loose your marbles
Single-channel video, 2015, 18’min, HD, color, stereo, en
In 2014, I was doing research on the entangled European histories of anatomy and witch-hunt in the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. It was in this library that I accidentally came across a small green book. It was, kind of off topic, the transcription of a conference called “Therapy by Design”. The conference took place in the Topeka State Hospital in Kansas in 1965 and was part of a larger research project on the influence of the hospital’s architecture and design on the human psyche. The “hospital”, formerly known as the “Topeka Insane Asylum”, was in operation since 1872 and constructed in the so-called “Kirkbride style”, which, according to the psychiatrist Thomas S. Kirkbride, defined the exposure to natural light and air circulation as crucial elements for mental health. But it was only because of the prominently named key speaker of the conference, Austrian-Californian architect Richard Neutra, that the book caught my attention.
I found it quite curious that the conference and the related research project was specifically located in the female ward of the institution. Considering the Topeka State Hospital’s history of institutionalized abuse (such as compulsory sterilization), the institution suffered from severe cuts of state funding and thus sought to establish a new image. Richard Neutra was known for his modern approach to architecture and interior design. Instead of focusing on individual needs of his clients, his design emphasized flexibility, adaptability and the possibility of change.
Concerned with the history and politics of pathologizing deviant female subjectivities as mentally ill, I analyzed the archival footage in regards to its entangled discourses on mental health, architecture and design. The power relations of taste, social class and gender became quite apparent in the scientific language of the transcription. I animated the book and added a ghostly voice-over, who switches her character constantly and hounts the narration.