Being always interested in the field of mental health, it is of no surprise the concept behind Do You Know the Sound of the Bones Clicking?, an exploration of the historical representations of female madness and theories revolving around intense vanity as a state of insanity. Her interest in Ophelia, the most represented of Shakespeare’s heroines in paintings, literature and popular culture was the starting point for this visual narrative. “My initial fascination led me to further historical research on insanity, social history of hysteria, mental health and gender imbalance in asylums. I based my theoretical framework mostly on three books: Female Malady, 10 days in a Mad-House and Invention of Hysteria. They were all very informative and allowed me to develop the project”, explains Joanna.
By going through a vast range of archival images of Iconographie Photographique de la Salpêtrière from the 19th century, Joanna could discover the interesting and crucial role that photographic documentation played in the process of defining hysteria. “Photographer Paul Regnard and neurologist Charcot aimed to somehow standardize mental illnesses and create a visual methodical map of its different stages. Having said that, many images seem to be more performed rather than objective as Charcot would use hypnosis or electroshocks to examine different symptoms of hysteric attacks. I didn’t want to copy this quite dramatic quality and decided to focus more on small, but meaningful gestures”, says the photographer.
Looking at Do You Know the Sound of the Bones Clicking?, it wouldn’t be fair to overlook the significance that the red colour has in it. It somehow helps to shape the meaning of the project and works as a strong diversion to beige and black and white. It is known that red is an intense colour and its repetition in the story enhances some sort of tension. Also, there is a powerful representation of psychological collapse through purposely manipulated and distorted film. “Manipulation, distortion turns out to be quite essential to my practice as the themes I explore often revolve around the idea of identity, and with the use of these tools, I’m able not only to challenge the visual side but more importantly, the meaning or general feeling. I think it usually becomes a good juxtaposition to the very feminine aesthetic of my images”, Joanna concludes.