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Performance & installation at Goldsmiths University, London, 2020

In the late 19th century Sigmond Freud identified a new emotional state exclusive to women, hysteria. Hysteria according to Freud occurs when unconscious mental forces are affecting a woman’s behaviour. According to this view, the liberty of the unconscious to effect the body could be thought of as "mind within the mind” (similar to the ancient belief in the independent ability of the uterus to move in a woman’s body).

This theme is brought to life in an installation, performance that consists of seven hand-tufted wearable masks hanging on a camp rope from a S shaped meat hooks. The installation was inspired by an illustration by Wisnlow Homer (1697) to accompany Charles Perrault’s Tale of Bluebeard.  In the tale, a young woman marries  an elderly disfigured man and is taken to his castle. There she uncovers a secret room with the remains of her husband’s previous dead wives, a fate now expecting her.

By focusing on the violently hanging heads, the installation emphasises the absence of the bodies. Metaphorically the head is where the reason and logic resides so by separating the woman from her uterus, she would no longer be controlled by her hysterical mind.

In the performance the body is reintroduced to the women’s heads., three female performers insert their heads into the tufted heads. For the length of the performance the performers would allow their bodies to be hosts for the decapitated heads and experience their lost feelings or “hysteria”. This would be translated to a sequence of choreographed movements representing the initial encounter between the bodies and the heads, the possession of the heads over the performers’ bodies, and the attempts of the heads to be released from the ropes by power of their new bodies.


Text by Anna Perach.

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