und da ich noch von Einigen wahrhaft geliebt werde, darf ich nicht niedersinken auf dem Wege, den die Pflicht gegen Alle uns zu verfolgen befiehlt.
Den 14. Juni 1855
The World and Its Inhabitants was first conceived as a miniature circus, a salon divertissement. It is a very intimate, ritualistic form of eighteenth-century parlor activity; an elaborate meal was prepared for around seven guests, with small, electrically operated characters presented between courses to aid digestion and invigorate the intellect.
The Ringmaster, passing a substantial current through his body, would activate the characters. The electricity passed through a specially made lead shoe, sensitizing the Copper Governor, which would glide to-and-fro across a lead arc. At a desired moment, the Ringmaster, using specially prepared Flagellum, would transfix the Governor’s movement; instantly, a chosen character would perform its life in three minutes of unrestrained splendor.
The World began with the births of Nextus II (an Ur-figure, akin to Adam), Lucus, Selisious, and Gutstus, and now numbers some fifty figures.
The characters vary greatly, but all were drawn from three hundred years of history and from all walks of life.
On show at Galerie Hubert Winter are twenty new figures, mostly diminutive (like clockmaker’s contrivances), based on historical figures, and displayed in illuminated vitrines: immobile relics of past soirees, each only performing once. This ensemble, now in its fourth decade of development, continues.
Two new pigment prints will depict the twenty-four characters who inhabited the first World (1980–95) and the second cohort (1996–2022), many shown for the first time.
Two vitrines will house the original mask and accoutrements from the World’s first performance, the Ringmaster’s costume, and the machinery from the initial performances.
The rear exhibition space of Galerie Hubert Winter will house new figures from the World fitting to Viennese sensibilities.
Jean-Martin Charcot, a Parisian figure in the development of neurology and its understanding of distinct mental afflictions, is the central figure depicted as the inner ventricles or hidden void within the human brain.
Freud spent four months at the Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, in Charcot’s neurology department. He was deeply impressed by his teachings, and this period proved instrumental in the shift in his interest from general neurology to the study of hysteria, hypnosis, and other psychological issues.
In various ways, all these figures have a connection to hysteria. Madeleine G, a diagnosed hysteric, who, under hypnotic suggestion, became entranced by the music of Chopin and performed extraordinary dance sequences; Delphine Seyrig “A”, a modern-day hysteric in the eighteenth century setting of L’Année dernière à Marienbad; Léonard Autié, theatrical impresario and coiffeur for twenty years to the former Viennese princess, Marie Antoinette.
Finally: Mercury, son of Jupiter, a messenger leading newly deceased souls to the afterlife; or, more importantly, possessing an ability to transfer dreams from the Valley of Somnus to sleeping humans.
These new figures, Charcot, Madeleine G, Delphine Seyrig “A”, Mercury, and Léonard Autié and The Locks of Infringement will fill this rear space. An area will be devoted to the performative aspects of The World and Its Inhabitants, with photographs of a recent performance at Duane Park, New York.
Die Presse, June 30, 2023: Schauplätze by Johanna Hofleitner