Doa Aly

Doa Aly

Catatonia: A History

Live performance, 2016, 7 min 34 sec

Catatonia is a mental illness, with symptoms including stupor and agitation, physical tics, repetitive speech, imitative acts and mannerisms. In The Madness of Fear: A History of Catatonia (2018), Edward Shorter and Max Fink suggest that catatonia is triggered by fear and anxiety. When diagnosed and treated, catatonic patients experience full remission within a few days. The transitory nature of these episodes lends a sense of whimsicality to an illness with no clear signs of onset and constantly changing definitions. 

The gestures associated with catatonic episodes are abstract expressions of particular tormenting memories. Reenacting these gestures, Catatonia: A History suggests that traumatic experience is a convulsion in time and movement, producing a singularity: an entirely new form of motion that embodies a historical event, detached from and yet proceeding out of, set structures of repetition.

Catatonia: A History is performed by Noura Seif, with original music composed by Alaa Abdullatif. Text excerpts taken  from Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903) by Daniel Paul Schreber. Catatonia was commissioned by Art Dubai Projects in 2016, curatetd by Yasmina Reggad.

Meeting Points 8, 2017, Cairo. Photograph by Taha Belal.
Art Dubai Ptojects, 2016. Photograph by Daniella Batista.
Sharjah Biennial 13 off-site project BAHAR, Abud Efendi Mansion, Istanbul, 2017. Photograph by İpek Çınar