Hysteria | Cinenova Distribution, Pia Arke, Laleen Jayamanne, Lana Lin, T. Kim-Trang, and Evan Ifekoya, Hysteria and the Hybrid Body (2018)

Laleen Jayamanne, A Song of Ceylon (1985, Australia), 16 mm. Still from film


Cafe OTO

17 February 2018

PS/Y’s Hysteria and Cinenova Distribution present a programme of moving image work made by women that utilises the female body or feminist perspective to redefine iterations of the term hysteria as a tool for colonial power.

This evening takes its title from an essay written by Priyadarshini Vigneswaran about Sri Lankan-born filmmaker Laleen Jayamanne’s A Song of Ceylon, which will be screened in 16 mm alongside work by Tran, T. Kim-Trang, Lana Lin and Pia Arke, with a DJ set by Evan Ifekoya.

Laleen Jayamanne, A Song of Ceylon (1985, Australia), 16 mm

The title A Song of Ceylon mimics Basil Wright’s 1934 documentary about the then British colony of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). However, where Wright’s film employs a colonial voice to narrate the life of the island’s inhabitants, Laleen Jayamanne invokes a woman’s ritual exorcism – expanding the language of filmmaking into a study of perception, emotion and hybrid states of being.

Tran, T. Kim-Trang, ekleipsis (1998, USA), SD Video to Digital

ekleipsis delves into two histories: the history of hysteria and the Cambodian civil war. Tran, T. Kim-Trang weaves together texts of these histories along with a composite case study of Cambodian women living in California who are suffering from hysterical blindness – that is, sight loss brought about by traumatic stress – and the artist’s mother. The video speaks about the somatisation of pain and loss and expresses the inspiration found in those who survive traumatic events and utilise their experiences to reflect on life in positive ways.

Lana Lin, Stranger Baby (1995, USA), 16 mm

Substituting sly metaphor for political rhetoric on immigration, Lana Lin examines our world of ethical and racial complexities. Framed as a mock science fiction, Stranger Baby, offers different perspectives on what it means to be human and what is labelled alien: A woman is haunted by an androgynous apparition; female characters peer out of sci-fi past; curious faces flicker on a TV screen. Their often anxiety-ridden communications issue from technology, memory and fantasy. Excerpts from interviews and scripted narrative weave into an internal monologue that addresses both the threatening and attractive aspects of the alien.

Pia Arke, Arktisk hysteri [Arctic Hysteria] (1996, Denmark), S-VHS to Digital

The term ‘Arctic Hysteria’ was coined by western explorers to describe an allegedly culture-specific psychopathological phenomenon affecting Inuit people living within the Arctic Circle. The condition, which manifested as screams, convulsions and loss of self-control, supposedly appeared in the winter and especially in women. In Arktisk hysteri, Greenlandic-born artist Pia Arke crawls naked across a photographic image of the landscape of Nuugaarsuk, Greenland. Padding, stroking, sniffing and rolling around, she penetrates the landscape of her childhood home and slowly destroys the image.

PS/Y’s Hysteria is a combined arts programme that explores health and illness in contemporary society, focusing on issues of gender, race and cultural identity. Hysteria is curated by Mette Kjærgaard Præst and takes place in partnership with organisations and institutions across London from August 2017 – April 2018.