Hidden Thoughts of a Visual Nature

Freud maintained his practice in the "medical apartment" on the upper ground floor of the building from 1896 to 1906. Now the permanent exhibition "Hidden Thoughts of a Visual Nature" can be seen there - a presentation of selected works from the Sigmund Freud Museum's conceptual art collection, which was established in 1989 with an installation by the American artist Joseph Kosuth. Twelve artworks by John Baldessari, Wolfgang Berkowski, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Jessica Diamond, Georg Herold, Susan Hiller, Ilya Kabakov, Joseph Kosuth, Sherrie Levine, Haim Steinbach, Franz West, and Heimo Zobernig are on display in the premises of Freud's "first" practice.

The pieces of Joseph Kosuth and Heimo Zobernig are shown in the former waiting room, which served as a meeting place for the famous Wednesday Psychological Society from 1902 onwards. Kosuth's wall installation encourages the integration of new thoughts into the existing material. In Zobernig’s work, the structural similarity between vision and reality becomes the subject of artistic scrutiny.

In the little veranda, found objects and pieces of language become the protagonists of Sherrie Levine’s and Wolfgang Berkowski’s artistic narratives. In Freud’s former treatment room, works of visual art incorporate core themes from the field of psychological investigation: Georg Herold addresses the question «whether our ‹civilized› sexual morality is worth the sacrifice which it imposes on us» with critical wit. With an «AHA!» Haim Steinbach draws attention to communication in the course of the psychoanalytic therapy in his reference to the talking cure —the foundation of all talking therapy even today. For John Baldessari, photographic references form a starting point for his visualization of the affinity and the discrepancy of the un-canny. Susan Hiller tests the idea of «seeing oneself in others» in her extensive study of the archival materials from Freud's estate. In the center, Franz West's "Liège" is set up. Where Freud's couch presumably stood, its crudely welded counterpart now rises on a white pedestal, less an invitation to linger than a reference to the instrumental character of the psychoanalytic setting.

In the room in which Freud wrote The Interpretation of Dreams, Jessica Diamond’s piece "Me-constellation", both self- and other-referential, is presented. Ilya Kabakov’s installation, based on items of furniture found at Berggasse 19, unfolds its symbolism in the place where Sigmund Freud’s desk once stood, underscoring the room’s erstwhile purpose, and adding the fantastic autobiographical story "The Man Who Flew Into His Picture".

Positioned on the wall of the former kitchen of Freud’s practice, through which it was possible to leave discreetly after the psychoanalytic session, Pier Paolo Calzolari presents "Avido" (greed), a piece that highlights sexual desire.

The preserved architectural elements of Freud’s former workplace not only define the birthplace of psychoanalysis. Major ideas that Freud once tested and formulated here coincide with those of the works on display: Questions about the relationship between the sexes are raised as a theme, as is the possible discrepancy between what is experienced and what is remembered, or between individual and social (self-)determination. The close, interdependent relationship between art and the surrounding space differs significantly here from the criteria of the neutrally designed "white cube" usually favored for the presentation of contemporary art - since the works of art corresponding in and with Freud's former workplace and all its historical implications merge in this site with their surroundings to form a unity of effect.


Concept: Monika Pessler