The Uncanny Return of Repressed History in Jonathan Hobin’s <em>In the Playroom</em>: Playing beyond the Pleasure Principle
This paper investigates the motif of repetition in relationship to the pervasive emblem of the child as future. Drawing from Sigmund Freud’s discussion of the uncanny and from D. W. Winnicott’s theory of playing, the paper proposes that newness rests not on the literal fact of the child but in the play of signification—the life of the signifier—opened up in the haunting encounter with old scenes. When childhood is understood as an uncanny effect, we may encounter the adult’s repressed and quaking insides, an encounter from which typically we flee in the idealization of the child as future. This paper takes as its object of analysis a recent series by Canadian photographer Jonathan Hobin called In the Playroom, which features children as “doubles” who re-enact scenes of historical violence and power plays of the adult world. Hobin’s doubles have uncanny effects that hold the potential for renewed meaning in a world that turns on the compulsion to repeat.