The Freud Connection – Two London shows The Surreal Line and Hysteria


Baby Messiah, © Chutney Barrister, 2009

First, how could I ignore an email from a photographer with the name Chutney Barrister?

Whether it’s a ruse to get people (like me) to take note, whether it’s the photographer’s real name or a pseudonym, really doesn’t matter. I was immediately drawn to look at the content, especially as it was to promote a photo exhibition The Surreal Line. Indeed, the name is a pseudonym but it works as it’s wholly in keeping with the nuance of the project.

“You won’t see the surreal line listed on any official Tube maps…The ticket office won’t tell you what zones it occupies. Platform staff, if questioned, will just shrug and look back at you blankly. A trip may last mere seconds, but offers memorable moments – from disembodied eyes rolling by carriage windows, mischievous squirrels balancing boxes on commuters, to smiling babies leaping over crowded trains.” The Surreal Line “is a series of images taken from an ongoing project, documenting moments of chance on the London Underground where static billboards and posters appear to coalesce with the world around them,” says Barrister of the project. The photographer is Yusuf Ozkizil.


Jack, © Chutney Barrister, 2009

I take the tube in London a lot and have noticed many of these juxtapositions but have never photographed them so these street photography images cheered me up, especially as they rely on a decisive moment approach to capture the odd, the ironic and the humorous.While the concept behind the work is not new, Bannister does have an eye for the absurd. Plus, I think that using the London Underground can be a surreal (and frustrating) experience if you use an Oyster card – no matter how much money I put on my card, there are some rogue barriers and gates which leech the money from my card and leave me wondering how I can spend £10 on travel and still run out of money by the end of the day. But then maybe it’s not surreal, just a very clever way of accumulating piles of cash.

The Surreal Line is part of a group show running from 8 October – 5 November at Flaxon Ptootch, London.


Hysteric, photo courtesy of The Freud Museum

My next choice of show is Hysteria in London where “Mat Collishaw has created a new series of works for Sigmund Freud’s house that include sculptures, projections and site-specific installations”. A photograph which hangs above Freud’s iconic psychoanalytical couch of the French neurologist Jean Martin Charcot showing his students a woman in a hysterical fit provides the inspiration for one of Collishaw’s works.

Hysteria is curated by James Putnam and though it is not a photo exhibition, there is a zoetrope included in the show and a photo provided inspiration for one of the art works. “Collishaw’s work often uses visual devices that have their roots in 19th century illusionistic techniques. In the room of Anna Freud, the founder of child psychology he has installed a new zoetrope sculpture with animated figures of imp-like boys smashing eggs, spearing snails and throwing rocks at butterflies.”

I believe that it is a good idea to get out and about looking at work apart from photography. Too often I see projects that appear to be referencing other better known bodies of work, or even copying them, wittingly or not. My advice is to take a break from looking at photography and look over the horizon to other creative forms. Rent a film, read a poem, listen to some music, go for a walk or sprout some seeds, if only to free up one’s thinking. Any other suggestions welcome.

Hysteria runs from 7 October – 13 December at The Freud Museum in London.


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