Wraithcore, or: I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going


One evening in June 1976, polymathic artist Colette (aka Lumiere aka Justine aka Countess Reichenbach &c.) reclined nude in a bathtub in the attic of PS1 in Queens. Had it been attuned to historical accuracy the tub would have been sabot-shaped, that is, in the shape of an old-fashioned shoe, though it’s difficult to make out distinct forms in the extant documentation.[1] The artist’s head lolled back. Her torso was held in a position of grotesque torsion with one arm dragging towards the floor. She was assuming the posture of Jean-Paul Marat, July 13, 1793, slumped and lifeless: David’s Wraith. Nearby, the environment draped in rose-colored satins and ruched gauze, a male performer dressed as the ghost of Charlotte Corday, Marat’s assassin, looked on.[2]

This tableau vivant / endurance performance was based on Jacques-Louis David’s iconic 1793 painting The Death of Marat, which contributed to Marat’s canonization as a martyr of the French Revolution.[3] The summer after it was painted, Maximilien Robespierre’s expulsion from the Committee of Public Safety and eventual execution signified the end of the Reign of Terror. The cooling of the previous months’ executionary fervor and establishment of the French Directory engendered, among other things, a highly curious trend in fashion.

Enter the gossamer figure of the Merveilleuse, she of the clingy Neoclassical gown, cropped hair, neck bedecked with a red ribbon signifying the slash of the guillotine. Her male counterpart, the Incroyable, favored an outlandishly shortened waistcoat with a collar rising behind the head, revealing wildly unkempt hair.[4] They attended bals des victimes (victims’ balls) and greeted one another with violent jerks of the head, another reference to execution. Reveling in the scandal of breaking the conventions of pre-Revolutionary social codes, the Merveuilleuse and Incroyable are sometimes interpreted as proto-punkish figures of early Modern youth culture. Their revealing silhouettes and raucous parties might have signified an exaggerated generational rebellion against both the pomp of the ancien régime and the authoritarian repression of the early years of the Revolution. It is equally salient to note that these dandies were almost exclusively Royalists and members of the aristocracy, their garb explicitly referencing the appearance of family members on the way to the scaffold (the condemned often rode to their executions in, essentially, their undergarments). One could say that Directoire aristocratic culture allowed certain young people to let loose in carnivalesque, quasi-hysterical ways after a period of genuine trauma.

While I highly recommend browsing period fashion plates to peep some frothy, bizarre stuff, this moment must be flagged as inherently reactionary. In many ways it celebrated—albeit morbidly—the reincarnation of an intractably classed society wherein the aristocracy attempted to recoup a position of civic domination. For the record I don’t totally buy another common narrative within costume history, which holds that rendering the silhouette of haute female dress less physically constraining post-1789 heralded a unilateral victory for women’s liberation. The poor had been dressing “comfortably” for hard work all along, and changes in fashion, like art, don’t seem to correlate all that specifically with advancements towards material equality, or quality of life.



Our current moment—marked equally (but differently) by political turbulence, cruelty, a fundamental disparity in the distribution of global resources, and climate disaster—reverberates with the muted cries of the unquiet dead. In purely aesthetic terms, the following seem ubiquitous as I write (at least in New York which is where I live and people watch): goth-y peignoirs, asylum-chic bondage corsetry, Victoriana, nightgown-girls, and a recently reinvigorated Kate Bush fan base. Or, as queer podcast Straightiolab recently diagnosed, everyone “is dressing like a literal court jester.”[5] One notices an explosion of aristocratically sympathetic period pieces cycling through the entertainment sphere. (Empress Sisi was a misunderstood rebel with body dysmorphia, OK?)[6] Meanwhile the neurodivergent haven’t, until recent years, been granted much of a subject position at all. I want to consider the ways historical anachronism materializes in our contemporary aesthetic field. I want to know who is haunting whom, and why. To be clear, I am not talking about all ghosts (not all ghosts!)—I’m talking about a distinctly feminized shade. Objects and persons, literary or embodied, who engage with these questions are dabbling in what I’ve taken to calling: wraithcore.

The project raises a couple of questions, the most obvious of which are: what’s the use in really really wanting wraithcore to be added to Aesthetics Wiki’s voluminous (but clearly not exhaustive) list of options? Why go to the trouble of taxonomizing this micro-aesthetic at all? As a starting point, considerations of the uncanny reveal what is anxiety-inducing within a given social order. The contemporary wraith and her historical siblings are the sick, the sad, and the mad—aberrant bodies and minds, shrouded figures who emerge during times of social upheaval, shaken loose from their hiding places and attics, emerging in a state of dishabille. Evocative of malcontent and marginalization, decadence and decay, melancholy and hysteria, the wraith is never far from body horror and the gothic. I am coding the wraith as female because her characteristic vulnerability and irrationality remain feminized in Western patriarchal, capitalist culture. I wish to underscore that subjects identified as sick, sad or mad are often represented as deviations from a norm, or not to be taken seriously—if not invisible entirely. A figure in a corset may be associated with vanity or frivolity, one in a straight jacket speaks directly to the politics of bodily autonomy. Considering our preoccupations with certain qualities of time and space reveals the ways in which history is done right now, who gets to say what, who is paid attention in the first place, and what is worth salvaging from the past.



Historical anachronism as aesthetic technique is characteristic of the kind of pastiche famously theorized by Frederic Jameson, who posited that one of the defining dilemmas of the postmodern era was the inability to find forms capable of representing the present, much less conceptualizing new visions for the future.[7] So one looks backwards. Mark Fisher elaborates on the kaleidoscopic nature of contemporary temporality with the concept of Hauntology.[8] Hauntology occupies a peculiar mise en abyme, wherein space is multiplied (both haptically and virtually), and time is out of joint. It also has to do with “lost futures”—those we once considered realistic to anticipate for ourselves, but which now seem inescapably foreclosed. And Hauntology addresses the compulsion to repeat—in hauntings, the same things happen over and over. So one looks backwards, again.

I see a version of this in the visual art market right now, in the fervid, often worthy, sometimes rapacious, “archaeological impulse”[9] to identify artwork and artists that have been historically overlooked, underrepresented, or undervalued. If we’re keeping score, and I always am, I’ve placed Company Gallery’s excellent 2021-22 Colette Lumiere retrospective on the side of the righteous in my ledger. While certainly never overlooked (Lady Gaga ripped her off in a “Gaga’s Workshop” window display at Barney’s in 2012),[10] Colette hasn’t received the same level of institutional support as many of her contemporaries—the recent gallery collaboration may be remedying that. It is also telling that Colette’s work is being shown and written about with such enthusiasm as we enter the twenties: the costume jewel-encrusted decadence of her early performance pieces is cycling back into vogue and her ongoing commitment to outré living renders her something of a godmother to a new generation of louche maximalists.



Colette died at the Downtown Whitney in 1978. A few days later the artist was resurrected at PS1 as Justine, executor of the Colette is Dead Co. and frontwoman of disco-punk outfit the Victorian Punks.[11] The reincarnation part of her mock-death performance cycle featured the first of many Justine concerts and introduced branded products that were “ripoffs” of her previous work as Colette, including “Beautiful Dreamer” uniforms, dolls, furniture, and perfume. Colette staged her own death in part to prove a point about the hypocrisies of the market and conditions under which many artists live. In a 2013 Bomb Magazine interview, she commented:

That was my statement for the art world. I’m not going to wait until I’m dead!

The whole Justine series was a statement on the irony of how an artist was supposed to be on a pedestal, like a saint. But for artists that are alive now, most of the time they are not recognized or they are not supported by the commercial world, and it was a very awkward place to be. So I created Justine, a living sculpture, and staged events where she would appear.”[12]

Justine’s embrace of the macabre truism that artists are often worth more dead than alive imbues her work with a healthy dose of poison. She seems to gleefully occupy the doubly ironic position of beneficiary and author of the artificial scarcity of her own market.

The artist has gone on to create a veritable cabaret of personas over the years, including Mata Hari (and the Stolen Potatoes), Countess Reichenbach, and Olympia, ultimately re-christening herself Colette with the surname Lumiere in 2001. Like many artists of the last hundred years (at least), Colette / Justine & co. seems to take visible pleasure in using her hyperbolically femme, often nude, body as an artistic instrument. Taking this concept to an extreme, Colette is in many ways a walking Gesamtkunstwerk. Critic Joanna Fateman describes the artist’s costuming and iconic (now tragically demolished) Living Environment[13] as a “syncretic Victorian-boudoir, punk-Versailles style of overdetermined femininity [that] was a twenty-four seven endeavor.”[14] Imagine a room entirely covered (and I mean entirely—floor, ceiling, walls, furniture) with ruched silks, satins and rags, and you’d start to get a picture of her former live-in studio on Pearl Street in New York. The color palette is evocative of yellowed lace, sunrise, and a blush on pale flesh. Colette’s Living Environment was recreated for Company Gallery in 2021, with photographic tableaux and documentation of performances mounted on light boxes visible amidst the tufts of fabric. Her kohl-rimmed eyes are usually closed in this imagery, or occasionally frozen open in a blank stare, her black coiffure always tousled.

There is, again, a menace within this maximalism, like a vagina dentata grinning to reveal sugar-rotten teeth. It is often unclear whether Colette’s habitually exposed body is living or not; a hint of potential violence threads through the work. Lying prone Colette was, in fact, literally exposing herself to some danger when staging her “sleeping performances,” vis a vis her vulnerable position in relationship to viewers. The sleeping works were staged in art-specific spaces (like David’s Wraith) and shop windows alike. In the Bomb interview, Colette noted, “In Femme Fatale, in ’77, I slept on the streets in a blue satin box. It was for a gallery show on my street works and ‘personal hieroglyphics,’ titled It Reappears. The gallery was on the street level and had large windows, and I was sleeping there, so guests at the opening could view me from inside the gallery, but the performance was also available to people walking by on the street.”[15]

Another notable 1976 endurance piece is titled In Memory of Ophelia and all those who died of Love and Madness, this one staged at the Akademie Der Kunste, Berlin. Colette and actress Tabea Blumenschein were laid out, nude, on biers in a room draped in characteristically ruched textiles, while Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy echoed throughout the space on loop.[16] Photographic documentation from these performances, intentionally yellowed into an antique patina, is incorporated into Colette’s Off the Wall assemblages. Therein her placid, lidded visage takes on the aspect of Victorian post-mortem photography, a memento mori placed on wooden paneling and enshrouded in fabric folds.



 In contradistinction to the Merveilleuse and her perpetually reemergent, disembodied aesthetic appurtenances, allow me to conjure the madwomen of la Salpêtrière. This Parisian hospital for mental patients and permanent invalids gained notoriety in the late 19th century alongside the rising star of its principal neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. The “Napoleon of the neuroses” is best known for his studies of hysteria, that distinctly female disease with a cluster of symptoms grouped around “ungovernable” emotional excess and hyper-sexuality. Charcot believed that hysteria could be treated by hypnosis, and in turn that susceptibility to hypnosis suggested the presence of hysteria in patients.[17] Indeed, Charcot believed “he had discovered a new disease called ‘hystero-epilepsy’ where female patients exhibited convulsions, contortions, fainting and impairment of consciousness.”[18] 

Charcot is equally well-known in art historical circles for his photographic documentation of female patients in the throes of mania, published in 1878 as Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière.[19] The women who writhe and emote throughout his oeuvre are clothed in hospital-issued white nightgowns. Some of them gained an iconoclastic status in their own right. Marie “Blanche” Wittman was dubbed the “Queen of Hysterics,” while another renowned patient was simply known as “A” (her name was actually Louise Augustine Gleizes).[20] A frequently-reproduced sequence of images shows Blanche from the waist up in what appears to be a bed or gurney, reacting to a hypnotic treatment. Depicted at the beginning of the sequence with her eyes closed and her arms folded across her chest in a manner curiously reminiscent of the posture given to corpses, Blanche is shown rising and lifting her arms. As she sits up, her features stretch into an exaggerated grin, her wide eyes raise towards the ceiling, and her loose white chemise falls from one shoulder.

Such star patients rose to public prominence in a highly mediated manner—through medical demonstrations and the dissemination of these avowedly scientific pedagogical images. Charcot’s photographs were widely circulated in the nineteenth century, and the nightgown has since become something of an emblem (or aegis) of the madwoman. As disabled subjects within a carceral institution, humane though it purportedly was by concurrent standards, Salpêtrière’s hysterics are known to us only via the physician’s perspective, rendering the women themselves mute, frozen, spectral.



Writer and artist (actually, another polymath) Joanna Hedva is, in my opinion, one of the sharpest contemporary thinkers working with the thorny concepts of madness, ableism and agency. In their 2016 lyrical essay, “In Defence of De-persons,” Hedva seems to take up the themes established in Colette’s In Memory of Ophelia performance, contrasting Hamlet’s inherent sense of agency with that of Ophelia: “Hamlet’s famous question reveals his privilege, power, and, specifically, his authority: that he gets to decide whether to be or not. At its etymological root, authority is about authorship: Hamlet can be the author of himself. How many are not allowed this? Whose stories have already been written for them?”[21] Hedva has done important work in the last several years theorizing the Sick Woman and the De-person as “universal subject positions” for the “no-bodies” of our time. They suggest that the individual subject, possessed of self-control and self-determination, must establish this Self contra the state, hyper-medicalization, and the illusive and never-defined “normal.” 

Hedva’s widely circulated “Sick Woman Theory” considers the ways in which political agency can be harnessed and affirmed by the sick and disabled, those who have been saddled with terminal diagnoses by the medical industrial complex or the DSM, those who are “physically not able to get their bodies into the street,” and “all the other invisible bodies, with their fists up, tucked away, out of sight.”[22] Now it would do a grave disservice to this material to flippantly equate it with the surrealism of my neologism, wraithcore, as Hedva’s work is very much about real bodies, and real people struggling in the real world. At its best, wraithcore may be considered one of many expressions of this highly contemporary rage. Of the De-person, Hedva writes, “to reckon with being haunted is important political work. It can account for why the world right now has come to be as it is. And it can re-imagine a world that is not already foretold.”[23]



K-Ming Chang offers just such a speculative version of the near future in her phantasmagorical 2021 short story, Bone House.[24] She takes the skeleton of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and hangs it with a fresh skin in this tale of an unnamed female narrator’s time as a tenant in the basement of the eponymous house, and her encounters with Millet (her landlord) and the ghost of Cathy Chiu. Millet is modeled loosely after Heathcliff, who in the original book is purportedly, “a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman,”[25] a homeless child of ambiguous race and origin, rescued from the streets of Liverpool by Cathy’s father. Bone House opens with Cathy Chiu’s father finding a baby girl abandoned in the seat next to him on a flight back to San Francisco from Taipei whom he decides to wrap in an airplane blanket and bring back to his own home.

Millet, like Heathcliff, is not unanimously welcomed in the Chiu household and consistently sparks the wrath of Mrs. Chiu for unseemly behaviors: she “did not participate in the use of furniture” and her “teeth grew in late and ached, so she teethed on the corners of things: tables, books, the refrigerator.”[26] Millet’s skin is darker than the rest of the family’s so she “lived in the backyard shack with no windows because Aunt Orchid said the sun would stain your skin unmarriageable…”[27] In a particularly gruesome scene, Millet tells the narrator about the time she was hung by her hair from one of the butcher’s hooks that studded the ceiling of Bone House as punishment for chewing off a portion of Cathy’s earlobe while they both slept. Rescued from the hook by the very one whose lobe she unwittingly emancipated, “Millet hung like that, by the black of her hair, until Cathy found the tendon-trimming scissors and cut her down. Millet’s scalp was bruised ripe, skin slipping off the bone.”[28] Millet goes on to bond with Cathy by playing a game wherein they choke one another to the point of being able to “saw light,” a form of asphyxiation that establishes a medium-incestuous erotic tension. 

In a recasting of the famous scene where Cathy’s ghost appears at the narrator’s window in Wuthering Heights, Chang conjures Millet’s despair and irrational longing for her adoptive sister / first love:

“Millet runs from her room and down the throat-thick hallways, her robe opened like wings, and she grabs my shoulders and says, is she there, is she there, yes, I say, and she runs down the basement stairs calling Cathy, oh Cathy, Cathy

When at last I follow Millet to the basement, I find her crouched on my mattress, face scoured blank as a knee … Cathy, she says, come back. It’s the way she says Cathy that makes me listen, the way a woman pleads to any deity that has dammed all her prayers, redirected them to death. A woman deboned of hope.”[29]

All the while, sexual tension builds as Millet reveals her past to the narrator late at night under a table, lit by a miniature chandelier made of chili-oil jars. The night after Millet and the narrator finally consummate their desire (“another word for lesbian is: devourer of the dark”)[30] Bone House burns.



Few Gothic tales tower more imposingly in the Western imagination than Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights. This multi-generational tale of thwarted romance and epic cruelty visited upon the intertwined families of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff has been considered and reconsidered in the nearly three centuries since it was written. Haunting is central to the novel’s momentum, and is indicative of foreclosed desire and suffering experienced presumably by the main haunter—Cathy, as well as the mainly haunted—Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights remains a shockingly brutal read, its depictions of physical and emotional violence rendered convincingly, rationally. As is well known, the main perpetrator of said violence is Heathcliff, who, if we’re being materialist (and we are) is able to wreak havoc upon the lives of his enemies vis a vis a masterful exploitation of, amongst other things, property law. The novel evinces an element of pure cruelty in the wraith’s characteristic activity, haunting, as well—the experience eliciting sheer terror, or a hauntological reminder of the departed. Haunting can evoke a mixture of pleasure and pain—a perpetual reminder of that which has been lost (and perhaps was never “had” in the first place) and can even seem preferable to blotting out the memory of the lamented one entirely. Here is Heathcliff, the morning Cathy dies:

“May she wake in torment!” he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. “Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”[31]

Cruelty, brutality, violence and unsatisfied desire—these are the winds on which the wraith travels—perhaps what binds her ultimately to earth. Returning to the fish bone-studded earth of Bone House, K-Ming Chang’s transposition of Brontë’s tale of rich white people with romantic problems taking each other’s land (suffer though the characters do), onto a family of Taiwanese immigrants breathes new life into the Gothic tradition. Chang’s writing does the work Joanna Hedva calls for in the “ousting of the Healthy White & Propertied Male from the throne of the universal subject position that he’s sat in for so long.”[32] She also gamely queers the question many modern readers of Wuthering Heights undoubtably harbor: did Cathy and Heathcliff ever fuck? Chang’s story incorporates elements of the harlequin romance and actively engages with the pleasure not only of the physical, but of the text.[33] Her story ends ambiguously, if apocalyptically, as Millet and the narrator rush into the collapsing house calling for Cathy—unclear if they wish to rescue or join her.



I’m starting to feel like some of this is a stretch—a wild extrapolation—can you really try to pin a politics to a ghost? Colette and Chang’s works don’t seem to be intended as artistic contributions towards any specific revolutionary project, though I’ve invoked interlocutors who do. They undoubtedly indicate a dissatisfaction with the status quo and offer some ideas as to why things are as shitty as they are via interpretations of the past and dreams of the future that seem readily accessible. 

China Miéville’s 2013 talk, “Marxism and Halloween,” has proved a trusty companion for one stumbling through the corridors of the uncanny.[34] Miéville invokes a “Gothic Marxism” as the framework for his defense of the flagrantly imaginary and the terrifying. He quotes the early-twentieth-century revolutionary, writer and critic Christopher Caudwell:

“The writer of the ghost story must be rational so as to build up the matter of fact framework which is so horrifyingly shattered by the incursion of the impossible. Any credulity would make his readers skeptical from the start and he would underestimate the amount of preliminary mining and sapping of their confidence in the rational which it is necessary to undertake before he shows his hand. Though he must be by habit a materialist, he must be one with chinks in his armor. He must be devoid of simple faith and also completely honest doubt—in other words, he must be a typically modern writer.”[35] 

Miéville suggests that an attunement towards the uncanny—the supernatural, the ghostly—may be lodged foundationally in our psyches. As I was writing this piece, more than one friend remarked that they sometimes feel wraith-like. I often feel wraith-like myself, for whatever that’s worth. I take this to mean anywhere from being nocturnal or insomniac, depressive or moody, predisposed towards isolating oneself socially, to feeling marginal or overlooked, not quite believed or not quite taken seriously as a subject, or more specifically a subject with agency. In addition to being an aesthetic category, wraithcore also seems to be an affective category: something that people identify with—or a category for identity and emotion that seems apt, and communicable. [36]



Our current moment seems characterized by a surreal incoherence, the dervish of postmodernism being kicked into an ever faster, increasingly phantasmagorical whorl (or so it appears to one living in these times. Surely they will seem halcyon, downright languorous, to the denizen of the future). In the face of such uncertainty, our interpersonal barbarisms persistently overshadowed by the looming threat of environmental collapse, perpetrating vigorous acts of nostalgia seems like a textbook defense mechanism. Further, are madness, sickness and sadness anything if not reasonable responses to the world in which we live? The immortal words of one of my all-time favorite paintings by expert artistic purveyors in creative anachronism, McDermott and McGough, encapsulate this attitude: “I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going.”[37] 

One can constellate conditions of contemporary American life with the historical moments addressed throughout this essay—the dispersal of Revolutionary fervor in the years immediately following the Terror in France and the post-Commune turn inward. We seem to have, now, landed in a space of atomized revolutionary anger that lacks a unifying subject position, whilst remaining in the narcotic thrall of Capitalist Realism’s “it’s impossible to imagine an alternative.”[38] Perhaps what we are witnessing is the death throes of cultural Romanticism, rather than the broader project of historicity and its boondoggle, progress. And within this trajectory (this “core,” or: tendency) the wraith, that figure of pathologized femininity, marks out an illuminating track.

Wraithcore treads the venerable path established by Surrealism, with its interest in the weird and irrational, and its simultaneous aim towards diagnosing societal ills via modeling new modes of perception. The figure of the wraith, like Joanna Hedva’s de-person, “could be said to be an embodiment of incompleteness, a demonstration of bad thinking, a performance of un-comprehension, a refusal of mastery at all.”[39] Yet perhaps, regarding the future and the possibility of imagining an alternative to the present, a turn to Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary pessimism would be the most useful. We must consider that if things keep going the way they are going, we are going to see nothing less than spectacular disaster.[40]




[1] Jean-Paul Marat’s bathtub and Charlotte Corday’s knife have, evidently, survived and are in the collection of Musée Grévin, a Parisian wax museum. “Jean-Paul Marat’s Bathtub at Musée Grévin,” Atlas Obscura, accessed November 17, 2022, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/jean-paul-marat-s-bathtub-at-musee-grevin.

[2] Colette Lumiere, David’s Wraith, 1976. Performance on the opening night of “Rooms,” MoMA PS1, New York, NY, June 9, 1976. Video documentation by James Nares, 1976, https://archive.org/details/XFR_2013-09-08_2A_03.

[3] Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, oil on canvas, 1793, Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Belgium, https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection/jacques-louis-david-marat-assassine.

[4] James Laver, Costume and Fashion, A Concise History, Fifth Edition (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012), 151-153.

[5] Sam Taggart and George Civeris, “‘Being Prepared’ w/ Nori Reed,” StraightioLab, June 21, 2022, https://omny.fm/shows/straightiolab/being-prepared-w-nori-reed.

[6] JK

[7] Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991).

[8] Mark Fisher, “What is Hauntology?” Film Quarterly 66, no. 1 (Fall 2012): 16–17. Heavy lifting by Jacques Derrida in Spectres of Marx (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), is also worth noting.

[9] Dean Kissick, “The Downward Spiral: New York’s Fall 2022 Art Shows,” Spike Art Magazine, October 12, 2022, https://www.spikeartmagazine.com/?q=articles/downward-spiral-new-yorks-2022-fall-shows.

[10] Josh Gilbert, “Colette Maison Lumiere—Looking for Lady Gaga,” YouTube, January 4, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va9vkEWujeA.

[11] DFA Records reissued the 1979 Justine and the Victorian Punks tracks “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Still You” as part of a 2010 retrospective album for her musical collaborator, Peter Gordon & Love of Life Orchestra. In the opinion of the author, they definitely hold up. https://store.dfarecords.com/products/dfa2229d?variant=38388957741225.

[12] Colette Lumiere, interview by Katie Peyton, Bomb, May 2, 2013, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/colette-lumière/.

[13] Colette Lumiere, “Last Days of Pearl Street: Parts 1 and 2,” Youtube, April 27, 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GevoegDZ4P4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4J-rhAwcnQ.

[14] Joanna Fateman, “Colette Lumiere. Crinkles, pleats, and ruche-like flowers: an exhibition revisits

the artist’s world,” 4Columns, December 10, 2021, https://www.4columns.org/fateman-johanna/colette-lumiere.

[15] Colette Lumiere interview by Katie Peyton, Bomb.

[16] Colette Lumiere, In Memory of Ophelia and all those who died of Love and Madness, 1976. Room installation at “Soho Downtown Manhattan,” 26th Fall Arts Festival, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, September—October, 1976. Documentation: https://archive.org/details/XFR_2013-09-08_2A_10.

[17] J. Bogousslavsky, O. Walusinski, D. Veyrunes, “Crime, Hysteria and Belle Époque Hypnotism: The Path Traced by Jean-Martin Charcot and Georges Gilles de la Tourette,” European Neurology 62, no. 4 (September 2009), 193-199, https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/228252.

[18] Manni Waraich and Shailesh Shah, “The life and work of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893): ‘The Napoleon of Neuroses,’” Journal of the Intensive Care Society 19, no. 1 (February 2018), 48-49, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810866.

[19] Désiré Magloire Bourneville, Paul-Marie-Léon Regnard, Iconographie Photographique de la Salpetriere (Service de M. Charcot) (Versaille: Imprimerie Cerf et fils, 1877-1880), https://wellcomecollection.org/works/gnwg7zzf/items.

[20] On the work of Lisa Appignanesi and Elaine Showalter: Susan Eilenberg, “Treated with Ping-Pong,” London Review of Books 31, no. 14 (July 2009), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v31/n14/susan-eilenberg/treated-with-ping-pong.

[21] Joanna Hedva, “In Defence of De-persons, “ Guts Magazine, Issue 6, May 10, 2016, https://gutsmagazine.ca/in/.

[22] Joanna Hedva, “Sick Woman Theory,” Topical Cream, March 12, 2022, https://topicalcream.org/features/sick-woman-theory/. Originally published in January, 2016 by Mask Magazine, now shuttered / offline.

[23] Hedva, “In Defence of De-persons.”

[24] K-Ming Chang, “Bone House,” Inch, Issue 47, Summer 2021 (Durham, NC: Bull City Press, 2021).

[25] Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847; Project Gutenberg, 2022) Chapter I, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/768/768-h/768-h.htm.

[26] Chang, Bone House, 12.

[27] Chang, Bone House, 13.

[28] Chang, Bone House, 12.

[29] Chang, Bone House, 8.

[30] Chang, Bone House, 25.

[31] Brontë, Wuthering Heights, Chapter XVI.

[32] Hedva, “In Defence of de-persons.”

[33] K-Ming Chang, Boris Dralyuk and Lindsay Wright, “K-Ming Chang’s ‘Gods of Want,’” LARB Book Club podcast, August 19, 2022, https://lareviewofbooks.org/av/k-ming-changs-gods-of-want/.

[34] Miéville, “Marxism and Halloween.” A version of this talk was delivered at Socialism 2013, Youtube, uploaded October 30, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paCqiY1jwqc.Methodologically indebted to Margaret Cohen’s Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1993, 11), Miéville’s argument adopts two of this text’s functional definitions: a specifically Gothic Marxist criticism involves “(1) the valorization of the realm of a culture’s ghosts and phantasms as a significant and rich field of social production rather than a mirage to be dispelled; [and] (2) the valorization of a culture’s detritus and trivia as well as its strange and marginal practices.”[34] He couples this embrace of the irrational with a material analysis of fear, or more specifically dread, “a fear of something that might be bad but is not concrete … is unknown definitionally.”

[35] Miéville, “Marxism and Halloween.”

[36] As I was editing this text in early December, I realized that I was not alone, that, in fact, Shumon Basar had in some ways gotten here first in his Zeitgeist-y piece “The Dawn of Endcore” for this season’s (Vol. 55, No. 341 [Winter 2022-23],178-185). Basar’s starting point is Francis Fukuyama’s notorious, laughable-were-it-not-so-pernicious, proclamation of “The End of History?” in 1989 following the collapse of the USSR and the global “triumph” of neoliberal capitalism.History of course did not end—note Fuyukama’s own proviso for this very fact with aptly applied punctuation—but everything does seem to be getting worse and worse. For Basar, this is iterating as something of a contemporary aesthetic apocalypse—Encore for the end times. His category encompasses Mark Fisher and Hauntology, wild creative anachronism from the runway to Dimes Square, and Walter Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History”:

“When Endcore began, you were reading Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life, where he said, ‘The slow cancellation of the future has been accompanied by a deflation of expectations… In one very important sense, there is no present to grasp and articulate anymore.’ When global narrative collapse invades our innerspace, do new stories emerge? What if the future is now a thing of the past? Have you noticed how young people seem to wear several items each from a different decade or historical style? The model-activist Bella Hadid is an example of this ‘Chaoscore,’ in which the present seems only to be grasped and articulated via a clash of references and tastes all unmoored from their provenance, falling, like Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920), which Walter Benjamin described as confronting a storm that ‘irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.’ Chaoscore is Endcore’s style du jour.”

If Endcore is genus, then perhaps wraithcore and chaoscore are near-related species. Or perhaps I’ve reached the end of my tolerance for this taxonomical exercise, borne as it is of a kittenish desire to tame perpetual information deluge in the language of Internet. 

[37] McDermott & McGough, I’VE SEEN THE FUTURE AND I’M NOT GOING, oil on linen, 1936/2005, Private collection, https://www.cheimread.com/artists/mcdermott-and-mcgough/gallery/selected-works.

[38] Regarding the question of origination, Robert Scott comes to one’s aid: “Who came up with it first? Fredric Jameson? Slavoj Žižek? Mark Fisher? The simple — if rather boring — answer is that Jameson was paraphrased by Žižek, and then in turn both their expressions of the idea were synthesized by Fisher into the above pithy maxim describing his concept of “capitalist realism.” Robert Scott, “Postcritique; or, The Cultural Logic of Capitalist Realism,” LA Review of Books, September 14, 2022, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/postcritique-or-the-cultural-logic-of-capitalist-realism/.

[39] Hedva, “In Defence of de-persons.”

[40] Walter Benjamin, “Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia” [1929], trans. Edmund Jephcott, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 177-192.