Embodying hysteria as caring for the self

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‘Don’t say anything’ (2015) and ‘Ida’ (2016) are one-to-one durational performances in which something, perhaps the ghost, of Sigmund Freud’s hysteric patients inhabits my body. In creating the works, I have developed a method inspired by the works of Ricarda Vidal, Sarah Sparkes and Sharon Kivland. When in ‘Ida’, I severed eye contact with my audience member by laying down on the couch, the action brought about a real symptom, one that required me to put a plan for caring for myself as a solo performer, a company of one.

In this illustrated paper, I will explain the method of translating Freud’s original text into performance and performing the pieces to one audience member at a time. I will also recount and explore the experience of breaking down when something unexpected happened and of the need to reconstruct myself through self-care. What all of these stages of the work have in common is the act of reading, whether Freud’s texts, the drawings and photographs produced at the Salpêtrière in the nineteenth century, contemporary works of art on hysteria such as Sam Taylor Wood’s 1999 film, bodies, voices or symptoms of performers or audience members. I will specifically explore the format of the case history—returning to Emmy von N. the first text written by Freud I encountered—and the case presentation, as shown in André Brouillet’s painting ‘Une Leçon Clinique à la Salpêtrière’. Yet, as I did with ‘Don’t say anything’ and ‘Ida’, I attempt to erase the doctor’s voice and present my symptom as knowledge.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 12 May 2017
Event(e)motion: Cultural Literacy in Europe - Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Duration: 10 May 201712 May 2017
Conference number: second biennial conference


Abbreviated titleCLE
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