History of the Psyche

 


Courtesy Galerie nächst St.Stephan

Courtesy Galerie nächst St.Stephan

Courtesy Galerie nächst St.Stephan

No other piece of furniture has such an unusual name as the psyche (a type of vanity or dressing table). With its mirror and drawers, it is most often found in the intimate space of the bedroom, where it serves as an object for self-admiration and an instrument of autoeroticism. In Elisabeth von Samsonow’s installation “History of the Psyche,” which she conceived of 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: Elisabeth von Samsonow’s large white sculpture “Idol,” which resembles a Cycladic figurine. Along with serving as a source of inspiration for modernist sculptors like Brancusi, these figures have a special significance for the artist as symbols of a concealed psychic activity (in a cultural stratigraphy). Von Samsonow's "History of the Psyche" thus works like a display in which art and psychology are bound together through idolatry effectuating the erotic touch of our gaze into the psyche. It is only when we look in the mirrors that we see trhe reflection of the idol. This form of “idolatry” harkens back to an older layer of the soul, which corresponds to an older layer of art. The installation playfully lays open how we experience our soul as fragmented but yet related to its (archeological) origin.