Sci-Fi TV Series tackling Digital Immortality, Uncanniness, Identity, and Depersonalisation – Part I: Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon is the only TV series that I know of that primarily and extensively deals with the transhumanist narrative of digitising, storing, and transferring human consciousness as a way of achieving immortality – and it’s a pretty gripping story if you have a little patience in the beginning whilst the universe is being fleshed out, in order to truly get immersed into the plot and connect with the characters. The story raises questions on human nature, identity loss in a changing, posthuman world, depersonalisation, and the necropolitical implications of a transhumanist future reliant upon biotechnology. The show is based on the eponymous cyberpunk novel by Richard K. Morgan, to which I will also refer to for further contextual information about the conceptual universe portrayed.

According to one of its founding fathers, Nick Bostrom, transhumanism is defined as “the intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities”. At the same time, it’s also “The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.”

Bostrom adds: “Transhumanists hold that we should seek to develop and make available human enhancement options in the same way and for the same reasons that we try to develop and make available options for therapeutic medical treatments: in order to protect and expand life, health, cognition, emotional well-being, and other states or attributes that individuals may desire in order to improve their lives.”

The foundation of transhumanist beliefs and endeavours is built upon the principles of individual autonomy in selecting methods to enhance the body and mind, as well as ethical responsibilities when it comes to optimising living conditions and capabilities. Despite acknowledging potential health risks associated with such technologies, John Harris, bioethicist, advocates for scientific and technological advancements as a means to create a better society, and emphasises the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their actions.

Enhancement is thus a central belief of transhumanism, which seeks to advance humanity beyond its current natural state. There are many arguments pro and against the transhumanist movement. It has received criticism from opponents who are referred to as “bioconservatives,” including Francis Fukuyama who labelled transhumanism as “the most dangerous idea in the world.” The critiques revolve around the potential for misusing enhancement techniques, which has led to questions about the future of humanity and the accessibility and ethical considerations of these advancements. The opposing arguments state that transhumanist ideas pose dangers in terms of social-political and metaphysical implications. The social-political concerns revolve around the uncertainty of the equal distribution of radical technologies, while the metaphysical dangers involve the impact of these technologies on human identity and meaning. Both types of danger share a common fear, that transhumanism will lead to the end of humanity as we currently know it. As a result, people wonder if a science fiction-like future is possible or desirable, utopian or dystopian, and if we will evolve into something problematically different. Some bioethicists consider that our society is already incapable of morally monitoring its technological progress. There are also worries regarding the abuse of power and discrimination within this scenario. At the same time, our civilization has already made significant progress, but it still struggles to fully embrace or comprehend its own progress. If preceded by an enhancement in morals, transhumanist advancements are generally desirable, as people have always had an interest in improvement, from aesthetic to cognitive and biological. Genetic engineering would be taking such incentives many steps further, however, thus the concept is met with reasonable hesitation and polarising views. Is it against human nature or in alignment with its characteristic of seeking self-improvement?

The concept of transhumanism has been intertwined with the science fiction genre since its inception. William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984), a foundational text within the cyberpunk genre, features the character of Molly, a skilled assassin whose body has been technologically enhanced for increased efficiency and durability. Molly’s enhancements include surgically inserted glasses that seal her eye sockets and retractable scalpel blades beneath her nails. Apart from the belief that the human body can be enhanced and strengthened, transhumanism notably explores the potential of preserving consciousness and transferring it to a new body when the original body deteriorates due to age, illness, or weakness. According to Max More, a philosopher and futurist, despite diverging in opinions regarding other aspects, all transhumanists are in agreement that it is advantageous and achievable to utilise technology to overcome the biological limitations of death and aging. The pursuit of infinite life and youth is essential to the transhumanist mission, as the possibilities afforded by psychological, cognitive, and other enhancements will be constrained by a body that inevitably deteriorates and perishes. The dedication to hyperlongevity constitutes the central theme in the futuristic universe of Altered Carbon, where it’s called ‘Stack technology’, whilst ‘re-sleeving’ is the process through which consciousness is transferred from one body to another through the Stack devices (Bodies being referred to as ‘Sleeves’ throughout the book and the show).

In Altered Carbon, people are able to transcend and enhance their human physicality due to technology that not only stores their consciousness but can even be instantly transferred to bodies in faraway places i.e. other planets. For most citizens, human consciousness is recorded via the cortical stack which is implanted at the base of the skull when they are one year old. When someone dies, if they can afford it and if they haven’t been charged with serious crimes, they can have their stack uploaded, or ‘re-sleeved’ into other bodies; otherwise, their stack gets shelved. Death with no chance of resurrection is only guaranteed by irreversibly damaging the stack. That is, unless they can afford to have a D.H.F backup, which is a perfect duplicate of a person’s mind that gets regularly updated through a process known as ‘Needlecasting’ and can be stored in a safe place. Placing a duplicate consciousness in another body, known as ‘Double sleeving’ is also possible, but illegal and can lead to a death condemnation. Some people have ‘religious coding’ on their stacks, which theoretically means they cannot be revived, but this can be and is often bypassed by their relatives.

According to the film’s lore, the cortical stacks were made of alien metal and developed by technologically advanced creatures from another planet, who were also capable of manipulating human consciousness. The initial purpose of the devices was interstellar travel: human consciousness was downloaded and transmitted to Sleeves from distant planets through ‘Needlecasting’. After the non-terrestrial civilisation left Earth, human scientists reverse-engineered and refined the technology and created a system that allowed (some) people to constantly upgrade between bodies to preserve youth and health. Since this constitutes a regulated technology, there is a predictable ethical concern as wealthy citizens tend to be able to possess multiple bodies, travel across planets, and have a real-time copy of their consciousness stored in a safe place, whilst the poor might either get stuck in unhealthy, old, deteriorating bodies or live a fleeting existence.

An interesting aspect to note is that the book that the TV show is based on presents a wider variety of options that people have after death when it comes to re-sleeving, based on their budgets, such as clone replacements (the most expensive option), organic bodies, synthetic bodies, or the cheapest option, which is existing as a disembodied presence in a virtual reality setting. This summons up further questions about identity and reasons for existential crisis; for instance, the book characters who transfer their consciousness into synthetic bodies feel detached from their humanity, as they are no longer constrained by the limitations of human biology and they become increasingly removed from the physical sensations and emotions of their organic counterparts. Even more so, the ones who end up existing in digital form feel isolated, cut off from the real world, and deprived of sensory experience, although their disembodied cybernetic existence also has the advantage of not being limited by the constraints of physical bodies and the physical world. Their existence is, however, dependent on corporations and their host servers.

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A glimpse into the NDE in “Proof of Heaven”

I’ve recently read Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander, who documented a miraculous experience that led him to believe that the death of the brain and of the body doesn’t constitute the end of existence, that consciousness lives on after death and god exists and loves all beings. He dedicated this book to people like him (and me) who are sceptical about NDE recollections. As someone with an obsessive preoccupation with the subject of NDEs and insights into occurrences that hint at the phenomenon of consciousness existing independently from the brain, I’ve had this one on my reading list for a while. The way the narrator describes his communication style in the idyllic world he visited is not unlike my own transcendental experience from some time ago: wordless, felt, almost telepathic, and ineffable.

The narrator views his NDE as a life-turning event that led to a metamorphosis of his life as he knew it, due to a very significant paradigm shift regarding a fundamental belief. As a firm believer in science, although hoping to be proven wrong, he had always aligned with the view that the brain equals consciousness, that once the neocortex is switched off, the possessor vanishes into non-being. He had read many recollections of NDE subjects who claimed to have navigated otherworldly landscapes or talked to god during their experiences, but he always thought such instances were still brain-based, that they happened whilst the brain was not totally shut down – for instance, if someone’s heart was temporarily off and their neocortex was inactivated for a while yet not irreversibly damaged and irretrievable. That was before he was afflicted with a very rare case of bacterial meningitis and, whilst in a coma and with a completely inoperative neocortex – as he claims, the deeper part of him – that he had previously described as existing beyond time – deserted his body and his mortal identity, including his memories and his self-concept, to wander into other realms, meet otherworldly beings, have a conversation with god, and have glimpses into higher dimensions.

During his comatose metaphysical odyssey, he delved into the Underworld, the Gateway, and the Core, places that he was convinced were real.

The Underworld was characterised by “Darkness, but a visible darkness-like being submerged in mud yet also being able to see through it. Or maybe dirty Jell-O describes it better. Transparent, but in a bleary, blurry, claustrophobic, suffocating kind of way. Sound, too: a deep, rhythmic pounding, distant yet strong, so that each pulse of it goes right through you. Like a heartbeat? A little, but darker, more mechanical-like the sound of metal against metal

Whilst in this pulsing underworld, his consciousness was devoid of memory or concepts of identity, his existence was not limited by time, and he felt like his awareness was uncannily merging with his surroundings. In a way, the experience was dreamlike, as he could perceive what was happening around him, without having any self-concept. He didn’t have a body or at least the awareness of one, or the capacity to form words. It felt like he had regressed to a primordial state, he ponders, as far back as the bacteria that infected him, causing his illness – in a world devoid of emotion, logic, and language.

The traveller’s extremely apathetic predisposition gave him a certain invulnerability, due to his detachment from his memories and sense of self. Although he could judge that he may or may not survive that place, thoughts of either option caused nothing but indifference.

The narrator mentions this underworld dwelling was like being inside a murky womb with bloody vessel-like ramifications of a dirty scarlet aglow, or like being buried underground yet still able to see the matrixes of roots.

I am going to include his entire description of the place, because I feel it is a great image of an uncanny liminal space:

“The longer I stayed in this place, the less comfortable I became. At first I was so deeply immersed in it that there was no difference between “me” and the half-creepy, half-familiar element that surrounded me. But gradually this sense of deep, timeless, and boundary less immersion gave way to something else: a feeling like I wasn’t really part of this subterranean world at all, but trapped in it.

Grotesque animal faces bubbled out of the muck, groaned or screeched, and then were gone again. I heard an occasional dull roar. Sometimes these roars changed to dim, rhythmic chants, chants that were both terrifying and weirdly familiar-as if at some point I’d known and uttered them all myself.

As I had no memory of prior existence, my time in this realm stretched way, way out. Months? Years? Eternity? Regardless of the answer, I eventually got to a point where the creepy-crawly feeling totally outweighed the homey, familiar feeling. The more I began to feel like a me—like something separate from the cold and wet and dark around me—the more the faces that bubbled up out of that darkness became ugly and threatening. The rhythmic pounding off in the distance sharpened and intensified as well—became the work-beat for some army of troll-like underground laborers, performing some endless, brutally monotonous task. The movement around me became less visual and more tactile, as if reptilian, wormlike creatures were crowding past, occasionally rubbing up against me with their smooth or spiky skins. Then I became aware of a smell: a little like blood, and a little like vomit. A biological smell, in other words, but of biological death, not of biological life. As my awareness sharpened more and more, I edged ever closer to panic. Whoever or whatever I was, I did not belong here. I needed to get out. But where would I go? Even as I asked that question, something new emerged from the darkness above: something that wasn’t cold, or dead, or dark, but the exact opposite of all those things. If I tried for the rest of my life, I would never be able to do justice to this entity that now approached me . . . to come anywhere close to describing how beautiful it was. But I’m going to try.”

The being of light he continues to describe was spinning, emitting shiny, white-gold filaments causing the darkness enveloping the protagonist to fracture and disintegrate. Eventually, the whirling light revealed an opening, a portal that the traveller went through, feeling like being born into an idyllic, blissful world, where the inside and the outside were intertwined and where he also experienced uncanny feelings of déjà vu.

“Below me there was countryside. It was green, lush, and earth like. lt was earth, but at the same time it wasn’t. It was like when your parents take you back to a place where you spent some years as a very young child. You don’t know the place. Or at least you think you don’t. But as you look around, something pulls at you, and you realize that a part of yourself-a part way deep down-does remember the place after all, and is rejoicing at being back there again.”

The narrator continues to emphasise the realness of the place throughout the dreamlike descriptions. He also describes “the single most real” experience of his life: an encounter with a girl who communicates a special, soothing message to him by transferring its conceptual essence into his mind, wordlessly. Whilst acknowledging the limitations of earthly language, he translated the message as such:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

Inside the Core, advanced, ethereal, winged beings, scintillating creatures with silvery bodies, living sounds, and an elusive divine being blessed the surroundings. Everything was part of Source. After silently asking questions such as “Where is this place? Who am I? Why am I here?”, he mentions that “the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, colour, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these bursts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth.”

This part was what struck a chord with me because of my own experience of transcendence. There is an uncanny resemblance between my own otherworldly encounter and the excerpt above, particularly the communication style, which is something that I’ve written about on my blog at some point and in my diary more extensively, and our words seem to describe a similar encounter – albeit with an extra element that was pretty essential in mine. It’s also relevant to say I was not in a coma or on DMT, and there were no perceptual hallucinations, it was an intense inner feeling whilst I was caught somewhere between worlds.

I would love to end this on a positive note and to say that this book will convert your world view on matters of the afterlife. Naturally, however, despite the credentials of the author, I was inclined to take the subject of his writing with a grain of salt, especially in regard to the moment when the NDE happened. I was so excited about this non-fiction book because it was written by a neurosurgeon who expressed his belief in science throughout it, as well as confidently asserting that his conclusions were grounded in medical analysis of his experience and on his deep familiarity with the most advanced concepts in brain science and consciousness studies. Normally when I read about NDEs, they often appear intertwined with the notion of a DMT-induced hallucination and there remains an unresolved issue of whether the voyage to alternative realms occurred during the coma or immediately before or after it, which is more scientifically plausible. This makes sense, especially considering the numerous cases of people who have miraculously awakened from extended comas, only to confirm that they only encountered nothingness beyond. There have been neuroscientists who also discredited the supernatural element of Dr Eben Alexander’s story, saying it was unscientific and justifying it using the same explanation I mentioned. One of the doctors involved in his case also stated that Eben was hallucinating before he went in a coma.

And I understand and still feel the scepticism. However, because of my experiences, I must say this story opens up that door of the esoteric inside my mind a little bit wider. I shall see if reading Dr Raymond A Moody will have the same effect.

Content Marketing for Art Brands

To thrive in the fast-paced, digitally-driven world, art brands including galleries, art magazines, and artists need to harness the potential of content marketing by creating content that is not only informative, engaging, well-organised, and aesthetically cohesive, but also resonates with their target audience. Employing impactful digital marketing tactics whilst being aware of the best art marketing practices will make a notable difference to your business.

Content marketing is all about storytelling, showing your passion, and revealing your expertise and insights, whilst providing value for your readers and viewers. Content marketing doesn’t feel like marketing, because it focuses on sharing your vision and enriching people’s lives, whilst also building your brand loyalty by allowing your audience to relate with you and form an emotional connection. Your content doesn’t have to strive to appeal to everyone: identify your target audience and focus on your niche, but don’t be afraid to explore and leverage multiple types of content and different platforms.

Remember, whereas it’s important to use various channels and content formats to connect with and build a loyal audience by sharing your story, inspiration, knowledge, behind-the-scenes, views on news, additional services and projects, exhibitions, and so on, don’t feel like you have to disclose everything – especially as an artist, it’s understandable if you’d rather provide tantalising, elusive glimpses into your art and partial clues to maintain an aura of mystery surrounding your work. As an art business owner in general, focusing on quality and substance is the optimal approach. The key is to offer real value to your audience and make them feel like they are a part of your world, or that your inner realities meaningfully intersect. Make sure your content is well-written, intriguing, visually striking, recognisable, and shareable. The balance between revealing and concealing is up to you and what feels authentically on-brand for you.

If you’re seeking to make your art brand more visible and successful in the virtual space, check out my top 10 tips on how to implement effective content marketing strategies to achieve your marketing goals and propel your business to new heights.

Find out useful information ranging from tactics for growth, social media marketing, SEO tips, collaborations, e-mail subscriptions, and different types of content, to content marketing ideas tailored to the art world by reading my latest blog post via

The Uncanny Website Revamp

I just re-vamped the Uncanny Archive website, making it more atmospheric whilst including descriptions of different categories of the uncanny, as well as personal insights and additional information on the Freudian roots of the concept. There will be more web content coming up soon, so keep an eye out, especially if you’re a fellow lover of uncanny films and intriguing, moving narratives.

Within the first pages of his essay on Das Unheimliche, Freud adopts a humble tone, acknowledging that his analysis is limited by the lack of exposure to foreign literature due to conditions in the immediate post-World War I period. Within this historical context, the psychoanalyst’s interest and fascination with the uncanny arose from his experience treating post-war traumatic cases. This is evident in his essay, which consistently gravitates towards the subject of neurosis and the significance of repressed content of thought in the manifestation of the uncanny. 

Freud’s work itself turns out to possess some of the uncanny characteristics it describes. First of all, its purpose is to reveal something that is concealed within the parameters of subjectivity of feeling, of experience, and memories. […] Another aspect that Das Unheimliche shares with its subject and with many uncanny narratives is that it is haunting, repetitive, and filled with uncertainty. […] Certain works of art encompass that combination of factors through which the uncanny is born out of art and transcends into life, making the reader and the viewer experience it.

Visit the Uncanny Archive website to read more.

Liminal Space

A state of flux.

An ineffable sense of rapture of the mind, body, and soul.

A substitute for the spirit molecule.

A place where it’s safe to be human and where the concept of being human is unravelled at various stages in a way that will add to one’s self-worth, empathy, and awareness.

The texture of reality is mutable here. Your substance might go through physical and spiritual metamorphoses in tempestuous waves. Fragments of souls that are no longer around will reflect back at you unexplored feelings and aspects of your self on a visceral level.

You will witness the miracle of the self unfold. During your paradigm-shifting odyssey into this state of overwhelming multitudes, your core will be shaken and re-examined, but despite that, you will overflow with self-love even as you go through the transformative process. Your memories and dreams will be your friends, not your foes.

There will be upheavals, eventually followed by a sense of enlightenment and profound emotional intensity that will set new foundations in stone. No more lingering intrusive thoughts. No longer projecting and no longer being affected by other projections. An elation and liberation of the self.

Inserted myself in film stills from Stalker, Annihilation, and Solaris; photos edited and composited by me.

I had actually written a little uncanny story that these images were just accompanying, but I’ve decided to integrate that one exclusively in a greater project of the future.

The Uncanny Cabarets of the Beyond

While meandering through the vastness of cyberspace, I found myself immersed in old analogue photographs and archival material of the intriguing Parisian phenomenon known as the “Cabarets of the Beyond”: the Cabaret De L’Enfer (the Cabaret of Hell), the Cabaret du Ciel (of Heaven), and the Cabaret du Néant (of Nothingness). As night deepened in the heart of the glittering capital’s Montmartre neighbourhood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, flâneurs could escape the mundane and seek refuge in the enrapturing and otherworldly embraces of both Heaven and Hell during the same night, as they were situated at the same address. Diminishing the veil between worlds, the Dantesque cabarets represented a stirring source of entertainment and inspiration for guests from different walks of life, as well as a fitting backdrop for avant-garde artists and bohemian intellectuals in particular.

The Cabaret du Ciel greeted wandering – damned and divine – souls with blue lights and ethereal archways, whilst the neighbouring entrance of the Cabaret de l’Enfer allowed them to be devoured by the flames of hell in the grotesque jaws of the Leviathan. A little bit further away, one could find the arguably more unsettling Cabaret of Nothingness, which was a celebration of the essence and process of death, embodying a more worldly and macabre approach to the concept. The grim exterior of the latter was black and unadorned, except for the eerie green lanterns casting an otherworldly, cadaverous glow upon the unwary faces of the guests.

Inside the Cabaret du Néant, people were led by a monk-like figure through a dark hall towards a sinister café. In the Intoxication Hall, a chandelier crafted entirely from human bones cast a flickering eerie light upon the setting below, which consisted of coffin-shaped tables adorned with deathly flowers, dismembered arms with candles in their fingers, waiters dressed as undertakers who addressed the patrons as “corpses”, and disquieting depictions of battles and executions seemingly resurrected by the flickering lights. The unearthly, foreboding ambiance of the stage was merely a prelude to the performance that was about to unfold. Bells tolled. A funeral march entranced the audience. A sombre young man dressed in black held a transfixing discourse on the anguish and misery of death, pointing at the macabre imagery on the walls. The visuals would suddenly glow and become imbued with life as ghastly figures started emerging from the frames. Portrayals of fighting, living men turned into haunting images of skeletons writhing in a deathly embrace, as if they were fighting a never-ending battle.

With the help of mirrors, lights, and hidden rooms, the disoriented audience could witness the gradual decomposition of bodies. In a smaller room, the “Room of Disintegration”, a beautiful, pale, uncannily alive young woman in a white veil was enclosed in a coffin. Here is an excerpt from William Chambers Morris’ “Bohemian Paris of Today” (1899), which describes the experience through his eyes:

“Soon it was evident that she was very much alive, for she smiled and looked at us saucily. But that was not for long… Her face slowly became white and rigid; her eyes sank; her lips tightened across her teeth; her cheeks took on the hollowness of death—she was dead. But it did not end with that. From white the face slowly grew livid… then purplish black… the eyes visibly shrank away into their greenish-yellow sockets… Slowly the hair fell away… The nose melted away into a purple putrid spot. The whole face became a semi-liquid mass of corruption. Presently all this had disappeared, and a gleaming skull shown where so recently had been the handsome face of a woman; naked teeth grinned inanely and savagely where rose lips had so recently smiled.”

Compared to the other two cabarets, the Cabaret du Néant was notably different mood-wise and far less light-hearted. Not everyone appreciated the cabaret’s earthly, corporeal, macabre approach to death. Jules Claretie noted, “a sinister irony was expressed, not with angels and devils, but with people, mortals, death”. The French journalist also perceived the Cabaret du Néant created by illusionist M. Dorville to be ghastly and mean-spirited compared to Antonin Alexander’s Cabaret of Hell.

Renault and Château expressed their critical point of view in their book, “Montmartre”, stating: “if the Ciel and Enfer of the lovable M. Antonin merit a visit, this is not true of the Néant, which is frequented by hysterical and neurotic persons”.

Despite the scarcity of visual archive material featuring the cabarets, judging by literary accounts providing first-hand snap shots of nightlife in Paris, it’s hardly surprising that the Cabaret du Néant was found to be more disturbing. It seems to have embodied a visceral approach with painful reminders of mortality whilst focusing on the actual process and ritual of death in a way that made people face a primal fear. Moreover, some aspects of it created an uncanny experience, which would automatically involve the elements of emotional shock and repulsion. Besides the uncanny acts from the room of disintegration, there were other elements that were subtly frightening, nihilistic, and potentially psychologically scarring for some, as the cabaret of the void focused on conveying the emptiness of existence in a surreal way that had the effects of psychological horror.

Meanwhile, despite the profane theme it depicted, the unholy Cabaret de l’Enfer was less anchored in secular, materialistic reality and more rooted in the intangible and unearthly, which might have been one of the characteristics that made it less disconcerting. However, it was also not exactly for the faint of heart. After entering the infernal mouth-portal, past the embers that were stirred by a frenzied scarlet demon in the depths of hell, one would be welcomed by meticulous hell-themed decorations, ghoulish images of demons, dioramas of sinners being punished, and staff dressed in devil costumes. A cauldron was hanging over a hellfire, partially enveloping several devil musicians eerily playing “Faust” on stringed instruments, being prodded with red-hot irons for every discordant note.

After having their orders taken by a devilish being whose discourse was characterised by consistently twisted, macabre, yet playful words and arcane incantations, the damned souls who ventured in this hellish place would get to drink liquids that were supposed to ease their upcoming suffering, from glasses with an eerie, phosphorescent, unearthly glow. Meanwhile, the place pulsed with dark energy. There was a palpable, ominous sense of unholiness in the air. Volcanos were blasting and streams of molten precious metals were trickling from the crevices of the underground rock structure of the walls.

Imagine being there, surrounded by figures and symbols of the macabre, witnessing nightmarish scenes, soaking up the atmosphere, sipping glowy liquids, and catching sight of André Breton in one of his meetings with the Surrealists. The Cabaret de l’Enfer served as a gathering place for the Surrealists in the 1920s – and a popular one, at that. Unsurprisingly, the Surrealists were drawn to the cabaret’s macabre aesthetic, due to their fascination with the unconscious mind and penchant for the bizarre and the subversive. Breton’s studio was located on the fourth floor above the cabaret, which is where he and Robert Desnos arranged his well-known surrealism sessions.

The souls that graced the vibrant Cabaret du Ciel were enveloped in a cold blue light. The patrons stepped into an ethereal realm featuring plays that depicted the bliss of heavenly afterlife. Divine, dreamlike harp music as well as gloomier organ music filled the air. A priest recited a typical invocation from a small altar. St. Peter would stick his head through a hole in the celestial cupola to sprinkle holy water from the heavens, while reenactments of scenes from Dante’s Paradiso mesmerised the audience. Waiters were adorned with lacy translucent wings and halos that seemed to glow in the ethereal light. Fluttering among sacred palms and gilded candelabras, the performers were dressed as nuns, angels, and saints. After a brief procession, guests were invited to a separate room in order to become angels themselves through an uplifting, ritualistic, choreographed performance involving singing, incense, getting dressed in white robes, being adorned with wings and halos, holding a harp, and gaining access to the empyrean – a cloud structure.

Many visitors, including British poet Arthur Symons, described the Cabaret du Ciel as a Parisian gem of divine enchantment, a slice of heaven, appreciating its serene atmosphere, uplifting show, and otherworldliness. However, some naysayers seemed to be of the opinion that it was strangely irreverent, vaguely sinister, or, worse – kitsch. Others said it was actually more depressing and grotesque than the Cabaret of Hell, which provided an intriguing spectacle.

Despite being staged like a religious ceremony, according to British visitor Trevor Greenwood, the Cabaret du Ciel had something dark and sinister in its ambiance and mise-en-scene. In his view:

“I just couldn’t believe my own eyes. What a room! Down the centre, lengthwise, was a long table covered with a white cloth… and lots of ash-trays: around the long table were seats, some already occupied by bewildered looking Americans: I suppose there would be about thirty seats all told. At the far end of the room was a small screen about eight feet square… presumably hiding a stage of some sort… And the room itself!! It might have been a temple for the sinister performances of black magic or something. The walls were covered with cheap imitations of religious knick-knacks. There was a large bell suspended from an imitation beam… and it was a wooden bell! Close to the bell was a banner-pole, with a silver coloured effigy of a bull mounted on top… The whole place reeked of something sinister… and the general effect was the very essence of tawdriness.”

An iconic and inspiring piece of the cultural landscape of 19th and 20th century Montmartre, the Cabarets of the Beyond provided a tantalising glimpse into vivid worlds lying beyond the veil by inducing uncanny, surreal Dantesque experiences. Testaments to the alchemical and polarising effects of art, the well-known entertainment venues were places where the ordinary was endowed with uncanniness, and where curious souls could immerse themselves in a sea of unfamiliar and strangely familiar sensations. Through their macabre and celestial decorations, their unsettling performances and music, as well as the otherworldly themes that they brought to life, the Cabarets created a space where the boundaries of reality and imagination were stretched and distorted.

10 Impactful Mental Health Campaigns Launched by Mental Health Organisations

Mental Health Awareness campaigns that help destigmatise mental illness and normalise our general discourse surrounding mental health have gained momentum as more and more people have become aware of the importance of tackling the topic of mental health in a tactful, empathetic, and authentic manner, whilst promoting an approach based on kindness and transparency. Partly influenced by the devastating effects of the pandemic, partly due to a general paradigm shift towards awareness and a more inclusive worldview, this phenomenon has generated a surge in initiatives meant to summon empathy and unite people, with the aim of making a palpable positive change and ultimately helping people live happier, more fulfilling lives by facilitating access to support and recovery.

My latest blog post at analyses how mental health organisations that are intrinsically devoted to this cause have inspired change through impactful campaigns that have sparked meaningful conversations and, in some cases, helped significantly transform people’s lives for the better. Whether by utilising the eternally stirring powers of spoken word poetry, portrait photography, or video or providing stimulating tools for self-reflection, these incentives have made an impact that continues to cause ripples and echoes in time and, in many cases, their relevance and striking effects have been sustained through creative acts ranging from picking a memorable hashtag to reinterpreting stories through a poetic lens. As we shall see, success was in part attributed to leveraging social media to convey the right message in the right way to a wide range of people.

Here are the campaigns I explored in my article:

  1. “If this speaks to you, speak to Mind” by Mind
  2. “The Last Photo” by CALM
  3. “Every Mind Matters” by Mental Health Foundation
  4. “Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health” collaboration between several advocacy groups such as The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, The Jed Foundation, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
  5. The “Unlonely Project” by the Foundation for Art & Healing
  6. “B4Stage4” by Mental Health America
  7. “Act Early” by YoungMinds
  8. “Get Into Nature” by Change your Mind
  9. “The Big Event for Mental Health” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with United for Global Mental Health and the World Federation for Mental Health
  10. “The Healthy Relationships” by Mental Health Foundation

For descriptions of the campaigns and more, read the full article on my other website:

Into the blue

April 2018 Diary Entry

Innocence lost, a long time ago. Nostalgia replaced. By curiosity for the unknown. By determination. Out of the cold, out of the black I rise and into the blue I delve with the excitement of a bird piercing through a portal in the sky, seeing the grandeur of another world, realising for the first time she had been flying inside a big cage surrounded by mist until that moment. There is warmth rising from within. I embrace the unknown. The unknown embraces me.

Photos from 2017-2018:

Social Media Content Ideas for the Mental Health Industry

I have written a list of content ideas for mental health professionals and organisations planning to establish a striking digital presence that adds value to people’s lives, engages their target audience, as well as turning their followers into brand advocates:

  • Post educational content about mental health conditions, including an overview of risk factors, warning signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment options. If you are comfortable in front of the camera, conveying this information in a video format would help you establish a good rapport with your audience. Thought-provoking text posts, memorable captions, visually compelling social media graphics, and stimulating animations can also be impactful.

  • Create statistical infographics to show the scale of certain problems and raise awareness about significant topics.

  • Create mental health awareness campaigns, embracing trends: Have a mental health calendar with relevant dates e.g. Time to Talk Day, Mental Health Awareness Month, World Mental Health Day, Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Stress Awareness Month, World Bipolar Day, Anti-bullying week, University Mental Health Day, etc.

  • Host Q&A sessions where followers can ask questions about mental health concerns and you can provide insightful answers about therapy options, mindfulness practices, building a mental health support system, and healthy coping strategies.

  • Collaborate with influencers to spread the message aligned with your mission or share the stories of public mental health advocates who adopt a destigmatising approach when discussing mental health topics.

  • Use CTAs to build rapport and increase engagement. For instance: Encourage your followers to participate in a self-care challenge using a specific hashtag or to tag a friend who has helped their mental wellbeing in the comments section.

For further details, the exhaustive list, and valuable takeaways to inform the content strategy of a mental health brand overall, check out the full blog post on my SMM website: