Collegium Helveticum
Fellow Lecture

Ghostly Currency
The Afterlife of Celebrity


Venue & accessibility info: Meridian Hall, Collegium Helveticum

This is a public event. Participation is free of charge and registration is not required.

The lecture is followed by a small reception.

In this conversation, Senior Fellow Kriss Ravetto and film theorist Martine Beugnet will examine how the ghost is entangled with desire, consumer culture, and property, including postmortem intellectual property and publicity rights or what Jane Gaines calls “the absurdity of property in the person.”

The image or footage of celebrity personalities (like Princess Diana, John Lennon, and Marylin Monroe) or characters associated with particular celebrity personalities (like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, or Adam West’s Batman) have engendered and continue to generate income for the living (including persons or companies who had no actual contractual relations with the subjects when they were alive). The question regarding who owns the property of the dead had produced a series of legal disputes, but more importantly asked us to think about how we can in fact own or control ephemeral objects like texts, social media posts or voice messages, as well as film and video images of those who have died.

With the recent Citroen DS3 adverts that feature John Lennon, Marcello Mastroianni, and Marylin Monroe, we consider the transformation of possession from an early modern notion of spirit possession to a late, spectral regime of image circulation that produces its own purgatory, fit for a neoliberal environment driven by consumption and the need for instant communication. We will end with a discussion of the ghostly afterlife of our digital presences (images, texts, messages) as poignantly presented in the “I’ll be right back” episode of Black Mirror (2013).

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