Spanning the course of two years, Susu Laroche and New Noveta opened for the first time their complete study of hysteria in an exhibition, running at London’s Public Exhibitions from September 1 to 25 and including a ‘Seminar on Female Hysteria‘ on September 10. The installation consists four hysterical episodes: ‘Vesmir Peklo’ (2014), ‘17:17′ (2015), ‘Widows’ (2016) and ‘Flood’ (2016), the latter of which is hosted exclusively by aqnb below. Curated by Ed Leezon, the show and the videos deal with depictions and developments in hysteria through moments of destructive crisis.
The London-based artist and duo working under monikers, Susu Laroche (an anagram of Chaos Rules Us) and New Noveta (Ellen Freed and Keira Fox) produced a series of contemporary videos taking visual cues from natural elements such as Earth, Fire, Water and Air, while visually re-staging traditional femme-fatale archetypes from 1940s film noir classics. Projected on large screens on each gallery wall and surrounding a freshly burnt-out fire pit are Fox and Freed enacting seemingly mundane scenarios, like picnicking or wandering aimlessly. Yet the works have a surreal side, similar to a Charlie Chaplin sketch, where their limbs move in exaggerated ways, dressed in matching outfits. Separate but conjoined, they never seem to lose touch with each other’s psyches as they blunder across the frame.
The videos have a strong relationship to cinema in form and medium, where the viewer can see they are partially scripted/choreographed but the action seems real. Like a LARP (Live Action Role Play) New Noveta embody traditional notions of hysteria. Clumsily they fight or try to balance in high heels on wet sand, you see them grow tired or uninterested as they then pick up another prop. One woman empties a full one glass over the hair of the other in a madly though loving caress. The other looks on with admiration. The chaos these characters map throughout the episodes is always presented on flickering black and white celluloid footage with an extreme score produced by London-based producer Ana Caprix that also flits from orchestral cello to ambient electro.
The music narrates the mute bodies and gives further justification to this reenactment, initially when hearing about a female collective exploring hysteria —one can’t help but think of the millions of women that were oppressed by this medical term. It almost exclusively incarcerated women from 1859 onwards into mental asylums because they were deemed unfit for society through their own behaviour due to a physician’s idea on female sexual frustration. This may seem like ancient history but when looking at the still ongoing plight of women in the world and their representation, one notices that the present time is far from progressive when it comes to women and the liberation of themselves by themselves —the videos intentionally map emotional responses to crises and traumatic events as a method kit. Performing Sisterhood, New Noveta support each other under extreme anxiety, angst, grief and destruction. At times this seems macabre as they tumble around a salvage yard or, dressed in Rebecca Horn-esque attire, camp out in the undergrowth like wild animals. What makes this series so unique is the timeless duality that plays over the silver screen and into the real contemporary world that women live in today —as hysterical as the women it once committed.**