Florence S. Larose & Virginie Jourdain
March 22nd - Apri 27th, 2014
March 22nd, 2014, 5-8 PM
Water Cure deals with particular histories of medicine: the invention of the vibrator and the ruling of hysteria as a disorder. The exhibition references medical practices aimed at women and pathologies instilled and institutionalized by misogynist and androcentric discourses. This historical episode illustrates the way biopolitics is engaged in the control of bodies and in the (re)productions of sex and sexuality. We find Water Cure in a pornotopic space that combines hydrotherapy in its contemporary embodiment (the spa) and the cold, authoritative space of medical institutions. At the crossroads of these two forms, Water Cure creates an encounter between two environments symptomatic of the sexual history of women. The arrival of electricity in households aligns with mass acquisition of private vibrators, and thanks to post-war comfort, “self-treatment techniques” become tied to large-scale management of populations. Just like the asylum or the spa, the vibrator becomes a revealing detail of this chapter in the history of women, and of their domestic containment.
Florence S. Larose and Virginie Jourdain were inspired by research on medical management and the mechanics of so-called “female” pleasures – pleasures historically considered pathological. The central element of the installation, a garden fountain whose evocative water source is deflected into a masturbatory gesture, refers to the practice of hydrotherapy, a water based massage applied to the vulva under medical consultation in order to heal women from their “moods”. This practice led to the immense popularity of spas in the beginning of the 20th century. It is no accident if the statue speaks to classical (or kitsch) representation of femininity in public gardens, where the Venus de Milo is often reproduced. In a gesture, the artists take on representations of women in art history: Venus’ arm is reconstituted in a motion believed to be close to the original – defying the passivity that is usually assumed of the subject.
Virginie Jourdain and Florence S. Larose are feminist artists working in visual arts and performance. They often contribute to each other’s work and they have already collaborated on many installations and participative performances. Collective work is an important part of their respective artistic approaches, combining both personal work and political and activist components that take form at the meeting of their complementary practices. They live and work in Montreal.
The creation of this work was made possible by the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec & Ontario Arts Council