Johanna Naukkarinen: Grand Hysteria
1 Apr – 8 May 2016

Every spring the Turku Art Museum presents in its Studio gallery a show by a visual artist graduating from the Turku Arts Academy. This year the featured artist is Johanna Naukkarinen (b. 1988), whose graduation show explores hysteria and its visual legacy through photography and video.
Hysteria emerged as a prominent medical phenomenon in the 19th century, and it became an umbrella condition for many physical and mental symptoms besetting women in particular. At the same time it was also a cultural construction through which the woman was defined as the weaker sex and through which her experiences were suppressed and medicalised by appealing to hysteria. By the 20th century hysteria had been shown to be a medical fallacy, and people started to examine its many manifestations from new perspectives. Yet it had left an indelible mark on European culture and art.
Photography was an important tool in the study of the physical symptoms of hysteria. Female patients were photographed in barely concealing hospital garb in a hospital studio, and the most popular hysterics were able to switch from one spasm to the next in time with the clicking of the shutter, just like fashion models. Naukkarinen takes this peculiar confluence of hysteria and photography as the starting point of her show, juxtaposing historical imageries with contemporary photographic expression.
Grand Hysteria spotlights the structures of gazing and being the object of the gaze, along with the power dynamics associated with the visual representation of women in particular. Works in the Grand Movements series analyse the parallels between fashion imagery and images of hysteria by comparing poses in fashion photography with photographs of hysterical cramps. The structures of the gaze in advertising photography take on a new perspective when the uncomfortable poses of fashion models are juxtaposed with pictures taken in the context of illness. One facet of the backstory of Naukkarinen’s video is the contention that people suffering from hysteria would have been imposters who faked their symptoms in order to get attention. The video shows five people trying to imitate the extreme physical symptom of hysteria, the ‘grand movement’ called arc-en-ciel, a spasm in which the patient arches her back into a painful curve.

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2019