Celebrating the Next Twinkling

1999

1.45′

The short video entitled “Celebrating the Next Twinkling,” 1999, by Boryana Rossa, is accompanied by a frustrated, scratching, DJ style soundtrack and features the faces of two women whose emotions shift, in viewing something off-screen, from delighted and ecstatic to terrified and hysterical. Towards the end of the video, the women resort to punching one another with vigor, laughing, and screaming again in horror. This work explores various emotions and physical / physiological / psychological states, from ecstasy, whether it be religious or sexual, to sadness, shame, pain, to images of violence, psychosis, insanity and outright hysteria. Rossa’s video reminds the viewer that many were seen from the Greeks onward as specific to women. The word, hysteria, was taken from the Greek word for uterus, “hystera.” According to Aristotelian biology, a woman’s ovaries were detachable. That is, they could detach themselves inside the body and move around, causing all sorts of havoc. This gave women a natural predilection for insanity. The Greeks called this condition “hysteria” (after the word “hystos,” or womb) It wasn’t until the 18th Century, when the body became redefined in terms of its nervous system, that hysteria was recognized as a nervous disorder and less frequently was viewed as intrinsically connected to the uterus. [On women and nervous disorders, Ilza Veith’s Hysteria: The history of a disease (1965) remains the fundamental text. See also Foucault’s discussion of sensibility in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vintage, 1965), 150–58, where he notes how the female body in medical literature of the period “is riddled by obscure but strangely direct paths of sympathy…from one extreme of its organic space to the other, it encloses a perpetual possibility of hysteria” (153–54).]

Maura Reilly / Linda Noclin for Global Feminisms show 2007, Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum, NY