Liz Magic Laser

Convulsive States

‘Is hysteria and its current incarnation - the “psychogenic nonepileptic seizure” - a phenomenon of individual maladaptation, or the appropriate social-emotional response of our collective human organism?’ - Liz Magic Laser

WO 27 MAR — 18:00
In the presence of the artist
More about the artist talk

Mo - Tu: closed
We - Th: 14:00 - 22:00
Fr- Su: 14:00 - 18:00

Sa 30/03: 14:00 - 20:00

Mo - Tu: closed
We 3/04 - Su 14/04: 14:00 - 18:00

on 31/03 (Easter), 1/05 (Labour Day), 9/05 (Ascension Day), 19/05 (Pentecost)

WO 24 APR, WO 8 MAY, WO 15 MAY, WO 22 MAY — 19:00
Do the body therapy exercises from the expo with a coach
More about the exercise sessions

Group visits (in the form of a guided tour or with a short introduction) are possible outside the regular opening hours on weekdays. Please contact rondleiding@stuk.be for more information.

In her exhibition Convulsive States American based video and performance artist Liz Magic Laser explores the shaking body as both a symptom and a remedy for psychic distress. The installation traces the lineage of psychosomatic disorders from historical hysteria to contemporary diagnoses such as ‘psychogenic non-epileptic seizures’ and spirit possession. On view are two video installations: Exorcise 1 through 8 (2023), eight interactive videos displayed on mirrored monitors, and Convulsive States (2023), a hallucinatory film essay about Paris’s Salpêtrière Hospital, widely considered the birthplace of modern psychology and neurology. Part of the same aural space, the two pieces, like a diptych, function as one.

Convulsive States, developed over nine years of intense conversation and friendship with poet Ariana Reines, was commissioned by Pioneer Works and is the subject of Laser’s first solo exhibition in Belgium.

Entering the exhibition, the visitor is invited into a corridor formed by two rows of four films shown on mirrored monitors. In Exorcise 1 through 8 the reflections of visitors become superimposed onto the pulsating bodies of somatic practitioners. Through diverging practices from varying backgrounds and origins such as qigong, holotropic breathwork, kundalini yoga and GYROKINESIS®, the guides all use movement as vehicles by which individuals can reach euphoric and meditative states. Amongst them is Wendy Osserman - Laser’s mother, choreographer and Authentic Movement practitioner. By placing the mirrors across from one another, Laser creates an infinity effect, encouraging the visitor to playfully engage with the instructors.

In the documentary-style film bearing the same title as the overall installation, Laser - as artist-turned-journalist - interviews doctors, historians, artists, clergy and dance therapists in and around the Salpêtrière Hospital. The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital became a celebrated neuropsychiatric teaching center in the 19th century under the direction of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. His classroom presentations of patients demonstrating fits of hysteria became popular spectacles for the Parisian socialites alongside writers and students such as Sigmund Freud). Filmed in collaboration with French journalist Laura Geisswiller, Convulsive States interweaves conversations with meditative footage that spirals around the sculptures and images of the hospital rendering visible the history of hysteria. Laser links the continued relevance of Charcot’s Hysteria studies to recent events, such as outbreaks of TikTok tics spread via social media. Gradually, the film moves from seemingly ‘objective journalism’ towards personal essay and auto-fiction as Laser includes her own experiences of the psychosomatic condition she set out to study. Ultimately, Convulsive States raises questions about the derogatory origins of hysteria as a female malady and our current cultural appetite for ‘somatic therapies’ as the cure for trauma.

On the occasion of this exhibition, Liz Magic Laser and STUK present a research room connecting the history of ‘shaking’ to the history of (neuro)psychology, the use of photography and film to document pathologies, and its impact on the development of a contemporary dance vocabulary in Belgium.

Curator STUK: Karen Verschooren
Curator at Pioneer Works, NY: Gabriel Florenz with Associate Curator Vivian Chui

(°1981, New York, USA)

Liz Magic Laser is a multimedia video and performance-based artist from New York City. Her recent work explores the efficacy of new age techniques and psychological methods active in both corporate culture and political movements. Laser’s work has been shown at venues such as The Smithsonian American Art Museum (2023); Pioneer Works, Brooklyn (2023); ICA Boston (2023); Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2022); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2021); MUDAM The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg (2021). Her work has been critically acclaimed in publications such as Text zur Kunst, Artforum, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and Art in America.

Works in the exhibition:

Convulsive States
2023, 53’, single channel, open sound

Exorcise 1 through 8
2023, 26’30”, 8-channel, open sound

Research Room

  • Dissertatio Inauguralis Medica. Dn. Philippo Wilhelmo (1707). Compendiosam et Clinicam Spasmodico - Convulsivorum Morborum Praxin Cum Cautelis.
  • Pierre Pomme. (1782). Traité des Affections Vaporeuses des deux sexes, ou maladies nerveuses, vulgairement appelées Maux de Nerfs. Université de Montpellier.
  • J. L. Brachet (1847). Traité de L’Hystérie.
  • Bourneville (1872). Leçons sur les Maladies du Système Nerveux. Faites à la Salpêtrière par J. - M. Charcot. Agrégé a la Faculté de Médecine de Paris, Médecin de la Salpêtrière. Recueilles et Publiées par Bourneville. Ancien interne des Hopitaux de Paris.
  • Gilles de la Tourette (1895). Traité Clinique et Thérapeutiques de L’Hystérie d’après l’enseignement de la Salpêtrière par le docteur Gilles de la Tourette.
  • Sigmund Freud. Gesammelte Werke. Chronologisch Goerdnet. Erster Band. Werke Aus Den Jahren 1892 - 1899. S. Fischer Verlag.
  • Jean Thuillier. (1993). Monsieur Charcot de la Salpêtrière. Robert Laffont.
  • Georges Didi-Huberman. (1982, 2003). Invention of Hysteria. Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere. The MIT Press.
  • Bessel Van der Kolk. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. Penguin Books Ltd
  • Asti Hustvedt. (2011). Medical Muses. Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris. W. W. Norton & Company. New York - London.
  • Christophe Boulanger, Savine Faupin, Bart Marius, Kurt De Boodt, Rae Beth Gordon & Peter Holvoet-Hanssen. (2020). Dolgedraaid. Danser Brut. Mercatorfonds - Bozar Books.
  • Film clip: Het leven en het werk van Arthur Van Gehuchten. Hoogleraar aan de Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven van 1887 tot 1914. Archiefopnames: Jacques Campens / Muziek: Jean Jadin / Cello: Damien Parmentier / Stem: Roger De Knijf / Mixage: Roger Defays / Montage en realisatie: Michel Van Troyen / Produktie. Audio-visual center UCB (1984)

Contemporary Dance film fragments

  • Alain Platel. VSPRS. 2006. Recording: Kamiel De Meester
  • Voetvolk / Lisbeth Gruwez & Maarten Van Cauwenberghe. It's going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend. 2012. Recording: Voetvolk
  • Voetvolk / Lisbeth Gruwez & Maarten Van Cauwenberghe. Nomadics. 2023. Recording: Voetvolk

All works: Courtesy of the artist.

Convulsive States is commissioned by Pioneer Works. Curator: Gabriel Florenz / Associate Curator: Vivian Chui


Convulsive States features cinematography by Laura Geisswiller; video editing by Isaac Goes and Michelle Yoon; sound design by Jared Arnold; musical recordings by GOBBY; Colorist: Nic Seago; Subtitle Translator: Charlotte de Mezamat. The project was developed over nine years of intense conversation and friendship with poet Ariana Reines. The film includes interviews with the staff of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, including neurologist Dr. Martin Catala, psychiatrist Dr. David Cohen, Father Frederic Louzeau, neurologist Dr. Vincent Navarro, dance therapist Svetlana Panova, neurologist Dr. Emmanuel Flamand Roze, and dance therapist France Schott-Billmann; and additional interviews with artist and tai chi instructor Fabrice Brunet, journalist Hélène Combis, librarian and archivist Remi Gaillard, and journalist Virginie Girod. The artist offers special thanks to historian Asti Hustvedt for sharing research, the memory of Dr. Catherine Bouchara, who staged the seminal exhibition Charcot, une vie avec l'image at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, the School of Visual Arts MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department for equipment support, and Zhu Miansheng of Ars Asiatica and Emmanuel Roussille for supporting the participation of artist Fabrice Brunet. Additional thanks to Manuel David, Joan Dupont, Vanessa Gould, Amy Knorr, Molly, Lowe, Ruth Patir and Wendy Osserman.

Exorcise 1 through 8 features performances by multidimensional medicine woman and physical therapist Eia Buenconsejo, birth doula Bonu deCaires, somatic acting technique professor Erica Fae, personal trainer and wellness coach Erik Potempa, dancer and massage therapist Cori Kresge, choreographer and Authentic Movement practitioner Wendy Osserman, GYROTONIC® Master Trainer Naoko Moriyama Robbins, and Kundalini yogi and competitive krumper Reuel Crunk Rogers; cinematography by Michelle Yoon; additional camerawork by Isaac Goes, Liz Magic Laser, and Grace Poppe; sound design by Jared Arnold; musical recordings by GOBBY; video editing by Isaac Goes and Michelle Yoon; choreographic consulting by Cori Kresge; and costume design and casting consulting by Felicia Garcia-Rivera.

Liz Magic Laser: Convulsive States was made possible by generous funding from the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. It is also supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

Wed 27 Mar 2024 18:00 - Sun 26 May 2024 18:00


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