Artist and Activating our Archives participant Ania Ready shares work which emerged from Activating our Archives 2021. Using experimental photography techniques, editing and collage, Ania’s work reframes 19th century images of so-called ‘hysterical’ women, visually liberating them from their violent and oppressive settings.
“Today, I’m sharing with you my new series with a working title ‘Dispassionate Attitudes’. This work is based on archival images of female patients taken in 1870-1890 at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. The institution which at that time had over three thousand female patients (!) and was nicknamed ‘the city of incurable women’ became particularly well known under Dr Charcot who organized the famous Tuesday lectures during which he presented so called hysterical women to the public.”
“Looking at the archival photographs of female patients from the Salpêtrière Hospital (often teenage girls) in distress felt rather uncomfortable. My first intervention was to remove their recognizable features and to strip images of sexualised captions (‘ecstasy’, ‘amorous supplication’, etc) given by male medics. Instead of a person there is void, an empty pose. It almost felt like freeing a patient from the problematic setting, from the confining role she was meant to perform, which was one of the stages of a hysterical attack called ‘Attitudes Passionnelles’ by French doctors.”
“There was also something liberating in disturbing the male gaze presence in these photographs.”
Click here to discover Ania’s other work in response to this archive of images, ‘Lunar Women’.
Click here to find out more about the Activating our Archives project.