No other piece of furniture has such an unusual name as the psyche (“vanity” or dressing table). With its mirror and drawers, it is found in the intimate space of the bedroom, where it serves as an object for self-admiration or as an autoerotic instrument. In Elisabeth von Samsonow’s installation “History of the Psyche,” which she conceived especially for the LOGIN, she assembled a group of psyches from the 1950s, when the artist was born (the popularity of the psyche also reached its zenith in the 1950s and ’60s). The LOGIN’s two large windows act as ocular openings through which our eyes behold the camera (in the sense of a chamber), as if we are looking through a spotting scope, with the mirrors arranged along the “retina” in the back of the room.
The mirrors reveal an object we are unable to see directly: Elisabeth von Samsonow’s large white sculpture “Idol,” which resembles a Cycladic figurine. In addition to serving as a source of inspiration for modernist sculptors like Brancusi, these figures have a special significance for the artist as an index of cryptic psychic activity (in a cultural stratigraphy).
Von Samsonow's History of the Psyche works like a display showing how art and psychology are intertwined by idolatry effectuating the erotic touch of our gaze into the psyche. It is through the mirrors that we see the reflection of the idol. This form of idolatry refers to an older layer of the soul that corresponds to an older layer of art. The installation playfully lays open how we experience our soul as fragmented but still related to its (archeological) origin.
Elisabeth von Samsonow is an artist and Professor of Philosophical and Historic Anthropology of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She was also visiting professor at the Bauhaus University in Weimar (2012–2013). In her art, she focuses on the systematic place of sculpture in the art canon, the geo-logic of the body, the interaction between bodies and media, and the (re-)invention of subjectivity.
Selected exhibitions: Austrian Performance Season, Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow (2017); Transplants, Dominikaner-kirche, Krems (2016); The Nervous System of the Earth, Galerie Jünger, Vienna (2014)
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