Existential Cathexis

Geraldo Scala

This installation is a part of Listening Through Time and Place: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit, OHMA's multimedia interactive popup exhibition of stories, which will take place at the Social Hall at Union Theological Seminary on April 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm.

There are things we encounter every day that make us feel better about ourselves, stronger, more connected, and at times part of an alternate reality. To some they are meaningless entities with no significance whatsoever, to others they are world changing. What I call an "existential cathexis" is a phenomenon that has the ability to grab one’s attention and transform one’s reality. An existential cathexis can be an object, person, or activity. For example, Vic, a musician from New York, became punk rocker because of a pair of boots he encountered. Chris, a jazz musician from New York, discovered heroin and became ‘cool.’ Ed, a sanitation worker from Queens, New York, found prestige and self-worth in the practice of saving American flags. Felicia, a graduate student from China, found something to believe in through the Christ figure. And so it goes. Such phenomena are everywhere and are part of our everyday lives and part of our history. My goal is to document and demonstrate the impact of existential cathexis on human experience. 

Geraldo Scala is a graduate student at Columbia University’s Oral History Master’s Program. He currently holds a master’s degree from New York University’s Draper Program in Humanities and Social Thought and a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University’s General Studies Program. Geraldo’s research interests include oral history, political economy, urban and cultural anthropology, substance abuse, social exclusion, and phenomenology.

Read more about Listening Through Time and Place: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit.