Mountains of Madness

It’s a mad world – don’t you think that sometimes? But what exactly is madness? When you consult Wikipedia, the word »madness« refers to insanity, mental disorder and also anger. It tells us the dark history of asylums, straightjackets and so called »euthanasia«.  What is madness? Being schizophrenic or killing people for being schizophrenic? Am I a mad(wo)man, just because I have a disability or an eccentric behavior? Madness fascinates us and scares us as well. Mankind always wanted or even had to define what is normal and socially acceptable. But who is making the rules? And why are we willing to accept most of these rules unquestioned in our everyday life? We have always been afraid of otherness, but at the same time modern people desperately want to be different. Nowadays we romanticize madness as a marking for creativity, we equal it to personal resistance, but we also use the term to insult and redline others. What is madness? A desirable quality as long as we can decide on it? After all, the question what is considered appropriate manner seems to change permanently, you just have to follow current world politics. It’s confusing, because the perception of madness has so many different faces… It’s a mad world – don’t you think?


Today I just say: It’s all in the collage. Take some time for contemplation. Search for traces and patterns in the chaos. Gain knowledge within the madness and feel free to add your own thoughts.

Derange your mind!


Sick (of being) Muses

The artist-muse relationship is a well-known topic that has been around for centuries. Its origin lies in the myth of »The Nine Muses«, inspirational goddesses of literature, science and the arts in Greek mythology. In current English usage, »muse« can refer in general to a person who inspires an artist, musician, or writer. In most cases this person is female. Many male artists through all art periods, but also today, consider women as their source of inspiration. Women have immense influence on their work, but they are always just given a secondary and passive role in arts. The art world doesn’t seem interested in the fact that inspirational women often were and still are great artists themselves. Even today there is a huge gender disparity.

The work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe.* And less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, (but 76% of the nudes are female.)**

What is it that makes us demote creative women to just muses? Why must the creator of an artwork always be of male gender to get society’s attention? The women who appear in or inspired some of art history’s most-famous works of art also contributed substantial bodies of work of their own. But they usually never got the respect and recognition they deserved (with very rare exceptions). Many of the women died young or tormented. They were forced to give up what they loved most and lost their own way of expression… Do we still want this to happen in our metamodern times?

*Judy Chicago, »We women artists refuse to be written out of history«, The Guardian, 2012.
**Guerrilla Girls, »Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?«, 2012.


Lucia Anna Joyce (1907– 1982) was a professional dancer. Joyce studied dancing from 1925 to 1929. In 1928, she joined »Les Six de rythme et couleur«, a commune of six female dancers that were soon performing at venues in France, Austria, and Germany. After a performance the Paris Times wrote of her (of course comparing her with her father), »Lucia Joyce is her father’s daughter. She has James Joyce’s enthusiasm, energy, and a not-yet-determined amount of his genius. When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father.« At the age of 22, Joyce, after years of rigorous dedication and long hours of practice, decided »she was not physically strong enough to be a dancer of any kind«. It can be assumed that it was her father who finally put an end to her dancing career. Lucia started to show signs of mental illness in 1930. Once treated by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic in the mid 1930s and institutionalized at the Burghölzli psychiatric clinic in Zurich. In 1951, Lucia Joyce was transferred to St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, where she remained until her death in 1982.

Anita Berber (1899–1928) was a German dancer, actress and writer during the German Weimar period. Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity. Her public appearances really challenged taboos as well. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She died in 1928, at the age of 29, in Berlin. Today she is mostly known for a male artists painting and not for her own work: »Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber« by Otto Dix.

All the so called »muses« who were, in fact, artists themselves: Zelda Fitzgerald, Camille Claudel, Elizabeth Siddal, Berthe Morisot, Kiki de Montparnasse, Lee Miller, Dora Maar and so many others…

»Artify« your mind!



Dying is an art

The aim of this new collage is to provoke new thoughts about the works of Sylvia Plath and suicide. Are artists more likely to struggle with mental health issues or is it just the myth of the mad genius that endured for centuries? A conclusive link has never been made between mental health issues and creativity. But for the first time reliable data* has recently shown that in the UK the suicide rate among people working in creative roles is significantly higher than the national average. But how reliable are such studies really? Of course under special circumstances everyone can be at risk and e.g. clinical depression is a serious illness which can affect anybody. Whether someone is an artist or not, we should take our fellow human beings seriously and always listen carefully. It is also important to analyse the causes, whether they are individual or social. Because we must not forget that the ills of our society can significantly increase the pressure on vulnerable people.

*Office for National Statistics: »Suicide by occupation, England: 2011 to 2015«


The semi-autobiographical novel »The Bell Jar« (1963) by American poet Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) and her poetry collection »Ariel«. The Bell Jar became a cult book in the 1970s. The turmoil of its protagonist in the face of societal demands struck a chord with many women and contributed to the Plath’s posthumous rise as an icon of the women’s movement. Ariel was originally published in 1965, two years after Plath’s death by suicide. The poems in the edition, with their free flowing images and characteristically menacing psychic landscapes, marked a dramatic turn from Plath’s earlier poems. In her writing Plath was exploring a dark, taboo, personal subject matter. Sylvia Plath was clinically depressed for most of her adult life. In 1953 she had already tried to commit suicide. Her father, a German entomologist, died when Sylvia was only eight years old. Plath had a troubled marriage with the English poet Ted Hughes. In 1961 she miscarried their second child. In 1963 the couple had two children, who slept next door when Sylvia put an end to her young life.

Analyse your mind!


Dearest Father

This new collage takes a closer look at the psyche of writer Franz Kafka (1883–1924). But it also connects Kafka’s past to our present. Time to question father-child relationships… According to a report in »Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being«: »Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.« But what if a father is constantly over-challenged? What if he is psychologically unstable, abusive or violent? What if his expectations towards his child are far too high? Kafka suffered many psychosomatic disorders… Having children always will be a great responsibility.


Franz Kafka’s »Letter to His Father«. Kafka wrote to his father Hermann in November 1919, indicting him for his emotionally abusive and hypocritical behavior towards him. The subjects of the letter include the contrasting characters of father and son, sexuality/marriage and judaism. Kafka hoped the letter would bridge the growing gap between him and his father, though in the letter he provides a sharp criticism of both. Kafka actually gave the letter to his mother to hand on to his father. His mother never delivered the letter but returned it to her son. Kafka’s sisters had to cope with their choleric father as well and weren’t able to help their brother. The father-son relationship also influenced Kafka’s famous novella »The Metamorphosis« (1915).

Emancipate your mind!



va­ni­tas va­ni­ta­tum

When people talk about immortality it is very likely that they don’t speak of the same thing. What does it mean to live forever? To stay young and actually never going to die? To believe in an afterlife or rebirth? Must we create something unprecedented up to now, gain fame and praise or simply pass on our genes to our descendants? Science, art, religion… Choose your personal life jacket, perhaps you will not sink into oblivion.


»Locus Solus« (1914) by French novelist, outstanding personality and eccentric Raymond Roussel. In the novel a prominent scientist and inventor, Martial Canterel, has invited a group of colleagues to visit the park of his country estate, Locus Solus. As the group tours the estate, Canterel shows them inventions of ever-increasing complexity and strangeness, amongst other things the preserved head of guillotined Georges Jacques Danton. Canterel discovered a way to resuscitate the brain matter of the French revolutionist with electricity, so that Danton’s lips form soundless words…

»The Cryonics Institute« (USA) cools legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future scientific procedures will someday revive them and restore them to youth and good health. The institute has also a special offer to remove and cryopreserve only the head of a deceased person. The theory is that only the information contained in the brain is of any importance, and that a new body could be cloned or regenerated at some point in the future…

Defrost your mind!