This is History…that is not over

This is History…that is not over offers a sardonic view of hysteria as a defining metaphor for femininity. The work draws parallels between the world of contemporary advertising and the nineteenth century institutions that produced and reproduced hysteria as a spectacle. It is built around a series of late-nineteenth century photographs of women institutionalized for hysteria at the Paris hospital la Salpêtrière under the care of Dr. Jean Martin Charcot. I appropriated these images, layering and juxtaposing them with fragments of historical and contemporary materials.


More about Dr. Charcot:

Dr. Charcot, who began his work on hysteria in 1870, carried out the most extensive use of photography in all nineteenth century psychiatry. Charcot tried to solve the riddle of hysteria by observing its visible manifestations. In pursuit of his study with its exhaustive photographic documentation, he employed hypnosis, electric shock, and manual stimulation of the muscles. He conducted weekly lectures for the medical community at which the main attraction was the demonstration of hysterical seizures by young female patients. Charcot’s hospital, La Salpêtrière, became “an environment in which female hysteria was perpetually presented, represented, and reproduced.” (Elaine Showalter) Charcot’s photographs, which were intended as objective medical documents, can now easily be seen as highly subjective works of art that had a tremendous influence on the manifestation of hysteria and its interpretation.


All material © 2016 Susan Brenner or the respective owners.