Pornography, Ectoplasm and the Secret Dancer: A Twin Reading of Naomi Uman’s Removed

In pornography – a genre that Linda Williams has defined as “obsessed with visible proof” – bodies are spectacles, displayed and dissected by the camera in pursuit of pleasure’s physiological truths. [1] In Naomi Uman’s Removed (1999), the sexualised feminine form is obscured, interrupting pornography’s attempts to quantify and authenticate female pleasure. Uman’s film can also be situated in the artisanal realm of “Handmade Cinema” in that it moves away from “photographic representation” in favour of “abstract form … textual richness and sensory depth”. [2] To create Removed, Uman painstakingly ‘erased’ the female figures from a 1970s German soft-core porn film, frame by frame. The result: an experimental re-working of pornography that is haunted by crackling white forms wherever the celluloid was tampered with. Uman’s handiwork functions as both a dismantling of the cinematic body and a process of collage. She also performs a kind of “recorporealisation” of female film bodies, using haptic labour to complicate the idea of the camera as an objective optical apparatus in the pursuit of a fixed truth. [3]

In an interview with the Millennium Film Journal, Uman talks in detail about the construction of Removed – made during stints of boredom while she was working her job as a 35mm projectionist at The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Re-touching her own acrylic nails, Uman became aware that the nail polish would “resist the action of bleach”. She covered everything on the found footage with nail polish, except for the women’s bodies. She then doused the film strip in bleach, “leaving the women … ‘naked’ and vulnerable” to the bleach’s effects (bleach has a “chemical reaction with the emulsion and causes it to be removed from the plastic film base”). [4] Uman’s process is therefore not about ‘erasure’ so much as intervention. Here, absence and presence become two sides of the same experimental gesture. By painting the film strip with nail polish, protecting the women’s surroundings and allowing the bleach to distort the image of their forms, Uman conjures the pornographic depiction of women anew. She transforms female film bodies into shimmering ghosts.

Certainly Uman’s film is a disruption to porn’s visual fixations – the writhing white forms of Removed absorb the gaze with their alien presence. The spectrality of Uman’s work extends beyond a critique of mainstream pornography’s scopophilia, however. What interests us here is the way in which the gruelling techniques of Uman’s handmade cinema serve to materialise female sexual pleasure and question visual methods of authentication. Like the doubled absence and presence of Removed, our reading in this article will be twofold. In the first reading, Hilary Bergen sees a connection between Uman’s creative process and the technique of rotoscoping, an animation technique used to extract motion from the human body in the pursuit of realism. For Bergen, the porn actors whom Uman obscures become suppliers of a hidden and controversial labour – they are like the “secret dancers” who lent their motion to the characters of early animation. [5] Because Uman’s meticulous approach yields visual results that are similar to rotoscoping, her film evokes the kinetic qualities of female pleasure. That kineticism is teased out through her intimate tracing of the space inhabited by each female body on every frame of celluloid. In the second reading, Sandra Huber observes a link between Uman’s work and the portrayals of sexual fluid in the nineteenth century phenomenon of ectoplasm (a gauzy white substance that emerged from the orifices of female mediums and was said to be a materialisation of the spirit world). While ectoplasm had the consistency of semen, its secretion from a female body meant that it was often brought into historic discussions around fraudulence (especially where photographic ‘evidence’ was concerned).

Our interest in ‘truth’ in this article lies not in the presumed objective view of any camera but in the embodied and experiential practice of the women whose bodies perform labour (or enact the labour of performance). Discussing mainstream, hard-core pornography, Linda Williams writes of how the “woman’s ability to fake the orgasm that the man can never fake (at least according to certain standards of evidence) seems to be at the root of all the genre’s attempts to solicit what it can never be sure of: the out-of-control confession of pleasure, a hardcore ‘frenzy of the visible’”. [6] In contrast with the visibility (and overwhelming presence) of male sexuality (erection, ejaculation), female sexual pleasure cannot often be explicitly seen. It therefore relies upon a kinetic and audiovisual performance of the body – an output that is primarily affective and ephemeral rather than material and enduring. Such output is made explicit through Uman’s experimental re-working. Following Williams, our dual reading of Removed acts as a feminist intervention into modes of authentication surrounding female sexuality. As Uman’s source film would not be classified as hard-core pornography as such (it does not feature explicit penetration or contain close-ups of genitalia), it may seem counterintuitive to rely on Williams’ arguments. Nonetheless, Uman’s interventions speak directly to what Williams describes as a ‘frenzy of the visible’. By obscuring the spectacle of the female body, Uman diverts the fact-seeking gaze that wishes to clearly see all. Our intention is not to misread Uman’s film based on the specificities of genre but to think about how her creative methods contribute to conversations around visual proof (of pleasure, of authenticity), complicating the link between what is visible and what is true for the female body.

Our readings are united through our fascination with the role of the body, especially in terms of the body’s connection to mechanical ‘truths’ (be they ‘money shots’ or scientific motion studies). We see Removed as a feminist alternative to methods of truth-making that are primarily photographic. Certainly the film’s interest in seeing is also reflected in its narrative content. In one scene, a woman asks her lover to describe a sex act to her. Based on their body positions (she is lying on his lap), only he has visual access to that act. Her plea (“Oh Walter! Tell me what you see! … I want to know everything!”) singles out his gaze, substituting descriptive language for visual evidence and robbing her of her own vision. As he describes the scene in detail to his lover, she herself remains an amorphous white blob. Her presence on-screen cannot be fully seen nor can it be captured with words. As we discussed previously, Uman’s process of making the film involved tracing the female figure frame by frame in order to expose it to chemical action. Ironically, this act of singling out produces a body that lacks boundaries; through motion, the women of Removed bleed into the space around them, dizzying the gaze that tries to fix them. Form and content unite in a shared instability.

Given the abundance of mirrors and deferred gazes that occur in Removed, as well as the characters’ emphasis on the role of imagination in the production of arousal, we can invoke the thought of Jacques Lacan. Lacan’s concept of the lamella, in particular, is akin to ectoplasm in its placenta-like nature. The lamella also possesses a kind of vibrant, lively movement that is useful for both of our readings. Lacan compares the lamella to the “membranes of the egg”, situating it in the realm of the always-enigmatic feminine/maternal. As he writes, it is something “extra-flat, which moves like the amoeba” and is “like the amoeba in relation to sexed beings, immortal – because it survives any division, any scissiparous intervention”. [7] The lamella is reproductive yet unnatural. Cyborg-like, it has its own agency. It can survive the removal of its source but its connection to the libido also tethers it to the human body. As Lacan puts it, the lamella results in “pure life instinct, that is to say, immortal life or irrepressible life, life that has need of no organ, simplified, indestructible life”. [8]

There is something ghostly about the lamella in that it is both a figuration in Lacan’s theoretical framework and it can also be read alongside other material instances. Like a monster, the lamella becomes real in that it is made sensually palpable through our imagination of it. In contrast with the pornographic gaze that Williams describes, the erotic space of fantasy is unpredictable and generative. It is never fully seen, always partially hidden and remains full of potential. Like the verb ‘secrete’ which holds the double meaning of ‘to shroud’ and ‘to reveal’, both Uman’s disappeared women and the bodies of ectoplasmic mediums occupy an uneasy space between presence and absence. That space is kinetic and alive and, above all, embodied. That space communicates, as Brian Massumi writes, “when gesture is deprived … of its terminus, its pragmatic truth potential is suspended”, making it “a purely speculative activity”. [9] The lamella, which also evades terminus, is similar to both ectoplasm and corporeal motion. Though both are produced by the body, their production occurs in excess and extension of the body. Similarly, Uman’s ghostly forms express a strong sense of fluidity. In our doubled reading, we identify fluid properties of the body which, in their secretion, keep secrets rather than revealing ‘truths’.

Reading One: Kinetic Traces
Removed uses palpable and embodied labour to alter what was originally captured by way of the camera. By way of handmade re-composition, Uman conjures new bodies and objects to interrogate the visual semiology that we accept as given. In Removed, effacement and summoning are revealed as sister acts; a repetition with a difference wherein “there is always some detritus strewn about in the aftermath, some bruising to the surface” and “the rejected entity has a habit of returning, ghostlike”. [10] Uman’s alterations to the original film strip serve not so much to blot out the porn actor’s nude figure but to obscure her shape and her facial expressions. She transforms her into a new entity, radically re-working the generic context of hard-core pornography. The bleach fades the contours of the figure into a hazy mist, enacting a kind of reverse striptease that verges on censorship. The result is, as Uman herself observes, somehow “far more erotic than the original”. [11] Whereas Roland Barthes proposes that “[w]oman is desexualized at the very moment when she is stripped naked”, Uman’s intervention suggests another possibility. [12] Her labour activates a viewer who “strains to see what is denied” and “is inexorably drawn to what is withheld”- namely, the pornographic female form as we know it. [13]

Removed is more than just a feminist intervention into the pornographic genre (although it is that, too). Rather than exposing what many believe to be the “essence of [mainstream] pornography – woman without substance”, Uman renders woman as substance, a powerful, pulpy, roiling presence. [14] In his work on ‘screendance’, Douglas Rosenberg introduces the term “recorporealisation”, writing that in order for a body to be recorporealised, it must first be decoporealised or stripped of its somatic and fleshly resonances through mediatisation. [15] Under Uman’s recorporealisation of her, the women of Removed become ‘untouchable’ – the male hands that attempt to stroke their bodies “simply sink into light”. [16] Strangely, it is Uman’s abstinence from touching the whole bodies of her filmic women that renders them impervious to the male touch on-screen. Uman allows the bleach to do its work on the female figures, transforming them into skeins of light. Uman has said that she “wanted to see what would happen if [she] remove[d] the women” from her found footage, asking: “Would it still be pornography?” [17] In Uman’s film, however, the ‘erased’ body returns with a new and more powerful force. The body becomes hyper-visible as a relational and material-kinetic presence. What is manifested on-screen is the body’s kinetic twin; a double which both exceeds the body and originates from within.

This twinned, super-erotic and recorporealised emergence can be read in tandem with Lacan’s lamella. As Lacan puts it, “the lamella does not exist, it insists: it is unreal, an entity of pure semblance, a multiplicity of appearances that seem to enfold a central void – its status is purely phantasmatic”. [18] Similarly, the few who have written about Uman’s work refer to the erased woman at the centre of Removed as a “void”, an “abyssal gap” or a “blank on which a fantasy body is projected”. [19] As previously mentioned, the mirrors and doubles of Removed seem to invite a Lacanian analysis. And yet, there is something about Uman’s ghosts that resists the narcissism of the Lacanian scopophilic gaze, refusing to indulge in a “fascination with likeness and recognition”. [20] As such, the lamella is an apt image with which to characterise the film’s sense of a pulsing presence. This is not just because both are laden with fantasy but because their eroticism emanates from a kind of indestructible drive that is born out on the shimmery, energetic surface of the thing. Uman’s erased bodies relentlessly coil and quiver – they are never inert. They reveal the quality that persists most fervently in the removal of the object: motion.

I see the persistence of motion in Uman’s ectoplasmic forms as a gestural impulse that can be tethered back to the intentional body, an impulse that also radiates out in an affective, relational web. One way I choose to read this particular kineticism is to recognise that pornography, like dance, is performative. Female porn actors, in particular, rely on body motion and sound to perform pleasure on-screen. In contrast with the “ejaculatory punctuation” that verifies male satisfaction in pornography, female protagonists are compelled to “authenticate their pleasure” through performative vocalisations and movements (what Williams calls the ‘frenzy of the visible’). [21] Uman’s film opens with a woman (or the bleached out space where her body once was) writhing on a bed and whimpering with pleasure, accompanied by lively music. She reaches for her lover, who stands and watches her coolly; the close-up on his face reveals him to be every bit the spectator to her dance of arousal. Even through the haze of stripped celluloid, it is obvious that she is masturbating. Touching herself, she continues to twist and roll across the striped sheets until, suddenly, her body movements become less frantic and her breathing slows. There is no clear proof of orgasm here. As the music fades out in tandem with the woman’s slowed movements, however, it becomes clear that the ‘performance’ is over. Given that Removed is comprised of dubbed, German porn footage, it is important to remember that the moans and sighs that we hear do not actually originate from the female bodies that we see on-screen. Like motion separated from the body that produces it, the divorcing of voice from its material source functions as yet another type of extraction. Sound, too, is put to the service of Uman’s remixed assemblage of multiple filmic bodies. As the voices that we hear do not belong to the bodies we see and all recognisable facial features and bodily textures have been effaced, the actors’ bodily movement becomes the most evocative ‘proof’ of pleasure and performance.

About dance, Susanne K. Langer writes:

Gesture is a vital movement; to the one who performs it, it is known very precisely as a kinetic experience … To others it appears as a visible motion, but not a motion of things, sliding or waving or rolling around – it is seen and understood as vital movement. So it is always at once subjective and objective, personal and public, willed (or evoked) and perceived. [22]

Because we know that the movement of Uman’s ghosts stem from the body that writhes beneath the imprint, we too read their motion as a “vital movement” rather than a “motion of things”. [23] As visually abstract as its on-screen form may be, we understand that its motion originates in a particular sensing body. Dance and orgasm are different animals (it would be quite the challenge to choreograph a convincing orgasm). Nonetheless, there is an improvisational quality to both that can effectively engage with the world of porn. Whether their erotic motion is caused by authentic pleasure or by a willingness to make their pretence legible, the women in Removed are almost always moving. Uman’s process – her repetitive tracing of the body in each frame – aids in a making-material of performative pleasure by highlighting the female’s bodily movement and also enhancing it with the shaky embellishments of her own hand. Her found footage actors (replete with voices that are not their own) are transformed into streaky white entities, driven to communicate almost solely through bodily movement.

Rather than characterise her process as erasure, I would like to situate Uman’s handmade cinema alongside the practice of rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is an early animation technique, first patented by Max Fleischer in 1917. In rotoscoping, a film is projected onto a transparent easel where an artist traces live action bodies as surface images on paper, as they move consecutively through space. Methods such as rotoscoping and some newer motion capture methods seek to produce avatars or bodies in motion that look as realistic as possible. By extracting lifelike qualities of motion, these techniques not only mimic human movement but apply it to non-human entities, infusing them with a greater sense of vitality. While the original performer of the movement is often lost or forgotten in this process, their unique motions live on in the final animation. Paradoxically, we could see this removal of the original body as a process of authenticating the animated body. It is the vitality of movement that bridges the gap between inner and outer, bringing together what is felt with what is seen. This is a different type of authentication than that which was performed by photographic motion studies of the late 1800s. Rather than revealing a linear and indexical photographic ‘truth’, rotoscoping relies on a textured, imperfectly haptic rendering of the body in motion in order to produce the feeling of the real.

Many of the first live action films featured dancers (Méliès; Edison). Because early film technologies anchored the camera to a tripod, “it was the dancer who supplied motion to the frame, thereby amplifying the camera’s ability to comprehend movement”. [24] Likewise, rotoscoping took cinema’s love of bodies in motion (in particular, dance) and used it as a formula to animate objects in a more vivid, naturalistic way. Panpan Yang writes about the secret dancers of early rotoscoping, many of who animated cartoons using the motion of their own bodies. Jazz bandleader Cab Calloway was among these dancers (lending his own highly recognisable movements to Koko the Clown). So too was Marge Champion who, at fourteen-years-old, discreetly provided the movement for Disney’s animated heroine, Snow White. [25] These dancers were ‘secret’ because they were rarely acknowledged in the film’s final product yet they supplied something essential to its characters. It was their unique movements that breathed life into inanimate drawings. The intimate, clandestine kinship between the dancer and their animated character is mediated by the hand of the rotoscoper. In rotoscoping, the hand that traces the body with care repeats that act of tracing until the body is intimately known. Like a puppet master or a magician, the rotoscoper uses their hands to replicate movement until their mimicry becomes real.

If rotoscoping is a technology of knowing and coming to understand the cinematic body via the intimacy of touch, it sits on the opposite end of the motion studies spectrum from practices of surveillance which enact, as Donna Haraway calls it, a “conquering gaze from nowhere”. [26] Rotoscoping belongs to a history of motion capture techniques that includes the late nineteenth century work of English photographer Eadweard Muybridge and the French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey, who relied on the ‘objective’ instrument of the camera to dissect human locomotion.

There is a link to be made here between authentication, pleasure and motion, as Williams explains. [27] In cooperation with the emergence of cinema, Williams positions these early motion studies as influences on scientia sexualis (Michel Foucault’s term for a “hermeneutics of desire” which operates “according to a conjunction of power and knowledge that probes the measurable, confessable “truths” of a sexuality that governs bodies and their pleasures”). [28] Even though Uman’s source film is decidedly soft-core, Williams’ analysis still applies in that it is the camera that is privileged as formulating an objective truth. By manipulating the film strip with her hands and with chemicals, Uman undermines the omnipotence of the camera, also rendering the female body un-seeable. While the camera can be a technology of capture (one that claims objectivity based on its mechanical and distanced nature), rotoscoping and Uman’s handmade processes are less precise and ‘messier’, revealing a different kind of rendering. As Haraway suggests, “situated knowledges” such as embodiment and subjective experience are possible alternatives to truth claims rooted in the perceived objectivity of ocularcentric methods and technologies such as the camera. [29] It is not hard to imagine the ways in which Uman’s relationship to the women of her film resonates with Haraway’s sentiment. Uman’s touch is both sensual and intimate – she gently caresses the contours of the little bodies of the women with her hands and tools, singling them out in each frame with meticulous strokes. In the first scene of Removed, the female actor is pleasuring herself while her male counterpart touches her body only with his eyes. However, Uman’s hand has also been here, touching the edges of the woman’s body with care. In porn (and film more generally), the filmmaker is separated from the woman’s body by the apparatus of the camera. In contrast, Uman’s haptic creative process seeks to rectify such mechanical distance. In Uman’s work, her hand fondles film bodies both intimately and precisely. She never touches the inner surface of the women’s bodies. Rather, she silhouettes them; staking out their corporeal territory as something apart from the other bodies and objects that we see on-screen.

The materiality of Uman’s creative process therefore evokes a skin of sorts. The movement of her bleached forms also suggests the beyond of that skin, reflecting Susanne K. Langer’s observation that in apprehending the world, we always tend to “perceive more than we see. We see surface but perceptually feel depth”. [30] Likewise, Laura U. Marks writes of the haptic gaze as moving “eroticism from the site of what is represented to the surface of the image”. [31] The nebulous quality of Uman’s body-shapes reveals not a distinct trajectory or recognisable action so much as a “perpetually ‘nascent state’ as an end in itself”. [32] In Uman’s film, the exterior of her body-shapes are ever-changing and always textured. Uman’s emergent and textured forms evoke what Marks calls “haptic visuality”, as it involves the embodied feeling of “touching a film with one’s eyes”. [33] In the immaterial realm of shadows and screens, it is not so much that an actual touching of the image is possible. Instead, Marks’ rethinking of the visual in relation to the tactile sense allows us to accommodate cinema as a potentially haptic medium.

When vision becomes haptic, the thing that is viewed takes on material qualities and feels touchable by those who view it. Likewise, when fleeting movement is rendered tangible (drawn into existence through techniques like rotoscoping), it increases the sense of intimacy that exists between a screen body and its viewer. Following Uman’s manual alteration of the film (which also relies on the non-human agency of substances like nail polish and bleach), the quality that survives and persists most fervently is motion. As previously discussed, such motion is indicative of a kind of nascent, gestural property that usually lies buried in the cinematic assemblage. What Uman teases out is a kind of dance instinct, as well as a performative impulse that is distinct from the prescribed kinetics of pornography. The interaction between the filmmaker and the bodies of her source material can also be read as a duet albeit one that happens across time (Uman is not present in the final product, except for in the traces of her hand). In addition, Uman’s caresses recorporealise her women into strange bodies that are vital and kinetic – akin to the lamella, ectoplasm and ghosts.

Through her particular techniques, Uman not only accentuates the movement of her female actors’ bodies, she creates additional layers of flickering movement. These kinetic outputs reach out into the world of the film. The walls, the bed and the space around the male actors’ heads are sometimes shot through with a crackling texture and with pinpricks of light. Despite her fastidious contouring, Uman’s strokes are sometimes shaky and imperfect, causing her animated women to shimmer all the more. In this way, Uman’s animation portrays currents of desire that root themselves not in the object of desire but in the space in-between objects and in-between a sense of absence and presence. In her work on ‘screendance’, Alanna Thain writes that animation is “neither representational nor simply indexical in nature” – it is “fundamentally the art of the in-between” in that it “activates in its relation to other art forms … a vivid sense of their potential”, in particular, the “body’s potential for relation”. [34] Through their repeated postures and engagements, Uman and her animations dance with one another, shaping each other’s bodies (and, by extension, shaping the body of the viewer through the eliciting of arousal, discomfort or humour). While infused with writhing white shapes (shapes that are dissimilar to the female figure), Uman’s film still bears the persistent gaze of both the male porn actor and of the viewer. What becomes invisible in Removed is not the eroticised woman (her erotic energy is enhanced through the dance-like impulse of her new, vital form) but the hand of the artist – Uman’s hand. Unlike the bodies of her ‘erased’ women, Uman’s presence nearly disappears through her own labour of erasure – a political statement unto itself. Yet the traces of these bodies, where they persist, are linked intuitively to the corporeal. They demand more than a scientific gaze to be read. Through its use of feminine household products such as bleach and nail polish remover as tools for erasure, Uman’s handmade cinema works like much female domestic and affective labour – it remains an inconspicuous or overlooked type of work. It is work sensed primarily through the affects it breeds in others, in you.

Reading Two: Ectoporn
In a 1920s photograph, a viscid, milky fluid can be seen running down between the legs of a Spiritualist medium named Kathleen Goligher.

Less than 50 years later, a similarly viscid and milky fluid can be seen on the big screen across North America: the pornographic cinema (a space as elicit as the nineteenth-century séance parlour). Through Uman’s handmade techniques – the running of her hand over the bodies of porn actors, causing them to overflow or goo – an alternate history of fluids emerges: one that links the ectoplasm secreted by mediums to the ‘money shot’, thereby fusing the pornographic with the mystical. The writhing, ectoplasmic figure of Uman’s Removed is referred to by Danni Zuvela as a “fantasy body” or a “lemony gold ghost”. [35] Similarly, Ofer Eliaz continuously characterises the figure as a “phantom”. [36] In this section, I mean to take these coinages at face value while extending and building on our argument concerning the gestural, the filmic, and the sexual. By examining the pornographic ghost that Uman creates, especially in the opening scene of her film, it is possible to reinvigorate discussions around gender and spectrality, authenticity and inauthenticity. Uman’s film is an embodied and ecstatic production that is enacted not just via the material body but also via bodily fluids.

A few years back, I remember seeing an advertisement for Pornhub in New York Times Square that read “all you need is hand”.

On the Handmade Cinema website, the editors write that “handmade moving-image artists seek to create new ways of seeing”. [37] This approach to seeing is not unlike Pornhub’s ‘manual’ assertion, especially if one considers how Uman created Removed. As Eliaz notes, “Uman’s physical acts as a filmmaker are visible in the traced absence that she writes on the emulsion”. [38] Film emulsion is a liminal substance that is rarely spoken of these days, save for specialised tech journals and how-to pages. “Below the image”, writes Eliaz, “at the sediment of the emulsion, is the trench of the representation”. [39] This assertion strikes me as somewhat mystical in its tone: below the image … the sediment of the emulsion. By mixing the fluids of bleach and nail polish into the film emulsion itself, Uman creates a kind of goo that is both a product of all of the above and none of them at all, a separate entity: the lemony gold ghost. It is at the level of fluid, then, that Uman’s transfiguration takes place. But what kind of fluid and what kind of transfiguration?

Ectoplasm in the nineteenth century was similar to film emulsion in that it allowed a window onto another world: a representation of that which is beyond, as material evidence of transfiguration itself. When trying to visualise ectoplasm it is easy to resort to a Hollywood image of what the stuff is. Thanks to the Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) franchise, we imagine a green slime that oozes from or is spattered out by ghosts; more puerile than sexual, an annoyance rather than a wonder. When ectoplasm hit the Spiritualist scene during the late nineteenth century, however, such ideas could not have been further from reality. Ectoplasm opened up a new frontier for the medium’s communication with spirits and was, quite literally, empirical evidence of their existence. Now it was not only possible to speak with the spirit world (as the Spiritualists originally contended) but to touch, smell and interact with it. The term ‘ectoplasm’ was first coined in 1894 by French physiologist Charles Richet. In the words of Tom Gunning, that term was used to describe “a whitish, malleable substance that oozed from the orifices of mediums. The appearance of this mucous-like substance … gave séances an oddly physiological turn as normally taboo processes – bodily orifices extruding liquefying masses – were accepted as evidence of spiritual forces”. [40] And further, in L. Anne Delgado’s description, ectoplasm was “a palpable – and often gynecological – externalization of the spirit world”. [41] Gunning’s stress on evidence is key here, as ectoplasm was not just a substance that was produced for the entertainment of sitters at séances. Rather, ectoplasm was the very proof that these séances worked. The fact that this proof was gynecological, as Delgado notes, is something worth further exploring. With ectoplasm, Spiritualism arrived at what it had pursued since the Fox sisters heard ghostly rappings against a table in New York State in the mid-nineteenth century. [42] It signaled the ‘climax’ of mediumship – it was whitish, gooey, and bodily; it was extruding, malleable, and mucous-like. In this embodiment, ectoplasm might not be like film emulsion so much as a more intimate kind of material. In her study on hard-core pornography, Williams writes:

Thus with the money shot we appear to arrive at what the cinematic will-to-knowledge had relentlessly pursued ever since photographer Eadweard Muybridge first threw the image of naked moving bodies on the screen of his lecture hall and ever since Thomas Edison ordered his technicians to photograph a sneeze: the visual evidence of the mechanical “truth” of bodily pleasure caught in involuntary spasm; the ultimate and uncontrollable – ultimate because uncontrollable – confession of sexual pleasure in the climax of orgasm. [43]

The confessional moment that is the ‘money shot’ in pornography finds its parallel in the emergence of ectoplasm in the Spiritualist movement. Just as semen functions as the visible ‘proof’ of male orgasm, this substance provided ‘proof’ of the beyond, as brought forth by predominantly female mediums. And yet, both substances are suggestive of a certain gender fluidity, especially in the context of Uman. In Removed, the female figure is erased into a semen-like substance. Similarly, the ectoplasm that issued from the female body appeared as male ejaculate. As portrayed through the bodily fluids of these two cases, there is a complete entangling and meshing of gender. In addition, the way that ectoplasm emerged from the medium was not unlike an orgasm. Delgado quotes Enrico Morselli, writing about the nineteenth century Neapolitan medium, Eusapia Palladino: “she falls into true convulsions and cries out”, writes Morselli. He continues: “from the aperture in the parietal bone of her head there exhales a warm fluid, or vapour, sensible to the touch”. [44] It is worth mentioning that Palladino also extruded particularly phallic ectoplasms. Richet himself commented that once he “saw a long, stiff rod proceed from her [the medium’s] side”. [45] In an ectoplasmic reading, the body that is found in Uman’s Removed is not comparable to the séance medium per se but to the form that the medium extruded as proof of the beyond – to ectoplasm itself, as a genderless (or gender-full) orgasmic emanation. As Geley notes, “it was unlikely that it [ectoplasm] ever separated from the medium’s body”. [46] While inseparable from the body it emerged from, ectoplasmic fluid called into question the very matter of the body and where its boundaries end or overflow. When the body seeps beyond and yet never leaves its own perimeter, what does this say about the nature of the ‘beyond’?

To assert that ectoplasm embodied the mechanical truth of the beyond in the nineteenth century is not an overstatement, though it requires some momentary rewinding. Before going further into the specifics of my ectoplasmic reading of Removed, it is important to state that ectoplasm did not exist without the larger framework of Spiritualism. As a movement, Spiritualism sat between the poles of religion and science. Its ‘truth’ can be summed up by a simple tenet: communication with the world of the dead was possible, real and scientifically provable. The way to connect to the world of the dead was literally through a middle channel: a medium. [47] Mediumship has gained much traction in contemporary media studies. The school of thought that María del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren refer to as the ‘spectral turn’ is well-versed in looking at relationships between the Spiritualist medium and Morse code, for example, or the Spiritualist medium and the invention of the telegraph. [48] In his book Haunted Media, Jeffrey Sconce takes these ideas further, writing that “both the Spiritualists and their antagonists elaborated the electrical mysteries of the telegraph into a theory of woman as technology”. [49] Absent from these discussions however is the body of the medium itself and more explicitly, the ectoplasmic fluid this body emitted. Today, mediumship is still widely practiced. Ectoplasm itself is still produced by Spiritualist mediums working today.

What is truth and what is fiction across mediumship, film and even pornography? In any discussion of ectoplasm, the first comment that one hears is that ectoplasm is not ‘real’. It is interesting to note that this question does not come up regarding another mechanical truth: the ‘money shot’. Yet the industry for ‘fake’ semen is booming for DIY porn, and can be found at such sites as, where synthetic semen is “your best shot at saving a shoot” and where magic becomes a substitute for synthetic.

It is precisely at this magical and synthetic gap where ‘truth’ comes undone that Removed is situated. Uman remediates the 1970s porn film to such an extent that it becomes her own creation. Not only has the language been dubbed from German into English but Uman has dubbed over the image itself, radically altering the visual register of pornography by literally removing the film from any claims of authenticity. By doing so, Uman changes the conversation. We can take our cues from her in continuing with this analysis. Instead of discussing whether or not ectoplasm was real or what it was, in fact, made out of, it is far more productive to discuss who the bodies were that ectoplasm issued from and what this says about the media of the body to begin with.

In the nineteenth century, mediums were predominantly women and many were working-class. That is to say, mediumship within Spiritualism was a trade (and often, a precarious one). That trade left mediums themselves vulnerable to both sexual and financial exploitation; in fact, practising the profession was not unlike being an adult film actor. Performer and director Tobi Hill-Meyer could just as well be talking about mediumship when he notes about the porn industry that, “your payment is not based on the work you do, but how well you monetise the work you do, and being able to sell yourself means public perception is super-important”. [50] The way that mediums sold themselves to the public in order to procure more contracts often involved ectoplasm and ectoplasm itself had a sexual component. It is for this reason that Marlene Tromp goes so far as to write that mediumship is “perhaps, at some level, an inherently sexualized act”. [51]

Since it occupied a liminal zone between the mystical and the bodily, ectoplasm often required rigorous ‘authentication’ at séances. These authentications were put in place to make sure that the medium and her ectoplasmic proof were bona fide. In terms of its materiality, I have spoken so far of ectoplasm as a semen-like substance that issued from the bodies of female mediums. However, what ectoplasm came to encompass was called full-form materialisation and much closer in kind to Uman’s lemony gold ghosts. By the time that the nineteenth century was reaching its close, the major trade for mediums was physical mediumship. Tromp notes that British medium Florence Cook was only seventeen-years-old when she “first offered up her body as the venue for the stunning ‘full-form materialization,’ the physical embodiment of a spirit … the ectoplasm of the medium”. [52] Here, ectoplasm was not formless goo but more like an avatar, a doll or a ghost; in any case, a fully formed human body.

It was the bodies of these ectoplasmic ghosts, as well as the mediums who produced them, that were probed by the invasive process of authentication, often in front of sitters at the séance and not separate from the spectacle those sitters paid to watch. The authenticators were almost unanimously male scientists. If the medium’s body was constantly under scrutiny for fraudulence, what the authenticator of that body represented was a world of Enlightened truth and visual evidence (even a mechanical ‘truth’, as Linda Williams might put it). One such prominent authenticator was William Crookes – a Fellow of the Royal Society who would eventually be knighted during his time. Reading Crookes’ reports of authentication, however, reads more like a narrative script for soft-core porn than an objective scientific account. Highlighting the differences between Florence Cook and her materialised spirit ‘Katie King’, Crookes wrote: “Katie’s neck was bare last night; the skin was perfectly smooth to touch and to sight, whilst on Miss. Cook’s neck is a large blister, which under similar circumstances is distinctly visible and rough to the touch”. [53] Often, Crookes’ reports do not speak of seeing Florence Cook so much as touching her and her materialised spirit. Furthermore, as an authenticator, Crookes was granted open access to the medium’s cabinet or, as it was sometimes referred to, her ‘box’.

Why not compare mediumship to sex work rather than pornography, then? While an argument could be made for the connections between sex trade and mediumship, historically, mediumship was generally considered as part of the entertainment industry (as theatrical work), especially by its skeptics. [54] Furthermore, séances of the time were attended by a group who participated in the event, as well as watching it. Séance participation is not dissimilar to how porn was originally consumed in cinemas, especially around the late 1990s when Uman made Removed. The often-perceived seediness of porn and the shabbiness of mediumship – a trade that still remains inextricable from claims of fraudulence – are categories that serve to diminish or oppress these industries and the people engaged in them. At the same time, they reveal the public’s fixation with an experience that is deeply desired and deeply feared: eros and thanatos are rarely separate. Séances were and still are undeniably well attended. Porn, too.

At the level of audience engagement, what does it mean to participate in a séance or to consume porn? The writhing, moaning figure in the first part of Uman’s Removed keeps repeating “come here” to a male spectator who is completely unconvinced. In this film, the ‘proof’ of sexual desire is never reached and the female performer is just that: a performer engaging in a spectacle of autoerotica to no avail. In Uman’s portrayal, however, the female figure has become the orgasm. Her manifestation on-screen as an ectoplasmic seminal fluid is just as embodied as the ectoplasmic ghosts that authenticators probed in order to declare them ‘true’ or ‘false’. “It’s too bad, Eva”, says the male performer at the end of the segment, “the train’s pulled out of the station”. Her almost desperately supplicating figure reveals a disconnect between the media (the semen) and the process of attaining that media (sexual arousal). Rather, she embodies seminal fluid disconnected from sexual pleasure, an affect that comes off as a little silly and disarmingly uncanny when watching Removed. In Hard Core, Williams describes a similar disconnect when speaking about the ‘money shot’ and its attempts “to show the quantifiable, material ‘truth’ of his pleasure”. She continues:

the male pornographic film performer must withdraw from any tactile connection with the genitals or mouth of the woman so that the ‘spending’ of his ejaculate is visible. With this convention, viewers are asked to believe that the sexual performers within the film want to shift from the tactile to a visual pleasure at the crucial moment of the male orgasm. [55]

As Williams points out, the lead-up to the ‘money shot’ often involves the female actor requesting the male to ejaculate on her (“come here”), expressing it as something that she wants to see. Yet “this spectacle is not really for her eyes” Williams notes, as the semen is usually ejaculated onto parts of her body that she cannot see at all. [56] This is where Williams’ historic analysis becomes slightly dated or unimaginative, however. For when the woman says she wants to “see” the cum, it seems obvious that she not only wants to see the sexual climax but to feel it. When speaking of pornography or of ectoplasm, it is important to insert the consumer’s embodied experience into the equation. Just as the senses intermingle during sex, the watcher of pornography is put into a sensuous state in which the sense of touch becomes almost inseparable from sight. Danni Zuvela’s phenomenological reading of avant-garde cinema is also pertinent here. As she notes:

Corporeal cinema is characterized by its specific address to, and engagement of the spectator’s sensuality. Linda Williams, drawing on the work of Vivian Sobchack, describes corporeal cinema in terms of its ‘rebound’ effect, whereby the spectator of porn – or avant-garde cinema – is returned to her or his sensing body”. [57]

As the Handmade Cinema website declares, this is a ‘new’ way of seeing indeed, one that brings us back to ways of seeing that were also put into play during nineteenth-century séances.

Williams’ arguments surrounding the ‘money shot’ are still pertinent. In fact, Removed could be considered a critique of “the genre’s frequent insistence that [the] visual confession of a solitary male ‘truth’ coincides with the orgasmic bliss of the female”, as she puts it. [58] In Removed, it is the female body that bears the closest resemblance to seminal fluid, perhaps providing the visual ‘proof’ of her own desire. Male bodies, after all, are not the only bodies that ejaculate. While pornography featuring women squirting could be seen as a similar drive to capture the manifest evidence of a woman’s orgasm, it is not quite equivalent to the finality of the male version. In their similarity to seminal fluid, the “palpitating voids” of Uman’s film “suggest a feminist raid”. [59] The “very limit of the visual representation of sexual pleasure” is reached in Removed, spilling over self-contained forms. [60] As much as Uman technically erases her female figures with bleach, she also creates an excess and a ‘beyond’.

While the connections between Spiritualism and contemporary media studies are undeniably constructive, they also tend to distance themselves from the (seeping) body. As Delgado similarly notes, this sidestepping ends up positioning the medium with reference to a different kind of probing media. “Ectoplasm emerged at a time when women’s bodies were under special scrutiny”, Delgado writes, when “surgical gynecology allowed physicians to examine pathological conditions hidden within the female body and medical practitioners had devised and made use of gynecological instruments like the speculum” in order to “reveal female interiors”. [61] As it seeps from mostly female orifices yet possesses an extruded quality, ectoplasmic fluid disturbs gender-based distinctions between the seminal and the vaginal. Such distinctions are similarly embodied and disturbed in Uman’s Removed.

Pornography not only allows for an ectoplasmic reading of the film but a pornographic reading of ectoplasm and mediumship. In the second segment of Uman’s film, the woman says to another blasé man, “I think your idea of a two-way mirror will pay off”. Writing of photography, Zuvela suggests that “the agency of excessive light … conjures the double inscription of the ‘speculum’ in Luce Irigaray’s discussion of the ‘burning mirror’, which both illuminates the ‘secret depths’ of difference, and sets ablaze the photological scheme of ‘the real’”. [62] In this context, it is notable that the speculum was coming into being at a time when séances required mediums to be locked inside a wire cage that was itself inside a cabinet. This was done in order to prove that the medium was separate from the spirit she was about to channel. According to Marlene Tromp, “this ‘box’ … was the province of both woman and ghost, flesh and spirit”. [63]

In a similar way, Uman’s writhing female figure on-screen is locked within a space that also relies on a concealing and a revealing. She is bleached out of frame yet her bleaching becomes an overflowing – of what, though? As Ofer Eliaz suggests of the ‘absent’ racially or sexually marked body, it “gives rise to an internal offscreen space, a gap or exteriority within the image”. [64] Both the gap and the exteriority of the image, in any kind of film, is us: the viewer. As the ectoplasmic figure overflows, what emerges from her on-screen form in Removed is orgasmic proof of the ‘beyond’. Here, the beyond is tethered to the immanent and the pornographic. Rather than the viewer being thrown back onto a transcendent ‘Other’ that flickers on-screen or in séance, Removed makes its appeals to our own participant bodies, fluid and all.

Secrets, Secretions
What is the body in excess of the body? Where does ectoplasm begin and end? Who is the secret dancer in relation to the dancer who is the opposite of secret – the pornographic, the secretion? In the making of Removed, Uman’s process denuded the naked bodies of women, teasing out their kineticism frame by frame. Her process makes film bodies at once both more ephemeral and more acute. In Uman’s intervention, the gesture of ‘erasure’ means to contour, to awaken.

In describing the lamella, Lacan figures it as being beside and not separate from the unconscious. Like the lamella, the unconscious is “something that opens and closes”, writes Lacan. The lamella is something that “has a rim, [and] inserts itself into the erogenous zone, that is to say, in one of the orifices of the body”. [65] Such a gesture implies that the unconscious is sexual (i.e. physical). By being physical, the unconscious is not discrete unto itself; it extends outwards, away from its own containment. In a poetic turn of phrase, Lacan writes: “the sexual relation is handed over to the hazards of the field of the Other. It is handed over to the explanations that are given of it. It is handed over to the old woman of whom – it is not a pointless fable – Daphnis must learn what one must do to make love”. [66] In Uman’s film, however, the point is not making love but re-making porn. More precisely, Uman’s work ‘erases’ or intervenes in porn. As Williams states, “pornography has historically been one of the few types of popular film that has not punished women for actively pursuing their sexual pleasure”. [67] At the time of writing this article, it has been two decades since Uman (hand)made Removed. We could say that the playfulness of her intervention points to a more contemporary mode of pornography that does not always (if ever at all) hold the ‘money shot’ as central. Online projects such as Stoya and Kayden Kross’s Trenchcoatx, Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn,, as well as content by Violet Blue and Tristan Taormino are all involved with curating feminist pornography that is sexy, consensual, and creative. In feminist porn, it is not so much about the lamella that inserts itself into the erogenous zone, as Lacan suggests. If we can refigure it, the lamella at once occupies and exposes that erogenous zone. It is an act without a necessary insertion, an opening and an orifice that does not necessarily close.

Lacan describes the unconscious in terms of the ultra bodily as he places it in conjunction with both the lamella and, yes, the bladder – “this bladder”, he writes, “can be seen only if one places a little light inside it”. [68] As Marina Warner points out, the ectoplasm of the nineteenth century could not be produced without the dark. [69] Similarly, without the dark, film would not exist nor would sight itself. Every frame beckons a saccade in order to flicker and become luminous, discrete, to become gesture after gesture, a series that creates fluidity. This is vital movement; what is needed in order to perceive at all is the interplay between light and dark. Life, especially the life of the libido, points to death. It is precisely this that Lacan’s lamella comes to. “In this way”, he writes, “I explain the essential affinity of every drive with the zone of death, and reconcile the two sides of the drive – which, at one and the same time, makes present sexuality in the unconscious and represents, in its essence, death”. [70]

Yet the kind of death that is present in the sexual drive and that is manifest in the secretion of ectoplasm is not so much proof of the afterlife as it is a reanimation of it. Through her feminist resurrection of a 1970s porn film, Uman breathes new life into female bodies through her fluid interventions at the level of the emulsion. Through her fluid, handmade processes, she manages to do do something quite different from early trick cinema. In the trick cinema of Georges Méliès, for example, it was constantly a “male magician performing acts of wonder on a female subject” that caused her to vanish. [71] In Removed, Uman’s magic is to create a vanishing act in which the body is not gone but in excess. A similar move can be seen in the photographs of empty porn sets by Jo Broughton. As Boughton states on her website, “the emptiness [of the sets] has the effect of mainlining emotional reverb into the space”. [72]

Additionally, trains its eye on the vacated sets of cam girls, whose haunting evacuation from these sets does not so much remove the subject as make it hyper-present. In both works, the viewer cannot help but acutely envision the bodies of the missing porn actors and sex workers who inhabit these rooms. The rooms become literally a kind of ‘box’ (similar to the medium’s box that so fascinated the male authenticators of the nineteenth century). If Uman’s film is to be compared to trick cinema at all, then perhaps it is Pathé’s Transformation (ca. 1906) that comes closest to her efforts. In this film, “a female magician conjures live male and female babies out of a series of flowers and vegetables” in a playful refusal of scissiparous essentialism. [73]

When each came on the scene, film and photography both offered frames of truth that were aligned more with the scientific than the artistic. [74] Similarly, in being forever what is not there or what is yet to come, ghosts and spirits are perceived as a means by which to locate the truth. That is, if only we could see a ghost or feel its manifestation, then the invisible or the unknown would become traceable, provable and our own physical extension into it would be manifest. The careful tracing of the dancer’s body in rotoscoping, too, carries the weight of such impossible claims. If only we could make our created images move like our own limbs and breathe life into our media, then we could understand that very life and that fluidity. As Judith Butler writes:

We can say that these are matters of empathy across time, but I want to suggest that part of what a body does (to use the phrase of Deleuze, derived from his reading of Spinoza) is to open onto the body of another, or a set of others, and that for this reason bodies are not self-enclosed kinds of entities. [75]

Revisiting Removed via the secret dancers of early twentieth century rotoscoping and ectoplasmic mediums has allowed us to engage in larger questions surrounding ‘truth’ and the body that do not bypass the body, even when bodies are not ‘visible’. Above all, our approach in this article has been rooted in the bodily acts that help to create film and media, alongside a sense of movement that is never self-enclosed but always opening onto others. Ectoplasm and the act of rotoscoping exceed neat theoretical categories and any notion of a self-enclosed unit, thereby opening up questions of what we mean by a ‘body’ at all (especially in the digital context of the present era). As Douglas Rosenberg explains, “[c]ontemporary life is a mix of simulated, mediatized, analog and digital, flesh and machine, and often the delineations between these states are unrecognizable. That we live in a collaged culture is a given”. [76]

In our view, the secret dancers who animated cartoons in rotoscoping are similar to the bodies of full-form ectoplasmic manifestations. Marge Champion dances with Snow White, each bringing the other into a different kind of being. Similarly, the medium Florence Cook once engaged in a dance with her own double, the ectoplasmic spirit ‘Katie King’. In this article, we have sought to examine the connections between pornography, film and spectrality in order to reorganise what we perceive as the ‘screen’ body. To achieve this aim, we have returned to the subject positions of the dancer and the medium rather than to the media that so often supersedes them. In the authentication of a nineteenth-century medium, the tendency was not toward the closure of her open body (as one might assume) but the exposure of it. We have asked: the exposure of what? It seems that the search for what is authentic always involves an exposure of the inauthentic. It is in a charged material space that we suspect lies the place of a true authenticity. When Naomi Uman reworked her pornographic source material by concealing the female body, she revealed the improvability of the confessional moment of truth that is the female orgasm and, one could say, pleasure itself. Bodies in excess of bodies, Uman’s ectoplasmic and seminal figures function as bodies in vital motion. Here, fluidity becomes a technique for unmooring hard truths. Just as Uman herself collaborates with the bodies of her porn actors as she ‘erases’ them, so have we attempted to give a twinned and feminist reading of Removed. In this way, we hope that our tribute to Uman plays as a duet, doubling back and forth and interconnecting the themes of kinaesthesia, film, media and the phantasmic. The doubled bodies on which this duet is based are not ethereal, disappearing and empty but present, tenacious, mobile, and alive.

[1] Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 230.
[2] Gregory Zinman, “About Handmade Cinema”, (last accessed: 16 January 2018).
[3] Douglas Rosenberg, Screendance: Inscribing the Ephemeral Image (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 53.
[4] Justin Remes, “Animated Holes: An Interview with Naomi Uman”, Millenium Film Journal No. 66 (October 2017), pp. 68-72.
[5] Panpan Yang, “Rotoscoping Body: Secret Dancers, Animated Realism and Temporal Critique”, The Spectator Vol. 36 No. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 33-42.
[6] Williams, Hard Core, p. 50.
[7] Jacques Lacan (trans. Alan Sheridan), “The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI” in Jacques-Alain Miller (ed.), The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (New York: Norton & Company, 1981), p. 19
[8] Ibid., p. 198.
[9] Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011), p. 140.
[10] Brian Dillon, “The Revelation of Erasure”, Tate Modern, 1 September 2006, (last accessed: 16 January 2018)
[11] Soledad Santiago, “Milking the Subject: Experiments in Film”, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 27 January 2006, n.p.
[12] Roland Barthes (trans. Annette Lavers), “Striptease”, Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1984), pp. 84-87.
[13] Danni Zuvela, “A Little Light Teasing: Some Special Affects in Avant-Garde Cinema”, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Vol. 26 No. 4 (August 2012), pp. 589–602, p. 595.
[14] Santiago, “Milking”.
[15] Rosenberg, Screendance, p. 57.
[16] Santiago, “Milking”.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan (London: Granta Publications, 2006), p. 62.
[19] Zuvela, “A Little Light”, p. 594; Ofer Eliaz, “Acts of Erasure: The Limits of the Image in Naomi Uman’s Early Films”, Discourse, Vol. 36 No. 2 (Spring 2014), p. 212; Clare Stewart quoted in Zuvela, “A Little Light”, p. 595.
[20] Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in Neil Badmington and Julia Thomas (eds), The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 202-212, p. 205.
[21] Williams, Hard Core, p. 32.
[22] Susanne K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953), p. 174.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Rosenberg, Screendance, p. 39.
[25] Yang, “Rotoscoping”, p. 2.
[26] Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3, (Autumn 1988), pp. 575-599, p. 581.
[27] Wiliams describes the “pornographic answer” as the “elusive and prurient ‘truth’” that seems to be “located in increasingly more detailed investigations of the bodies of women”. See Williams, Hard Core, p. 36.
[28] Williams sees this “confession of pleasure [as] organized according to male norms that fail to recognize – or perhaps to imagine – difference”. She writes: “The more the male investigator probes the mysteries of female sexuality to capture the single moment revealing the secret of her mechanism (as he once tried to capture the moment of truth in a horse’s fast trot), the more he succeeds only in reproducing the woman’s pleasure based on the model, and measured against the standard, of his own”. Ibid., p. 53.
[29] Haraway, “Situated Knowledges”, pp. 582-583.
[30] Langer in Massumi, Semblance, p. 127.
[31] Laura U. Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment and the Senses (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), p. 185.
[32] Massumi, Semblance, p. 139.
[33] Marks, The Skin of the Film, p. xii.
[34] Alanna Thain, “In the Blink of an Eye: Norman McLaren Between Dance and Animation” in Douglas Rosenberg (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Screendance Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 167, p. 172.
[35] Zuvela, “A Little Light”, p. 595.
[36] Eliaz, “Acts of Erasure, pp. 207–231.
[37] Zinman, “About Handmade Cinema”.
[38] Eliaz, “Acts of Erasure”, p. 211.
[39] Ibid. p. 212.
[40] Tom Gunning, “Phantom Images and Modern Manifestations: Spirit Photography, Magic Theater, Trick Films, and Photography’s Uncanny” in Murray Leeder (ed.), Cinematic Ghosts: Haunting and Spectrality from Silent Cinema to the Digital Era (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 30.
[41] L. Anne Delgado, “Bawdy Technologies and the Birth of Ectoplasm”, Genders, 54 (Summer 2011). Article is not yet on site and was sourced directly from author, n. p.
[42] See Marlene Tromp, Altered States: Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism (New York: State University of New York Press, 2006), p. 21: “By the 1870s, a new phenomena, known as full-form materialization, had taken center stage, and this one topped all previous manifestations…”.
[43] Williams, Hard Core, p. 101.
[44] Delgado, “Bawdy Technologies”.
[45] Ibid.
[46] Ibid.
[47] I am using the past tense when I speak of mediumship, although it should be noted that Spiritualism and mediumship are still very much alive. Throughout, however, I am referring to nineteenth-century practices.
[48] See María del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren, The Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and Haunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).
[49] Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2000), p. 14.
[50] Melissa Gira Grant, “How Stoya Took on James Deen and Broke the Porn Industry’s Silence”, The Guardian (December 4, 2015), Web, (last accessed: 16 January 2018).
[51] Tromp, Altered States, p. 40.
[52] Ibid., p. 22.
[53] Ibid., p. 41.
[54] See Alex Owen, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (London: Virago Press, 1989) and Beth. A. Kattelman, “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? American Ghost Shows of the Twentieth Century” in Mary Luckhurst and Emilie Morin (eds), Theatre and Ghosts: Materiality, Performance, and Modernity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
[55] Williams, Hard Core, p. 101.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Zuvela, “A Little Light”, p. 591.
[58] Williams, Hard Core, p. 101.
[59] Ibid., p. 595.
[60] Ibid., p. 101.
[61] Delgado, “Bawdy Technologies”.
[62] Zuvela, “A Little Light”, p. 595.
[63] Tromp, Altered States, p. 40.
[64] Eliaz, “Acts of Erasure”, p. 201.
[65] Lacan, “The Seminar”, pp. 199-200.
[66] Ibid., p. 199.
[67] Williams, Hard Core, p. 2.
[68] Lacan, “The Seminar”, p. 188.
[69] Marina Warner, “Ethereal Body: The Quest for Ectoplasm”, Cabinet, issue 12 (Fall / Winter 2013), Web, (last accessed: 16 January 2018).
[70] Lacan, “The Seminar”, p. 199.
[71] Lucy Fischer, “The Lady Vanishes: Women, Magic and the Movies”, Film Quarterly, Vol. 33 No. 1 (Autumn 1979), p. 30.
[72] (last accessed: 16 January 2018).
[73] Fischer, “The Lady Vanishes”, p. 37.
[74] See Gunning, “Phantom Images”, p. 18.
[75] Judith Butler, “Can One Lead a Good Life in a Bad Life?” Adorno Prize Lecture, Radical Philosophy 176 (November / December 2012), p. 16.
[76] Rosenberg, Screendance, p. 2.

About the Author

Hilary Bergen and Sandra Huber

About the Authors

Hilary Bergen

Hilary Bergen is doing a PhD in Humanities at Concordia University, where she studies technologies of the moving body, cyborg theory and feminist media history. Her current project investigates what a post-human theory of dance might look like.

Sandra Huber

Sandra Huber is doing a PhD in Humanities at Concordia University, where she focuses on contemporary witchcraft and nineteenth-century mediumship. She is the author of Assembling the Morrow: A Poetics of Sleep (Talonbooks, 2014).View all posts by Hilary Bergen and Sandra Huber →