The Spectre of the Real – Susannah Gent’s ‘Unhomely Street’ in Brighton exhibition

GENT unhomely street


13-21 APRIL 2019

The Spectre of the Real exhibition takes place 13-21 April 2019 at SEAS (Socially Engaged Art Salon), at the BMECP Centre near Brighton Train Station. The exhibition includes an opening reception and artist talks open to the public.

“The Real is an idea of what lies beneath the ideological construct of our culture. The Real was a concept of French philosopher Jaques Lacan in the 1960s, who described it as Nature before classification and symbolisation – how a newborn would see the world. The Real was given a new context by British philosopher Mark Fisher in 2014, who said it is what lies beneath the ideology of ‘capitalist realism’ – an example quoted is environmental disaster lurking beneath the happy face of consumerism. Entries to this exhibition might be abstract, cartoonish, photographic, painterly, figurative, or performative, any media or subject, but they refer to the idea of the Real. The Real is a subject or theme of Social Art –  which in my view is art that engages with understanding of culture or social transformation. It includes activist art by individuals, and art that engages communities or is produced by communities. The qualities of understanding, transformation or activism may need to be described in titles or documentation, to place the art in a social context. Social art is specifically not: pure aesthetics.

Russell Honeyman, February 2019

“The kingdom of culture is superimposed on that of nature … the world of words creates the world of things.” In the realm of the Real, our union with the mother is experienced as perfect and complete.’ Jaques Lacan quoted and paraphrased in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture Eighth Edition by John Storey.

“The Real is what any ‘reality’ [or ideological construct] must repress… the Real is an unrepresentable … traumatic void that can only be glimpsed in the fractures and inconsistencies in the … apparent reality.”Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (2009).“When you come to think of it, all forms of representation are ghostly. Works of art are haunted, not only by the ideal forms of which they are imperfect instantiations, but also by what escapes representation.” Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (2014).

Unhomely Street still - Susannah Gent

Unhomely Street follows a female protagonist in a state of fugue following a head injury as she wanders an alienating city underbelly of clubs and free parties. Through recollections of anti-capitalist conversations, historical information about wartime atrocity, and human brutality, she searches for hope in an increasingly frightening, subjective landscape.

The film explores the Derridean concept of hauntology both in terms of its original context taken from Spectres of Marx where Derrida suggests that ‘time is out of joint’ and that we are haunted by spectres of those dead and those not yet born, as well as recognising Mark Fisher’s interpretation that mourns the lost futures of the twentieth century, suggesting we live in a time of mental illness, unable to envisage a future that is different to current times.

Unhomely Street is a deeply personal film that aims to employ new approaches to filmmaking through multiple narrative strands and a focus on tone and metaphor in an attempt to communicate a subjective experience.

Susannah Gent is a filmmaker and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Arts &Communication at Sheffield Hallam University.