete external artefacts. Backed by this theory and Freud’s seminal paper 'Mourning and Melancholia' I view public places and services (Lost Property Department, cemeteries, etc) as an expression and container for loss and mourning. In contrast to this I focus on historical loss on grand scale, for example through genocide, and on how the total loss of the living and inanimate objects affects the following generations’ ability to mourn. I examine how this, sometimes pre-memory loss learned about through language (but more often through silence), is passed on from generation to generation. Mourning the loss of something or someone one has never known or possessed becomes mourning an absence.

Part of my brief was to consider how the absence of individual sites of burial, of personal belongings and photographs, affects our capacity to mourn. As in the previous paper I was able to illustrate the text with photographs. Photographing in various cemeteries, including the pet cemetery in Paris, became an integral part of my project. I found myself responding to ideas of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes about picture as a metaphor for reconstructing ‘lost’ history. By their nature, the photographs record what exists no more. Thus the act of pictures taking itself can become a form of mourning.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: psychoanalysis
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 1 August 2005
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1080/14753630500232198
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2009 12:50
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2012 11:35
Item ID: 1113
URI: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1113

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