“....I love the Masturbatium, don’t you? It is a constant bloomer and there’s enough of it for a fresh bouquet everyday. And it’s so easy to start. We have finally put up the trellis for the mounting Hysteria, it was beginning to choke out the Verticallis Plumosa, or Phallus
. ” 1
Jean-Jacques Rousseau often exposed himself, hiding in alleyways where he could show his unsolicited dick to women. When reflecting on the object he was showing them - from his perspective it was not an ‘obscene object’ but what he called a ‘ridiculous object’. This act of gratuitousness, which he described as his ‘foolish pleasure”, is recounted in his Confessions of 1782 among other indiscretions. He was also given to sudden bouts of hysteria, depression and nervousness, for which his physician used the emasculating diagnosis of a case of The Vapours. This may or may not have resulted from Rousseau’s crippling paranoia and social anxiety.
“..too, this is the moment for sowing seeds - Phobia, Amnesia and the ever blooming bulbous Syphilis noted for its long stemmed, fiery pistols, delightful for cutting as well as prodigal-if dubious-garden Attraction... ” 2
Vapours - a product of vaping or a suffocating mist that comes not from the womb, as the archaic meaning suggests, but is caused by clashing temperatures. It suffuses, redolent with the particles in the air we breathe - now having been linked to depression in major cities. It was Rousseau who claimed the countryside and the idea of retreat – not exclusively, but it was him I was reading when I arrived here. It was incidental, to think about his diagnosis in connection with the city. The retreat as artist residency – the confession as self-administration for posterity purposes. “to be concerned with oneself”, one of the main Delphic principles – the argument between political and erotic discourse.
With a different idea of oneself, Anne Boyer writes about the act of bookkeeping - to keep account or to take stock. There is a price to be paid in full disclosure, in Boyer’s case the person who refuses to account is thought to be stealing. She says there is a larger body who claims to know her heart and that her heart is naturally desiring profit, one too that reflects (in miniature) the desires of the larger body and 3 asks for whose profit? What is the ‘natural’ state of desire that is presumed by liberal markets and globalized finance capital? Boyer proposes that this accounting might give the wrong form to desire, a limited one and instead verity might be better found in conspiracy and the oblique.
Kesselhaus - the washrooms of the former hospital—is now a space for contemporary art. This familiar fate for so much of post-industrial architecture differs in one crucial way: this was not a factory for production, but instead for cleaning, maintaining and caring. It was later in the 60’s attached to the neo- baroque surgical hospital overlooked by the St Michaelsberg Abbey, now a retirement home. The last vestiges of the Kesselhaus’ original use are the allegorical reliefs on the façade.
“I don’t know if you have the dwarf bedding Vagina-it does well if backed up by a staggered row of Nymphomania: also looks surprisingly well if mixed casually with oval or glossy Testiculum... ” 4
1 An extract from a letter Dorothea Tanning sent to Murial, May 7, 1947.
2 Boyer, Anne, Garments Against Women, The Open Book, Asahta press, 2015 3 An extract from a letter Dorothea Tanning sent to Murial, May 7, 1947.
4 An extract from a letter Dorothea Tanning sent to Murial, May 7, 1947.