Multi-media installation, © 2013 Paula Muhr

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One of the oldest known neurosis, first having been mentioned in the Egyptian papiri, hysteria has always been linked to the female condition and the lack of emotional selfcontrol. Its name etymologically refers to the oldest theories which defined hysteria as suffocation of the womb looking for its causes in the movement of a woman's uterus to various locations within her body. Female sexual desire has remained the dominant subtext within various theories of hysteria well into the 20th century, psychoanalysis included.

The installation juxtaposes various scientific and non-scientific documents from different epochs pertaining to the sexual theories of hysteria. Starting with the extracts from the Ouevre by Ambroise Paré, a famed 16th century surgeon who prescribed clitoral stimulation with aromatic oils leading to so-called paroxysm, or what woud be later become known as female orgasm, over to various technical drawings included in patents for electromechanical vibrators, which replaced the manual stimulation at the end of the 19th century, the work traces a number of disciplinary methods used for treating female sexuality understood as form of hysterical disorder.

A wildly dancing woman turns incessantly around her axis and flails her naked legs, images of two females in corsets hang upside down, a photograph depicts a woman on a hospital bed with her buttocks bared and legs held above her head. All of these faceless and anonymous women stand for the untamed female sexuality. The installation, shown in semi-darkness, additionally comprises graphically represented measurements of different bodily fluids, ranging from urine, over vaginal lubrication to tears, as well as olfactory elements, such as the aromic oils prescribed by the above-mentioned Dr Paré for the manual vaginal stimulation of the hysterics, and a map of the so-called hysterogenic zones of the female body.

Overtones of red dominate in most of the elements of the installation, referring to the fact that, according to the findings of J.M. Charcot, the most famous researcher of hysteria, red was the favourite colour of female hysterics.