Spectropolitics: Image and Hauntology in Contemporary Art Practices

Department of Communication at Pompeu fabra university from barcelona


In his book Spectres of Marx (1995), Jacques Derrida questions how to learn to live with the spectres that survive in European culture as a politics of memory, legacy and generations. To study the figuration of the spectres of communism and Marxism, he rejects all philosophy of being and that of those who claim to know what the world is, and conjures up «hauntology» [hantologie] as a critical tool with which to unveil the insidious operations of hegemonic systems of an ontological, theological and ideological nature. His philosophical approach is correlative to a study on the media technologies that capitalism installed in a world that is now global and that British critic Mark Fisher picks up in his research into the nostalgic post-Thatcher movement in film and music, when he embraces the spectral turn at the moment when an entire world (social democratic, Fordist, industrial) became obsolete and in which the contours of a new world (neoliberal, consumerist, computerised) began to manifest.

In accordance with this transformation, the following thesis analyses the recurring political spectres in the globalised visual culture of our present time as well as the material conditions of their return. Far from an understanding of the obscurantist spectre as something real, its presence is understood as a sign or a metaphor of the vision that acts as a clarifying figure with a specifically ethical and political potential. Therefore, in this sense, we present the «spectropolitics» trope as a visual hauntology of the forms of the spectral siege of the teletechnomedia image and its devices for capturing human subjectivity to elucidate how, from the field of visual and performing arts practices today, we invoke certain critical ways of seeing or visualities capable of constructing new imaginaries, subjectivities and political formations in the different worldings.