Conference Paper

Ghostly Visions of Human–Animal Coexistence: Leonora Carrington’s Spectral Ecology: Ghostly Visions of Human–Animal Coexistence: Leonora Carrington’s Spectral Ecology

Publication

Author
Kristoffer Noheden

Conference
Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism, Plymouth College of Art, 22–23 March 2018

Abstract

Leonora Carrington’s paintings and writings are teeming with animals. From her childhood drawings, through her famous Self-Portrait: Inn of the Dawn Horse *(1937–38), to her later paintings and the novel *The Hearing Trumpet (1974), depictions of actual animals intermingle with imaginary and mythological beings. Semi-translucent figures also frequently haunt these images. In this paper, I argue that Carrington’s depiction of humans, animals, and ghostly figures constitute a spectral ecology. Carrington’s incorporation of these spectral figures as part of imaginative ecological relations aligns her with, but also troubles, other ecological tendencies within surrealism. A central example is André Breton’s suggestion of a new myth centred around the Great Transparents. These imaginary beings are huge creatures that are superior to humans, surrounding us but invisible to the naked eye. For Breton, the myth of the Great Transparents was meant to subvert anthropocentrism, so invoking an ecological awareness of the problems of human exceptionalism and the sense of human separation from the rest of nature. There are similarities between The Great Transparents and Carrington’s commingling of the material and the spectral, but there is also a crucial difference. Breton was notoriously dismissive of the notion of spirit communication. Yet, some surrealists, such as Carrington and Victor Brauner, frequently allude to spiritualist iconographies. Brauner’s painting Lion Libre Lumineux (1942) depicts a green lion with a stylized human head, on whose back rests a somnambulistic second self. Like Brauner, Carrington’s imagery suggests that the world is peopled by both material and immaterial creatures, remnants of former identities and second selves emanating from both humans and non-humans, forming spectral ecologies. Drawing on Katharine Conley’s idea of surrealist ghostliness as well as Timothy Morton’s eco-theory, I locate an ecological potential in these evocations of mediumism and somnambulism.

Show more

Details

  • Type:
    Conference Paper (peer reviewed)
  • Conference:
    Seeking The Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women And Surrealism, Plymouth College Of Art, 22–23 March 2018
  • Published:
    2018
  • Language:
    English

About the Author

Kristoffer Noheden

Kristoffer Noheden is a researcher in cinema studies at the Department of Media Studies. He holds a PhD in cinema studies from Stockholm University, and an MA in film studies and a BA in cultural studies from the University of Gothenburg. From Oct... Read more

Reference

Noheden, K. (2018). Ghostly Visions of Human–Animal Coexistence: Leonora Carrington’s Spectral Ecology: Ghostly Visions of Human–Animal Coexistence: Leonora Carrington’s Spectral Ecology. In: Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism, Plymouth College of Art, 22–23 March 2018.