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Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (6A-01)

1/ Laurie Charles, From the Waiting Room, wallpaper with patterns painted on the wall, 2021 
2/ Laurie Charles, From the Waiting Room, papier peint avec des motifs peints sur le mur. Laurie Charles, Materia medica, peintures acryliques cousues sur toile, vue d’exposition Salon de Montrouge, 2022 

The Violet Wallpaper – Laurie Charles

Curated by Zeynep Kubat

“John is a physician, and perhaps – (…) – perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster. You see, he does not believe I am sick!” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper, 1892

Laurie Charles (°1987) rewrites the history of illness and care from a female perspective. For this, she draws deeply from her own experience with an autoimmune disease. Laurie connects politics of labour with politics of the body through her installation, inspired by the short story The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The short story’s protagonist is a woman who is put under ‘rest treatment’ by her husband, a physician, who does not believe she is sick. Rather, he thinks she is ‘hysterical’ and should rest her nerves by refraining from any stimulating activities. She becomes obsessed with the patterns on the wallpaper of her bedroom, and slowly spirals into madness. The protagonist shows the symptoms of what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari describe as ‘a body without organs’. A state of being that leaves the controlled bounds of how a body is expected to exist, which leaves only the loose mind in control.

Feminist thinkers, such as Silvia Federici, have already made the case for the unpaid work that has been done by women in their homes. European studies have shown that since the pandemic, the global amount of unpaid labour by women in the domestic sphere has risen with roughly 30%.

Today, the average amount of unpaid domestic labour by women in Belgium has risen to five hours per day. How are we expected to heal, sustain health and self-care if societal circumstances push us away from equality? The relationships and (dis)balances we create between labour and the body, change with every crisis we go through as societies and communities, such as the post-covid life, wards an economic recession. Where do we start healing or self-healing, when the structures that are created to provide health in all its facets fall short, even in the domestic sphere?

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