:: Article

Are you a Doctor, Sir?

A work by Sharon Kivland, with art by Dawn Woolley.



“Are you a doctor, Sir?”

This is the question Katharina asks of Sigmund Freud, in the lodging-house of his summer holiday in the Höhe Tauern. He goes there to forget medicine and the neuroses, and almost succeeds. Her story is one of the four case histories in Studies on Hysteria, where Freud begins to move towards the flow of free association. There is Katharina, and Frau Emmy von N., and Miss Lucy R., and Fräulein Elisabeth von R. They speak, and their words, the moments when events are recounted, subject to my revision and selection, are spoken by Gabrielle Abbott, Natalie Allistone, Manca Bajec, Sutapa Biswas, Jennifer Booth, Alison J. Carr, Heather Connelly, Cinzia Cremona, Karen di Franco, Clare Dove, Laura Gonzalez, Helen Goodwin, Rose-Anne Gush, Suzanne Hale, Lou Hazelwood, Lizzie Hughes, Alana Lake, Claire Manning, Kristin Mojsiewicz, Sadie Murdoch, Tamarin Norwood, Gilly Pawson, Claire Potter, Many Prowse, Olivia Punnett, Gabriella Sancisi, Erica Scourti, Janine Siddall-Burton, Isabella Streffen, Laima Vanaga, Eva Vaslamatzi, and Gillian Wylde. My readers have recorded their reading of my scripts, which also belong to Freud, Katharina, Frau Emmy, Miss Lucy, and Fräulein Elisabeth. The recordings are a vinyl record, my first LP, produced as a limited edition of eight, the sleeve also containing a printed image. In the printed text, the tone changes between four characters. In the recording, the tone changes between thirty-two readers. The inflection, accent, delivery of each is singular, even as they speak the words of another. When side one has ended, the LP is turned over to side 2. The hysterics do not stop speaking.


I wonder if there is a matter of identification, and if so, with whom, for in the structure of hysteria desire is subordinated to what is imagined to be the desire of the other, who has been granted a privileged position (yes, I am a doctor), and who is able to respond to what is expected (you can say anything to a doctor). There is the demand to a master (to show his mettle, what he does not have), a certain renunciation of one’s own desire in favour of another’s, and the displacement in thinking and speaking like another in the place of that other. One might call it the discourse of the other’s discourse. It is an odd ventriloquism. In any case, as Gérard Wajcman says, hysteria makes us talk. It makes us listen, too.



Sharon Kivland is an artist and writer. Her work considers what is put at stake by art, politics, and psychoanalysis. The last book in her series Freud on Holiday, entitled A Cavernous Defile Part I was published in December 2013 by Cube Art Editions, and therein she visits Lavarone, with a detour to Vienna. Her works is represented by Galerie Bugdahn&Kaimer, Düsseldorf, and Johan Deumens, Amsterdam.

Dawn Woolley trained as a fine art printmaker. She is currently undertaking PhD research in photography at the Royal College of Art. The broad aim of the research is to articulate a form of fetishism, which is not based on sexual difference but historicised as a capitalist pathology. She explores the relationship between people and objects, and the impact of images as disseminators of sign value. The practical aspect of the research project centres on the still life as a type of portrait suggestive of different consumers. Taking her cue from Dutch still life paintings from the seventeenth century that reflected a conflicting relationship to material wealth, she has developed still life objects that also reflect a contradictory relationship to consumerism.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, June 19th, 2015.