01 December 2017 — 28 January 2018
curator: Viktor Misiano
co-curator: Daria Pyrkina
See! There are only phantoms around!
All that you lose returns!
Sigmund Freud "The Interpretation of Dreams"

"The Haunted House" – this is the title of the exhibition destined to become the key expositional event of the 3d Session of the large-scale project "The Human Condition" organized by the National Centre for Contemporary Arts (in collaboration with MMOMA, Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center). As with the names of previous, already held, exhibitions of this project ("Elective Affinities" and "Don`t You Think it`s Time for Love?"), this title has been borrowed. However, this time it refers not to one but to many oeuvres of literature, theater and cinema. So, the title of the exhibition, designed to thematise the dialectic of memory and oblivion, already carries a memory of itself in its title.

For European culture the motif of a ghost or apparition of a phantom is inseparable from the experience of memory and historical consciousness. After all, the "mole of history", which in Western philosophy, from Hegel and Marx to Jacques Derrida, became a metaphor for the becoming of history, goes back to Shakespeare's Hamlet, where the protagonist, hearing the voice of his late father coming from under the earth, exclaims: "Well said, old mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?". And soon, as is known, the dead king shows himself as a ghost to his son, bearing him the truth about the hidden past and invoking vengeance in the present. The ghost is thus directly related to the gap in time: it appears inevitably from the past, in order to change our perception of the present. "The thread that bound the days is broken. How can I bind them together?" is another legendary Hamlet exclamation. To restore the "broken connection of times" is in fact to write history, to comprehend and interpret the past.

However the motif of the apparition, and the Shakespearian phantom is a canonical illustration of that, invariably carries in itself something uncanny and frightening, repulsive and shameful. Indeed, this is natural: the ghost is always connected with trauma, which, in itself, is a historical concept too; as trauma always refers us to something in the past, but nonetheless exists in the present, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. If we do not accept this, or as Freud said, 'displace it', then it returns to us in the form of something 'uncanny', as a ghost or phantom. Since the ghosts of the past cannot be completely exorcised, the goal of modern culture in the last century, passing through drama and crime, should, as Derrida insisted, result in giving these ghosts their due, so that they might find shelter in the hospitality of memory.

"Humanity, — he wrote, — pays dearly for its meaningless co-existence with phantoms, and pays dearly for the thought that phantoms can be done away with." Hence the concept of post-memory (Marianne Hirsch), which has become so important in recent cultural discussions; the retention and cultivation by modern generations of a living memory of events that they personally did not survive.

Viktor Misiano
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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