Did I already point out how fast the time seems to be flying by?
Consequently, today I'll try to be brief with my updates as I want to get back to reading as soon as possible.
So, in the past week I've had two group seminars: one about dissertations, the other about artworks. Regarding my dissertation, after I finish the final chapter of Invention of Hysteria I'll move on to writing a critical review about the book which should help me form my thesis statement. This was a very helpful piece of advice that I got from my supervisor, and I'm increasingly happier that I got into her group. She also suggested Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization for me, and boy am I in love with this book, having only reached the end of the first chapter. The language that Foucault uses is so complex and beautiful that the number of passages that I would like to quote is growing ridiculous. And as I said, I am only on the page 30. Anyhow, here's a sample that I've been reading over and over again, utterly perplexed by its beauty and depth.
"Witness that old image of wisdom so often translated, in German engravings, by a long-necked bird whose thoughts, rising slowly from heart to head, have time to be weighted and reflected on; a symbol whose values are blunted by being overemphasized: the long path of reflection becomes in the image the alembic of a subtle learning, an instrument which distills quintessences. The neck of the Gutemensch is endlessly elongated, the better to illustrate, beyond wisdom, all the real mediations of knowledge; and the symbolic man becomes a fantastic bird whose disproportionate neck folds a thousand times upon itself - an insane being, halfway between animal and thing, closer to the charms of an image than to the rigor of a meaning. This symbolic wisdom is a prisoner of the madness of dreams."
Other things that I got from the dissertation discussion were Lauren Greenfield's documentary project about anorexia, called Thin, and a collection of essays concerning photography, called The Burden of Representation.
To be honest, forming that thesis statement seems a mission impossible at the moment, but I'm just going to stay focused on the research material and have faith: it'll come up. There already is a very interesting relationship with madness and knowledge, suggested by Foucault, and on the other hand photography and knowledge, which is like the core question of photographic theory. Then bringing these ponderings together with the spectacle of hysteria in Salpêtrière - the marriage of madness and photography; I think there might be something there.
How about my art practice then? I just got an epiphany of sorts in this morning's run about my project, and am really excited to work on it.
So, my epiphany. I want to include audio in my work. And I want it to be many languages mushed together so that you can only pick up some words - obviously depending on how exactly how I'm going to edit it. What's it going to be about?
Well, you know how madmen/-women have historically been excluded from the rest of society, locked up in institutions and told they are somehow wrong, second-class citizens. In different times, different kinds of behaviours have been labeled as 'disordered' (e.g. homosexuality), diagnoses have changed, merged and disappeared but some attitudes toward mental problems or psychological disturbances have remained quite unchanged. Throughout Western history of madness, there have always been those who tell depressed, hysterical, manic, anxious and otherwise not-seemingly-controlled people to 'suck it up', 'get over it', don't make a scene', 'you are just seeking attention'.
I have been told some of those things. Some people commit suicide after being dismissed in this way. This is not Medieval or Victorian tragedies: this is our world today.
In my prospective audio piece, I would like to present phrases like shown above from people who have been told that they don't deserve or need any other help but that of someone kicking the in them backside. I'm still working on the strategy of collection this data, but I'm thinking some kind of an anonymous submission form ought to serve.
I have other plans for the installation of the work but I think this will suffice for today.
And I will go back to my books.