"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Museums and Memories: Notes on Freud's House in Vienna

As part of my renewed and ongoing interest in the usefulness of psychoanalytic thought for understanding the problems of historical memory, especially memories of religious divisions, I made a point of visiting Bergasse 19 when I was in Vienna earlier this month.

That address, a scant kilometer from the University of Vienna where my conference was held, is of course the famous home, until 1938, of Sigmund Freud. After the Anschluss, and the temporary arrest of his daughter Anna by the Gestapo, the famous Jewish psychoanalyst used his connections, at the urging of friends, to flee to London via Paris. He would die in the British capital in 1939, just as war was breaking out.

I had known in advance that the famous couch had gone with Freud to London but thought that his Viennese house would have more of a presence than it did. The picture to the right is of a re-creation of his waiting room, and the one below at right is a replica of his chair in his study--next to the consulting room--where he did a lot of his reading and writing. But the rest of the house is rather sparse, which makes some sense insofar as he was forced to live out his remaining days in exile, and one is starkly confronted with one early effect of the anti-Semitism of the Nazis; but it was also a bit disconcerting to see the emptiness "filled," as it were, with rather slickly touristy trappings. Perhaps the museum in London, which I hope to visit some day, has a different feel to it.

As luck would have it, early next year we have a study of both museums coming out and looking at some of these questions: Joanne Morra, Inside the Freud Museums (I.B. Tauris, 2017, 288pp.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
Sigmund Freud spent the final year of his life at 20 Maresfield Gardens, London, surrounded by all his possessions, in exile from the Nazis. The long-term home and workspace he left behind in Vienna is a seemingly empty space, devoid of the great psychoanalyst’s objects and artefacts. Now museums, both of these spaces resonate powerfully. Since 1989, the Freud Museum London has held over 70 exhibitions by a distinctive range of artists including Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Mat Collishaw, Susan Hiller, Sarah Lucas and Tim Noble and Sue Webster. The Sigmund Freud Museum Vienna houses a small but impressive contemporary art collection, with work by John Baldessari, Joseph Kosuth, Jenny Holzer, Franz West and Ilya Kabakov. In this remarkable book, Joanne Morra offers a nuanced analysis of these historical museums and their unique relationships to contemporary art. Taking us on a journey through the ‘site-responsive’ artworks, exhibitions and curatorial practices that intervene in the objects, spaces and memories of these Museums, Joanne Morra offers a fresh experience of the history and practice of psychoanalysis, of museums and contemporary art.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...