Psychoanalysis and art - Sigmund Freud
By Barbara Allmann
Especially visitors from overseas and Japan are eager to see the former office and apartment of the Viennese physician who shook the very foundations of the psychiatric world at the turn of the century: Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis.
The apartment in Berggasse 19 in Vienna’s ninth district where Freud lived and worked was opened as a private museum and place of scientific research in 1971. It houses one of the largest research libraries specialized in psychoanalysis.
The museum also offers space for various events, such as movie screenings, lectures or debates on psychoanalysis, and also for contemporary art. The installation “Zero & Not” by American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth is based on the artist’s reflections on psychoanalysis. The contemporary art collection also comprises donations from the artists John Baldessari, Pierpaolo Calzolari, Georg Herold, Jenny Holzer, Ilja Kabakov, and Franz West. It has been expanded continuously and also includes works by Clegg & Guttmann, Jessica Diamond, and Heimo Zobernig.
From 9 October 2013, the museum will feature a photo exhibition on Freud’s grandson Lucian, who is considered one of the most influential visual artists of the 20th century. The photographer, painter David Dawson, was one of Lucian Freud’s closest friends. He documented the last 15 years of Lucian’s life and work. Some of the pictures will be shown to the public for the first time.
As a neurologist, Freud first mentioned the concept of psychoanalysis in 1896 – a time marked by the disintegration of the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian monarchy. When developing his theory, which has substantially influenced our cultural knowledge, Freud also relied on literary references. In turn, literature has adopted psychoanalytical ideas ever since. Take Austrian author Marlene Streeruwitz, for instance: while she considers Freud’s system a patriarchal theory, she has drawn inspiration from his work all the same.
From 1895, young Viennese authors of Freud’s time, among them Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Hermann Bahr, and Arthur Schnitzler, benefited from his analysis of the unconscious: they increasingly focused on psychopathological phenomena in their literary work. When in 1900, Freud published “The Interpretation of Dreams,” his most important book to date, author Hermann Bahr reportedly felt like a “whole new language” had been invented. For Freud, the interpretation of dreams was the gateway to the unconscious, he even considered it the key to the whole field of psychoanalysis.
When speaking of psychoanalysis, there is no way around the famous couch in Freud’s treatment room. Patients lay down on the couch to practice free association, one of the techniques psychoanalysis is based on. Visitors of the museum in Berggasse will look for the couch in vain. Freud took it with him to London when Nazi persecution forced him into exile. He died there in 1939 at the age of 83.