Eyes From Above
Anna Freud was the youngest daughter of Sigmund and Martha Freud’s six children. She moved to London with her parents in 1938, before the outbreak of war, where Sigmund died shortly after. She continued to live in the Hampstead house until her death in 1982 and was its longest resident. After the Second World War she set up the Hampstead War Nursery, which provided foster care for the children of single-parent families. She noticed that the war did not have a traumatic effect on children, but they were instead affected by the separation of losing a parent.
Anna Freud’s professional and personal life inform Bettina von Zwehl’s installation titled Make a Note of Anything.., 2014, a collection of cropped eyes of more than 100 children placed along the upper edge of Anna’s room as a frieze. The work was informed by Anna’s observation of over 200 children that she cared for in the nurseries. The discreet but very poignant installation inverses the gaze as we become an object of observation from the frieze of eyes that look intensely at us from above.
Placed on the Museum’s stairwell and central to the exhibition, 50 framed fragments of the profile of the same six year old girl are dispersed across the wall. Each piece of photographic paper is individually torn and shaped to reveal and obscure partial views of her subjects. The Sessions, 2015-16 collectively refers to the length of a psychoanalytic session and the time von Zwehl spent taking the young girl’s portrait. They also replace the imposing official portrait of Sigmund Freud, thus paying tribute to Anna Freud’s pioneering career in child psychoanalysis and her role as founder of the museum.
Safelight In A Time Capsule
Perhaps the most iconic room in the museum is Freud’s study, where his well-known couch and remarkable collection of Egyptian, Greek and Oriental antiquities are placed. The study acts as a time capsule, preserved by Anna Freud, with its closed curtains and precisely placed objects of Freud’s final year. Von Zwehl’s installation, Safelight, 2016, takes 6 darkroom tube lights that emit a dramatic red glow and intensely transform the study without having to physically move anything. Perhaps the process of developing film, which captures a specific moment in time, is similar to Freud’s time capsuled study room.
Inspired by Anna Freud’s lifetime of close female friendships, von Zwehl created a series of 15 black and white compositions of individual silhouetted female forms; of which three are exhibited in the dining room. Laments (part 2, 4, 13), 2014 offers a partial view of the women, who turn to the side or away from the camera in an elusive or melancholic manner. The silhouettes created through a lightbox give a false sense of movement to the pictures and recall shadows. Invitation to Frequent the Shadows is a delicate immersive exhibition that pays tribute to Anna Freud and to our habitual relationship with psychoanalysis.
On display at the Freud Museum until 17 July 2016.