Freud: The Mystic Writing Pad

Untitled, Anthony Prothero 2018

Untitled, Anthony Prothero 2018

The idea of the Mystic writing pad came from children's toys consisting of a sheet of plastic covering a wax board. This can be written on with any pointy implement, even your finger. The tip of the stylus presses through the plastic and leaves an indentation on the wax underneath.

"For Freud, all means of mechanically supplementing the memory suffered from one of two drawbacks. Permanent means of recording, like paper, can only be written on once--they quickly become filled and need to be further supplemented. The alternative (eg: a chalk board) is infinitely receptive, but only if one erases the previous inscriptions. The Mystic Writing Pad, however, represented an admittedly imperfect but illuminating example of how the psyche itself records material. Like the chalk board, it can record an infinite amount of material while always remaining "new." But, like the piece of paper, this material leaves a faint, but perceptible trace on the waxen surface below, a trace which can be seen if one were to lift up the sheet of plastic and examine the wax surface. This, for Freud, is analogous to the way the psychic system which received sense impression from the outside world remains unmarked by those impressions which pass through it to a deeper layer where they are recorded as unconscious memory. Thus, "the appearance and disappearance of the writing" is similar to "the flickering-up and passing-away of consciousness in the process of perception" (SEXIX:230)." -  Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.

Derrida claims that none of us "apprehend the world directly, but only retrospectively". Our sense of that which is beyond ourselves is the product of previous memories, previous writings.

These previous memories are where this investigation has started form. Like the "Indentations" on the writing pad, which fade away after time leaving only an impression, memories equally fade away leaving only an impression of that memory. My work is based around the memories left as traces from my childhood. These will be presented in the form of text based notes, although I have not made the aesthetic decisions surrounding this as yet. I have been looking at other practitioners for some inspiration which will be in another post in due course. 


Bibliography (2018). The Mystic Writing Pad. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].