Public/Private Interventions

November 8, 2006

Glossary – heimlich / unheimlich – familiar / unfamiliar

Filed under: Conceptual References, Glossary — mastermistress @ 2:11 pm

“With Freud indeed, foreignness, an uncanny one, creeps into the tranquility of reason itself…Henceforth, we know that we are foreigners to ourselves, and it is with the help of that sole support that we can attempt to live with others.” (Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, p. 170)

Kristeva – about the foreignness in the uncanny moves over to reason itself – and that because of this we are strangers to ourselves (foreigners) and because of this we are able to rely on and be able to cope living with others who feel exactly the same.

(from an original semantic study) Freud’s translated unheimlich as a negative into English as ‘uncanny’.

It is the antonym of heimlich which is the positive term for ‘friendlily comfortable.’ (familiar and intimate) Freud thought they were therefore tied together as they are the reverse or the binary of each other. So that what is familiar is at the same time unfamiliar, something well known yet foreign at the same time, or as when pertaining to the memory, something that was once well known and has been repressed (estranged) into memory or the unconscious, so is therefore in ways recognizable without knowing why. (Familiar and old as opposed to new and not known.)

Heim – home.

Vidler refers to inner female architecture at the womb-house, the centre of the uncanny.

Freud revealed that men often described female genitals as having uncanny qualities, which he said as the former home (heim) of all human beings, was a place where memories within it would have been formed yet are repressed. (not having had an immediate language with which to describe and remember)

Yet at the experiencing of all comfort, warmth and protection must lie some familiar memory of having felt safe and nurtured, by which we can now judge discomfort.

(this reminds me that infants born to alcoholic/narcotic abusing mothers may fail to thrive. Their cognitive function would have been impaired in a way that they cannot retain memories of the womb – therefore they fail to thrive outside having not formed an ideal state of self preservation from which to maintain)

Kurt Goldheim interprets uncanniness as hereditary instinct fear. This could also be explained in my above description. The living creature’s inability to adapt or react to a given situation comes from a primal experience (from the womb?) and it does not fit with the current experience. Freud called this ‘an over-accentuation of psychical reality in comparison with material reality.’ So the atmosphere established in the womb forms the homeostasis of life?

Deleuze and Guattari talk of nature being like art as it brings together the two living elements in totality. House and Universe or Heimlich and Unheimlich, territory and deterritorialisation, (with and without boundaries) and so on …

That art begins with the house and not the body/flesh. An explanation of architecture being the first of the arts which can be defined by the frame. (what about the chicken and the egg debate?)

They talk of lines of flight that pass through the territory only to open it up onto the universe. Something about not having boundaries (impossibilities/restrictions) a line of flight cannot exist with which an exit is created resulting in the creation itself.

The ambiguity of death and its spiritual apparitions are another site of the uncanny. (‘our unconsciousness has as little use as it ever had for the idea of it’s own mortality’? uh?)


(All references are stated from original writing here)

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