Silent Treatments and Talking Cures attempts to articulate the precariousness of women’s relationship to language and represent the experience of feeling silenced/muted. Drawing on Surrealist photography and psychoanalysis, the piece explores the cultural production of “hysteria” and voicelessness.
This body of work offers a meditation on mutism. Silence, in this piece, is conceptualized as a restrained/repressed voice and as a potentially powerful presence. Images such as a woman contemplating a large tongue, an ear in a jar, and a woman screaming into a pillow examine the precariousness of women’s relationship to language in both speaking and being heard. At the same time, the images are intended to evoke and make palpable the sensation and frustration of voicelessness. This experiential quality is achieved through metaphoric imagery such as the neck and bubble, and through the formal properties of the work.
“There’s this excruciating pain in trying to cram meanings into words. It’s so overly artificial. I think of too many things simultaneously. The words are always not quite right. The work has contradictions that can’t be reconciled. The silence in this piece is a repression, but I also think it is very powerful. There is a point where something is so controlled that it begs the absolute chaos that is just on the other side of it. I think of these photographs in that way. They are so controlled that they are ready to fly to pieces… I think of the shattered glass as the moment after the explosion, the remnants. The pillow – the muffled cancelled scream that still contains the scream.” (personal statement about the work, 1991)