At the Palazzo Rossini-turned-pseudo psychiatric clinic, Berlin-based artist Thomas Zipp has decked the halls in an exhibition that comes down to three basic themes: sex, drugs, and hysteria. On a tour of the eight-room sanitarium, run-of-the-mill institutional features like treatment rooms, bedrooms, and a laboratory recall the iconic 19th-century Parisian hospital—the ‘Salpêtrière’—were the mentally ill once lived among prostitutes, orphans, bohemians, and the like. At this historic hospital, the French term ‘l’arc de cercle’ was first coined—a phrase eerily similar to the title David Bowie’s 1970s track, ‘The Width of a Circle’—based on encounters with sex, drugs, and the devil. Zipp presents the two themes in tandem, combining references to hysterics (like a scientific machine that puts the patient in out-of-body state of dream) with Bowie’s songs of drug abuse—both themes which have been central to the artist’s practice.
On view at Palazzo Rossini, Campo Manin, Venice, as a collateral event of the 55th Venice Biennale.
Thomas Zipp, Installation view, Comparative Investigation about the Disposition of the Width of a Circle, Palazzo Rossini, La Biennale di Venezia, 2013. Photos by Roman März.