The Gardens at Taskerland is the series in which I talk about this blog, the direction it is headed in, and any tweaks and alterations I feel like making. The rest of the series can be found here.
This is an experiment.
While all blogs have the power to expand, contract, wander or stall, most of them define themselves by specific choices about subject matter.
For example, some people allow their blogs to be defined by attachment to artistic form as in the case of people who blog about books, films, or theatre. Other people choose to write about personal matters and so anchor themselves to their own experiences.
Many of the most successful personal blogs start out by committing themselves to particular forms or subjects only to wind up defining themselves in social terms. In other words, while people may very well write about the films they watch or the experiences they have had, these posts will inevitable wind up being written with one eye on a broader cultural conversation such as a fandom, an industry, or a political movement.
This blog is something of an experiment in that (unlike my previous blogs) I propose to bind it to a particular theme, namely that of the haunting.
The name of the blog is inspired by the setting for Nigel Kneale’s 1972 TV movie The Stone Tape.
The film revolves around a group of engineers who are set up in an abandoned mansion by a wealthy industrialist who, under pressure from Japanese imports, has decided to fund some blue-sky research. Despite high-energy leadership and seemingly endless resources, the group flounders until their computer programmer happens to see a ghost. Initially terrified, the group soon realises that the ghostly manifestation is nothing more than a figure that appears in a specific place in response to an unknown trigger and performs a specific set of actions before disappearing. Seeing as the ghost appears to have neither physical presence nor agency, the leader of the group concludes that ghosts are not so much disembodied spirits as information that has somehow been etched into the stones comprising the basement of the mansion. Thus, the group decides to experiment on the ghost in an attempt to learn how the information has been stored and how it might be replayed on demand.
What fascinates me about the Stone Tape is its attempt to come up with an entirely new way of thinking about ghosts and hauntings. Peruse a book like Roger Clarke’s A Natural History of Ghosts and you will find that the concept of a ghost differs not only from culture to culture, but also from era to era. For example, the disembodied souls invoked by Victorian spiritualists were very different to the shy and retiring creatures entreated to perform by contemporary ghost hunters. Similarly, the faceless and incoherent fonts of supernatural rage referred to in the late 20th Century as poltergeist are very different to the fragments of information accidentally burned into the foundations of Taskerlands manor.
Inspired by Kneale’s film, this blog is an attempt to articulate and explore new ways of thinking about ghosts. To view them not only as tropes in popular culture or theoretical constructs that shine a hauntological light on the development of culture, but also things that exert a massive influence upon our sense of self. This is a blog about the metaphorical and the actual… about entities that are both absolutely real and completely fictitious.