The Talking Cure

Oakville Galleries, Oakville | 2014

March 2nd to May 11th, 2014


Marianne Flotron, Andrea Fraser, Melanie Gilligan, Jesse Jones, Stuart Ringholt & Superflex

Exhibition Notes:

The Talking Cure was curated by Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh for Oakville Galleries.


Preview article in Art Guide Australia by Dylan Rainforth, and a review in Das Superpaper by Ella Cattach.

  • Jesse Jones, The Selfish Act of Community (production still, 2012)

The “talking cure” was coined in the late nineteenth century by Dr. Josef Breuer’s patient Bertha Pappenheim - or Anna O - to refer to the psychotherapeutic method that relieved her anxiety. Anna O became well-known as Anna O. in Sigmund Freud and Breuer’s book Studien über Hysterie from 1895 which introduced the technique of psychoanalysis to a wider audience. As psychiatrist and writer Jacques Lacan put it in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, “the more Anna provided signifiers, the more she chattered on, the better it went.” Since that time, therapy in its myriad forms has become part of life for many of us. Given the economic, ecological and social turbulence that defines our age, this comes as no surprise. As philosopher and sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato writes in The Making of the Indebted Man from 2012, “From one financial crisis to the next, we have now entered a period of permanent crisis, which we shall call ‘catastrophe.’”

Representations of anxiety, terror and fear have a long tradition in art. In the years since the global financial crisis in 2008, many artists began examining the relationship between personal calamities and social catastrophes, employing different forms of therapy as tools for reframing perceptions of ourselves and of our surroundings. The financial crisis is the linchpin, but events such as 9/11 and the socioeconomic changes brought on by deregulation and globalization marked the beginning of this shift toward the current state of ongoing distress. Foregrounding film, video and performance, The Talking Cure features works made since 2008 by six artists. Addressing a broad affective and political spectrum, the exhibition explores a world in perpetual upheaval. It provides space both for hands-on audience engagement—such as in Stuart Ringholt’s anger workshops—and time for contemplation and introspection, as in Andrea Fraser’s self-scrutinizing two-screen video Projection.

In line with Freud’s thinking on psychoanalysis, many of these artists use approaches that “act out” either these structural societal ills or elusive personal traumas. The works in the exhibition range between two manifestations of anxiety and frustration: collective struggle, which can simultaneously instigate social change and be manipulated by political forces; and individual strife, with its more intimate and immediate outcomes, which are nonetheless intertwined with the conditions under which each of us lives and works. To externalize anxieties, the artists have employed methodologies from psychoanalysis to hypnotherapy to the Theatre of the Oppressed, with results that are at times more disturbing and disruptive than healing. Two distinct modes of address are used in this group of works: some works address the audience as a potential patient, and others allow viewers to absorb the work from a distance, depending on the type of struggle being exposed.

A version of The Talking Cure was presented as The Working Life at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, between May 31 and July 26, 2014.