Jenny Lu

Completed PhD - Between Homes: Examining the notion of the unheimlich in art practice and its relationship to post-colonial identity and contemporary society in Taiwan


Jenny Lu

Under Attack, 2006; video still

Courtesy and © the artist

My research focuses on the notion of the ‘being not at home’ in relation to identity confusion, post-colonial society and artistic practice. Exploring Sigmund Freud’s concept of the ‘uncanny’ (unheimlich), I argue that in contemporary society, obtaining the feeling of ‘being at home’ is impossible, and the ‘unheimlich’ is therefore a common experience.
I consider how artists deliver a sense of the ‘unheimlich’ in their work and how this creates feelings of unease in the viewer. I examine work produced by contemporary artists, and focus especially on artists who live in Taiwan, including Chen Chieh-jen and Wu Mali.

I argue that in Taiwan, a post-colonial society with a unique history and politically contentious present, the feeling of ‘being not at home’ is experienced to a greater extent. I therefore re-read Freud’s concept of the ‘uncanny’ in relation to both post-colonial theories and personal attempts to construct identity. I argue that in Taiwan problems of personal identity relate to contrasting ideals and beliefs about ‘home’ (formed by the divergent return of repressed memories, evoking an ‘uncanny’ social experience.). I have produced a body of artwork that explores these issues. The discoveries contained within my thesis enable me to use psychoanalytical methods to look at my own practice, while the process of my work generates new insight for both my understanding of theory and of similar ideas that are evident in the work of other artists.