Marge Monko

© 2020

Series of 25 chromogenic colour photos, various dimensions, 2004-2006
The work is inspired by 19th century studies on hysteria of which the most well known are the photographs taken in Hospital of Salpêtrière in Paris and case histories written by Sigmund Freud. The series consists of two parts – of interior views of rooms associated with hysteria like Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna as well as the Hospital of Salpêtrière, and of staged photos linked to treatments of hysteria, for instance Charcot's douche and hypnosis.
I became fascinated by the subject while studying in Vienna. After going through lots of materials, I became convinced that the roots of hysteria, despite being categorized as a neurological disease, lied in the taboos of bourgeoisie society. Patients diagnosed with hysteria were primarily female. Considering women's limited access to education and to self-realization, it is not surprising that because of narrowly defined gender roles, many of them were subject to psychological suffering.
Another interesting aspect emerged while researching the subject, and that is the visual representation. When, in the beginning of 20th century, photos of Salpêtrière's patients were adopted by Surrealists, they paid little attention to human suffering behind those photos, and instead, considered hysterical seizures as the supreme manifestations of the unconscious. Thus, the images that were once created to serve the medical science, were now taken up by avant-garde art. Today, we see the images of convulsive and mysterious female appearing in high-fashion advertisements - a convention that is very much relying on Surrealist legacy.
Tableaux I, 98 x 73cm