The Invention of Hysteria
The focus of my work is the confinement of women, diagnosed with hysteria in asylums during the late nineteenth century, as a symptom of patriarchal values of the time. It consists of a number of paintings and an installation of old metal bed frames, displayed at the Abbey on Sherkin Island, a monastic site rich in historical associations. The paintings are based on archival photographic images of women at La Salpêtrière, in Paris, as well as a history painting by André Brouillet, “A Clinical Lesson at La Salpêtrière”, painted in 1887.
The classification of hysteria as a disease was supported by drawings and photographs of women in various stages of distress, the politics and gender bias, of which are explored in the book, “ The Invention of Hysteria”, written by Georges Didi-Huberman. The work grew from a concern about the historical legacy of a classification system based on such practices.