Staging the sensation

Prof Doc Thesis

Steiner, Margaret 2013. Staging the sensation. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Arts and Digital Industries
AuthorsSteiner, Margaret
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The main concerns of this work lie in examining the role of architecture in staging the sensation of the psychological uncanny. This document describes my research and practice since the Proposal was written in 2008.

Central to this enquiry is the notion of the uncanny house - that of my childhood in post-war suburban London. Buildings and lives had been lost and damaged. I attempt in my research to acquaint myself with, and understand, the background to my early years. My memories as the child in the house, together with my later experience of being within built spaces, form the basis of the investigation.
I write about the artists who have influenced my work during the doctoral programme. The study of these artists has enabled a progression from formal considerations towards a greater psychological and emotional content. In the paintings of Antoni Tàpies and Giorgio Morandi I looked at colour and form; three-dimensional spatial considerations in the work of Nathan Coley and Richard Serra; the architecture of fear of Edward Hopper and Egon Schiele; the lonely architectural settings of George Shaw and Vilhelm Hammershøi; and the psychological content of the work of Käthe Kollwitz and Hughie O'Donoghue.
Three main areas of theory have been researched. The first is the uncanny house as described in the work of Anthony Vidler. Particularly relevant to my work are his references to the uncanny house having the possibility to be both homely and cosy, and concealed and kept from sight. The dark dwellings of my memory are also recalled by his descriptions of houses in 19thc. Gothic literature.
The second area of research is photography. Part of my practice was based on a set of press photographs taken during the second world war. Theories of the photograph's relationship to time and history give an insight into the way I have used them.
The third area of research concerns the experience of being within a built space. This resumes an enquiry begun during BA studies, about the consciousness of being within built spaces. It concludes with a reference to the writing of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his theories of the body being sensitive to its surroundings.
My creative practice of the five years of the doctoral programme is described. Modelmaking was used during the early part of the programme. Models were used to investigate the terraced houses of the suburbs and reflect on the lives of their occupants. I write of the uncertainty experienced when I was no longer able to make models, and how this led to the use of a set of press photographs from the second world war. I describe the significance of these photographs to my creative practice and how new photographs were made from the originals, giving them a different interpretation.
Finally, the advances of the latest phase of my practice are reviewed. I acknowledge the value of drawing as an effective medium with which to express myself. I describe my reticence in confronting the people in the war photographs, how I was finally able to engage more closely with their emotions, and by doing so, how my perception was modified of how architecture could stage the sensation of the psychological uncanny.

Keywordssuburban architecture; uncanny; art
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintFeb 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited05 Jul 2013
Publisher's version
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