In December 2017 the artist Regina Parra starts to look at a series of images of the Salpêtrière Hospital by the scientist Jean-Martin Charcot in the 19th century. In them are archived a technology of male violence that contributed to the invention of a symptom on the patients. The symptom of being women.
The word “hysteria” appears for the first time when the Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates, bothered by frequent “crises” of agitation and trembling experienced by the women of the time, suggests as a cause of the spasms the movement of the uterus. The considered “father of medicine” believed that the uterus, hysteron, was a kind of autonomous living being that under some circumstances moved within the body of women. Hippocrates even suggests that sneezing would be one of the few gestures capable of making the uterus return to its “natural” place, reassuring the hysterical body and making the reproduction and care of the children, social functions built upon the woman, be resumed.
For 600 years this was the theory that established the meaning of this understanding of feminine “crisis”, and then became a diagnosis to criminalize women who had no children, and was associated with witchcraft by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484, serving as a foundation for the rise of the nuclear family and the state appropriation of reproductive capacity, bases for the development of the capitalist system, as the philosopher Silvia Federici explains in her book Caliban and the Witch.
Parra then invites Bruno Levorin to try to construct together a choreographic thought about such images, taking as a perspective the women’s look at Charcot’s camera and not the other way around. “A look that observes and abstains, or pretends to refrain from intervening” – as George Didi-Huberman says – a look that creates a dramaturgy of the convocations.
Let us use a hypothesis: How do they, the women of Salpêtrière, speak of themselves when we perceive them as portraitists of their own histories? How do these women, outlined as hysterical, act upon their own representations?
Dancing alongside these images throughout the creative process was the possible way to sustain these issues and talk about the care that seemed absent there. To be patiently close to these women, willing to see in the immobility of an image the vibrations that impel the life and the gesture of permanence of the most lascivious desires.
In the experiment, it was possible to use choreography as a political practice, mobilizing weight, strength, speed and precision as strategies to summon gestures and landscapes that seem forgotten in Charcot representations. The choreography for us functions as a spell on the instrumentalization of the gestures proposed by the men of the Hospital. A spell that breaks a historiographic course to reenact, with all the force of updating this term, a plot composed of imagination and sensation of what is understood as a symptom.
Thus we find Lascivious. A dance work on images created in collaboration with Maitê Lacerda, Clarissa Sacchelli, Lúcia Bronstein, Juliana R, Laura Salerno, Ludmila Porto and Haroldo Saboia. A performative inquiry that aims to look at the representations from the inside out. Hard exercise of political imagination that tries to ask gestures about the desires and ways of loving, subtracted centuries ago from millions of Augustines*.
*Augustine is the name of the main patient of Charcot, fundamental for the understanding of the repression of the sexuality and development of the psychoanalysis.