Pillow Talk was inspired by my reading of the book Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere by Georges Didi-Huberman. For years I had been interested in the idea of hysteria and its construction as an explanation for the sexual frustration of women. Rather than addressing the sexual repression of women, society preferred to label hysterics as insane and “treat” them rather than the social structure, which was the cause of this behavior. In creating this work, I sought to give voice to the forgotten patients of the Salpetriere, the institution devoted to hysterical women.
Science is viewed as synonymous with truth in our culture. However, scientific truth changes as frequently as our social mores and climate of opinion. In Pillow Talk, I chose to assume a scientific tone by appropriating a clinical list and to juxtapose this presentation with the horrifically ludicrous text. The pillowcases provided a meaning-laden minimalist background. They, themselves, are imbued with a multitude of contradictions. We associate pillows with comfort and security. However, on closer examination, these pillowcases are worn and discolored from overwashing. They are reminiscent of hospital linens in their drabness and sterility. This conflict of comfort and discomfort, of safety with suffering, serves as a memoriam to the women of the Salpetriere and the mysterious circumstances under which they died.