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Ghosts in the Closet: Catastrophizing and Spectral Disability in Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Apologies

Visual and Cultural Studies, University of Rochester, 317 Lattimore Rd, Rochester, NY 14627, USA
Arts 2019, 8(4), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040142
Received: 9 August 2019 / Revised: 7 October 2019 / Accepted: 22 October 2019 / Published: 24 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Psychology and Mental Health in Contemporary Art)
Anne Charlotte Robertson, who died in 2012, was a Super 8 experimental filmmaker whose primarily diaristic films record her experience with a diagnosis of manic depression and the corresponding nervous breakdowns. This article specifically addresses Robertson’s film Apologies (1983–1990), which features 17 min of the filmmaker apologizing to the camera for everything from drinking non-organic coffee to returning her camera a day late to her eventual nervous breakdown in the final scene of the film. Beginning with the psychological concept of catastrophizing, this paper shows how Robertson’s film engages with larger contemporaneous philosophical conceptions of disaster, or apocalypse, and its corresponding temporality. Drawing upon Jacques Derrida and Maurice Blanchot, mental disability is shown to be more thoroughly understood through shifting and multiple temporalities, termed as ‘spectral disability’ within this paper. Apologies not only reveals the personally specific details of Robertson’s experience and identity, but also responds to a larger history of representing madness in photography and film. Robertson’s engagement with the moving image is not only related to philosophy and history, but predates similar techniques devised in psychology as well. Ultimately, through disability theorist Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s concept of misfitting, this paper explores how Apologies exposes the creative possibilities of mental disability. View Full-Text
Keywords: Anne Charlotte Robertson; experimental film; diary film; disability studies; history of psychology; catastrophe Anne Charlotte Robertson; experimental film; diary film; disability studies; history of psychology; catastrophe
MDPI and ACS Style

Ely, T.M. Ghosts in the Closet: Catastrophizing and Spectral Disability in Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Apologies. Arts 2019, 8, 142.

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