HD Video
Duration 00:18:49:00

At the Freud Museum, London, in September 2013, conservation work began upon the psychoanalyst’s famous couch. As the work began, it was difficult not to see the couch itself as a patient: elevated, lifted off its feet, prone, its more public appearance set aside. The conservators — Poppy Singer, Annabel Wylie, and Kate Gill — placed it under careful, and sensitive, analysis, making extensive notes on its condition, photographing it, peering into its depths. One began to ‘read’ the state of the couch as the accumulated effect of myriad small movements and gestures, each leaving their trace upon its fabric: the right-hand edge of the couch, as one looks down its length from the head, is flattened, the weight of bodies sliding on and off it, legs swinging up, and then down. And so what are we to make, then, of the various stains left upon the couch about halfway down its length, like human tidemarks? It seems that once its assured, bourgeois exterior is removed, the couch reveals its flaws, its failings, and the residue of a rather abject humanness. Mostly, a couch is just a couch, but perhaps Freud’s couch is more Freudian than we could ever have known.

With thanks to the Freud Museum, London.