Dr. Marianna Michałowska works as a professor at the Institute of Cultural Studies at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. She graduated in photography from the University of Arts in Poznań in 1997 and completed her M.A. in cultural studies at the Adam Mickiewicz University in 1998. In 2002 she successfully defended her Ph.D in humanities. She specialises in contemporary photography, urban documentary and museum practices. She has written three books on cultural interpretation of photography as well as several journal articles and chapters for books devoted to visual methods in knowledge dissemination and urban studies. She also works as an independent curator of photography exhibitions and as a collaborator of the Photography Biennial in Poznań.
Varied versions of hauntology, such as the Polish ‘duchologia’ or ostalgia describe the state of mind in which the view of the past and its material object clash with the present. The specters live in everyday life, they are not really unusual.
Photography has been associated with the specter, spirit, and the apparition ever since the theory of photography first emerged. André Bazin and Edgar Morin saw the spectral features of photography as the basis for phenomenological interpretation. However, the most creative exposition of ghosts in photography is linked to Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology. Nowadays, hauntology is often cited in relation to nostalgia – longing for “the lost futures”. However, when Derrida wrote Specters of Marx in 1993, he was interested in the ontological repetition of ideas through history. Photographs created by two contemporary Polish photographers (Michał Grochowiak and Nicolas Grospierre) are an excellent illustration of the French philosopher’s thoughts, as their works focus on the same theme – architecture of the socialist era. The recurring specter of the past manifests itself through it. Grochowiak’s photographs from the Breath series (2010) depict the interior of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw – fragments of a monumental memorial from the socialist era. In turn, Grospierre’s series of photographs titled K-Pool and company (2011) documents modernist buildings in the post-Soviet republics. In the article, the reference to hauntology allows me to discuss photography as a carrier of eeriness as well as an invisible tool of disclosure. What’s more, it seems that hauntology may explain the role of photography in discussing the political and social contexts of the past.