Producition Workshop Archive Finale 2010





Females under Tension

Paula MUHR

One of the source materials for the work Females under Tension is a historical document, the book entitled „abnormal Woman“, published in 1895 by a self-proclaimed scientist arthur macDonald, whose intention was to illustrate female border-line abnormality, by studying „abnormal women outside of institutions, in the society at large“. According to his definition, an emotionally unstable person is the one who cannot match her behaviour with the conventions of the community she lives in. He defined normality as typical behaviour, and everything and anything deviating from this norm he postulted as deviant and abnormal. MacDonald defined love as an obsession and the source of emotional excess, as “one of the principle causes of mental, physical and emotional aberration”.

In order to collect the material necessary for his research, MacDonald published an advertisement in  personal columns, inviting interested liberal-thinking ladies to a correspondence where they would state their opinions on love and describe their intimate experiences and expectations. He never divulged his intentions of using these intimate confessions as a source for setting the norms of the limits  of acceptable emotional behaviour to the women who wrote the letters.

Starting with the original letters published in the book, as well as the contemporary letters written in response to the original advertisement, my work deals with the research of the strategies of domination in constructing the categories of sexuality, sexual differences, desire and normality through the examination of (pseudo)scientific and social practices implicitly present in films, photographs and written documents dating from the end of XIX and beginning of XX century.

More than a hundred years after the original experiment, women of different ages, professions, nationalities and political orientation were invited to write a letter from this contemporary perspective as a reply to MacDonald’s original advertisement. The fragments from the total of eleven letters have been edited into a narrative, read by a computer -generated female voice.

The installation is based on the edited version of the deconstructed filmed material from the archives of the Edison company, dating from 1904, entitled “How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the 'New York Herald' Personal Columns”. This is a typical example of early chase films. In this particular case, the man who was looking for a wife through the personal columns is pursued by eleven women in diverse locations. By eliminating the cause of the chase, the pursued man, together with the moment of denouement this type of films conventionally end with, the chase turns into a hysterical, illogical, non-stop repeated action. The tempo of the film and the audio recording have been slowed down to the point where they became almost hypnotic.


Paula MUHR was born in 1977 in Subotica, and lives in Berlin, Germany. She graduated Photography at the BK Academy of Art in Belgrade and received her Master’s Degree at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade. Parallel to her study of art, she studied Literature and Literature Theory at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. She finished her Post-Master’s studies at the Academy of Arts in Leipzig, Germany. Her recent exhibitions include solo exhibitions in Galerie Le Bleu de Ciel in Lion, Centre national de l’audiovisuel in Luxembourg, Kunstverein in Leipzig, Delikatessenhaus Galerie in Leipzig and the Photon Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, together with taking part in Photomeetings Luxembourg, Septembre de la Photographie Lyon 2008, and group exhibitions in Kunsthaus Dresden , Overbeck -Gesellschaft Libek in Germany and Kunstgarten in Graz. She is the winner of the first prize at the international festival of photography in Leipzig, Germany in 2007, the “sittcomm-award 2007”, the Pepinieres Europeennes residential grant as well as the Dimitrije BašiÄŤević Mangelos Award production grant. Her photographs have been published in Capricious Magazine (New York), Fotograf (Brno), Purple Journal (Paris), and Waterfall (Taiwan).