Ghost Retransplantation

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Ghost Retransplantation
(installation view: Fieldgate Gallery, London)

2007
continuous loop DVD video projection and audio track
8 minutes
dimensions variable (minimum life size)
edition of 3

This project is from the series The Geographic Fates—which involve traveling to a particular location to live out a predestined path, to link seemingly unrelated geographic locales, to complete a self imposed task, to realize an act of fate and/or to recreate/redefine a hazy memory, occurrence or dream. The end product results in an experiential video installation, transporting the outcome to a whole other set of geographic locations, creating new unexpected linkages.

In Diana Shpungin’s work Ghost Retransplantation an old English pub façade is filmed. The pub originally erected in the Whitechapel neighborhood in 19th century London and after 150 years was torn down and put in storage. Two of Jack the ripper’s victims, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddows were last seen drinking in this pub just before being killed. Another woman Bertha Starkey was murdered in the front doorway by her jealous sea faring husband. And so it was claimed to be haunted by these spirits. In 1996 it was dismantled, shipped and reassembled to a beach town in Florida where it has reclaimed itself as a popular English pub. And even today the haunting is said to continue. Experts in the field of paranormal studies have stated they are not aware of any previous case where a ghost has traveled more than 4,000 miles to set up residency in another country.

For this work Diana Shpungin has captured the ghosts haunting site on video and is giving them a new doorway to retransplant themselves. Shpungin is attempting to bring the ghosts back to their original haunting place or at least give them an opportunity to choose to do so. Perhaps the spirits will find some contentment after being troubled ghosts in a foreign land.

The soundtrack to the work is virtuoso Clara Rockmore’s composition of Serenade Melancolique. This music played on the first electronic instrument; the theremin. The theremin was popularly used in a much more campy way to create eerie sound effects in 50’s era horror films. Rockmore’s composition provides for a more melancholy use of the instrument, allowing us to sympathize with and memorialize the ghosts.

Through the use of the camera, computer, DVD player and projector the work provides for an entirely new meaning to the term ghost in the machine. However, it should be noted that Diana Shpungin was not necessarily a believer when starting this project. During the filming and editing process many strange things occurred. Several cameras and tapes were used on a number of occasions, but in spite of no logical technical explanations the footage kept coming up distorted and unusable. Then to top off all the clichés, the damaged footage would only play backwards in the computer. Eventually, Diana Shpungin put out a plea to the ghosts to allow her to film; she wished them no ill will and explained that she was simply giving them the option of staying or going. After this plea the filming worked smoothly without any technical glitches, using the same camera, same tape.