Melancholia of Virgins

  • Date -
  • Place
    Festivalzentrale: Atelier Augarten
  • © Paola Paredes_1 © Paola Paredes

Derived from the ancient Greek word for uterus, ‘hysteria’ was one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in the nineteenth century. The womb was thought to wander around the body, rendering the woman a deranged creature incapable of sense. In Melancholia of Virgins, Paola Paredes examines the relationship between misogyny, psychiatry, and photography in the late nineteenth century through the reappropriation of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot’s diabolical experimentation on ‘hysterical women’ at La Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. Photography was central to Charcot’s process. Masquerading his work as diagnostics, Charcot used medical- industrial-complex trauma to trigger his patients into displaying symptoms, transforming private vulnera- ble moments into grotesque evidentiary pieces that were voyeuristically theatrical in nature. The photo- graphs were intended to identify signs of hysteria but instead fetishized the women as objects of a sexualized insanity.

Paredes critically explores and subverts Charcot’s abuse of femininity by politicizing each image and redefining the visual representation though a contemporary digital technology. Her handmade collages become complex animations and transform an archive of static documents into something that disrupts the hegemonic exploitation it was designed to uphold. We confront faceless images of Charcot’s favourite subject, sixteen-year-old Augustine, rendering her invisible by the male gaze of a hundred blinking eyes, whilst unheard female voices become white noise. Each image references a specific misogyny to represent the unethical approach of brutal treatments carried out in this male-dominated domain.

Paola Paredes

1 Festivalzentrale: Atelier Augarten
Scherzergasse 1A, 1020

09 – 27 March 2022
daily 11:00– 19:00

09 March, 17:00