CfP: The global unconscious: art, technology, science

Inscriptions, a journal of contemporary thinking on art, philosophy, and psycho-analysis, invites contributions to our upcoming issue on the global unconscious. We are looking for well-crafted and skilfully written scholarly essays and art projects (images, videos, presentations) that engage our mandate and the theme of this issue.

Sigmund Freud’s unconscious is still a debated concept. From flat-out rejections to head-on acceptance and use in scholarly and therapeutic practice the unconscious has become the very lynchpin of the validity of psycho-analysis. It has been subject to debate from its inception with Freud’s lecture to the Psychiatric and Neurologic Association in Vienna in 1896 when Freud’s elder collegues referred to his findings as constituting a “scientific fairy tale.” In his lecture Freud put forward his infamous “seduction theory,” according to which female patients suffered from actual or psychic recollections of their fathers seducing them. It was the repression of these alleged experiences that laid the foundation of the unconscious, and when the scientific community rejected the theory of seduction how would it be possible for Freud to defend his idea of the unconscious?

And yet, that is precisely what he did. Already the next year Freud admitted that he no longer trusted the veracity of his patients’ claims and their ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. However, the answer to his conondrum was not far away. At a meeting with Ernest Jones at the Bellevue Restaurant in Vienna in 1895, one year prior to the Vienna conference, Freud had declared that he had found out how to unlock the secrets of dreams. The solution to Freud’s situation was to acknowledge that his patients’ experiences of seduction were expressions of the unconscious. While accepting their stories as sincere, this enabled Freud to continue his analysis, albeit on a different level. It was no longer a matter of protecting these young women from physically abusive fathers, but of trying to decipher their dream-works.

The unconscious has played a key part in the unfolding drama of psycho-analysis. The split between Freud and his pupil Carl Gustav Jung was to some extent grounded in a difference with regard to how they approached the unconscious. While Freud claimed for psycho-analysis the ability to uncover feelings, memories and desires that exist beyond our conscious awareness, Jung wanted to expand the notion to include archetypical, or inherited, elements. With the migration of psycho-analysis first to America and then to claim for itself a global reach the ruptures in the unconscious were no longer containable at a personal and local level: we are now under the spell of a global unconscious. The most powerful refutation of the unconscious arrived with the scientific demand for verification: since theories of the unconscious are as of yet not empirically falsifiable they cannot be considered properties of science, and therefore not admissible to scientific enquiry, it is claimed. What is at stake, finally, is the scientific status of psycho-analysis itself.

For the upcoming issue of Inscriptions we seek papers that contextualise the unconscious in the domains of art, technology and science. Key questions that are relevant include:

  • How are artworks and their meaning shaped by our unconscious?
  • How are unconscious elements given expression in art and technology?
  • In what ways does it make sense to speak of a global unconscious in art, technology and science?

Submission instructions

  • Deadline for proposals: 15 September 2018
  • Deadline for full manuscripts: 15 October 2018

Academic essays should be 3,000 to 4,500 words. We also seek scholarship in the form of interviews, reviews, short interventions, disputations and rebuffals, and in these cases we are open to shorter texts. Inscriptions adheres to the Chicago Manual of Style (footnotes and bibliography). For other instructions, please see our website. We encourage potential authors to submit proposals for review prior to their writing/submitting entire full-length manuscripts. Include title, proposal (150 words), short biography, and institutional affiliation in your preliminary submission. All academic submissions will undergo double-blind peer review.

We also accept proposal for art projects (images, videos, presentation, etc.) to be curated by our external Guest Editor (TBA).

Submit proposals and art projects through our online platform at https://inscriptions.tankebanen.no/ by 15 September 2018.

Editorial on Schirmacher

Our first edition of Inscriptions is out. The issue is chiefly concerned with the technophilosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

In the philosophy of Wolfgang Schirmacher the term medium should be taken quite literally. His is first and foremost a philosophy of the modern mass media and it should be approached as an attempt to understand how a host of novel communicative technologies work in our lives. His notion of Homo generator conceptualises our engagement with a wealth of contemporary channels of communication. To Schirmacher Homo generator is a figure who allows the media to generate entire life worlds, and in this precise sense it is a logic that conforms to Žižek’s idea of interpassivity: our relatively passive complicity in mass mediation allows the mediated world to actively conjure truth, being and an ethical stance in our place. In a word our world and our ethical being is outsourced: we find anchorage in mediated images and it is no longer required of us that we shoulder our being-in-the-world ourselves, as this is a work taken over and actively regenerated by our mediatised figure.

If there is any remnant of Plato in phenomenology after Heidegger it is as a form of consolation. While Plato absorbed the defeat of his city with a call to elevate the philosophers to governors of the state on the grounds that it was the current rulers’ inability to see the truth that had led to Athen’s loss, Schirmacher extends Heidegger’s logic of care to philosophy itself. It is no longer required that the philosopher shoulder the burden of political governance, since the figure of the governor in either case is mediatised and thus returns to us as an image in the media. The philosopher can relax and meditate: we can remain calm and take up a truly Epicurean attitude. Life is there to be lived and finding a way to live a life that is pleasing is part of our constitution in the world.

Inscriptions needs subscribers to our print edition. Please ask your university library to order a subscription from our website, or consider subscribing yourself. Happy reading!