"Hysteria is a non-conscious mimicry of traumatic situations which are unresolved." (Sigmund Freud)

Solo Performance (Dock 11, Berlin 2004)

In the 19th century hysteria has been object for excessive scientific studies, being described as miming of traumatic situations, as sculptures of pain or as attacks of contractions due to the uterus moving inside the body like a small, living animal. The archive of the asylum Salpetrière in Paris reveals a documentation of the early studies on hysteria by Dr. Charcot, Freud's professor. The patients were mainly women who earlier had been raped or sexually abused. Dr. Charcot classified the attacks and categorized them into different stages as the clownesk stage or the passionate stage. He named certain positions as the hysterical arche. Charcot rather studied hysteria instead of healing it (Didi-Hubermann). Vaginal compressions and medicamentation were used to provoke the attacks, to take photographies or to stage them in Charcot's theatrical tuesday lectures. For his shows he had a favorite patient: Augustine (alias Blanche).

I will make her pain visible to you, says Charcot on occasion of one of his lectures about the woman, who became an icon of the french surrealist movement and who later escaped the hospital, dressed as a man. The documentary piece Augustine (Anti-hommage) explores the iconization and invention of hysteria that as a clinical phenomena has disappeared in the 21st century.

Concept & performance: Veronika Bökelmann. Sound recording & voice: Jörg Kidrowski. Thanks to Corinna Merten & Ingo Keil.

Image of Augustine in the passionate state of an hysterical attack used in a French fashion magazine.
Performance pictures:

As documented in the archive: After the injection of diamethyl Augustine hallucinates about a spider in her ear.