Ellie Hunter & Anastasia Sosunova
curated by Johanna Thorell
at Loggia, Vienna
4 November – 18 December, 2022

A patient is not merely a person under medical treatment but, etymologically speaking,
a figure that oscillates between notions of suffering, patience, and passivity. As the
grammatical other of the agent, the patient is characterized by being acted upon or
being affected. Standing in endless phone queues, navigating through labyrinths of
institutional corridors and intake forms, or killing time in waiting rooms, the patient
seeks help to be taken out of their condition.

In Insiders, Ellie Hunter and Anastasia Sosunova turn away from the spaces
and treatments of hegemonic clinical institutions to investigate forms of healing on the
fringes. Such alternative practices are not only symptomatic of a disbelief in the
dominant system, but also propose another lens––with its own ideological
underpinnings––through which its subscribers can make sense of their world.
Immersing themselves in alternative therapeutic and somatic techniques to examine
their workings from within, Hunter and Sosunova at once act as patients and
autoethnographers. The artworks gathered in the exhibition speak to the porous
borders between care and control, between healing and governing, between selfintegration
and alienation.

Hunter’s Intuitive Anatomies, a sculptural series of monochrome casts, capture
bodies in strange postures. Like materializations of cinematic freeze frames, the
bodies are arrested in their movements. Severed from their original contexts by a
scrutinizing gaze, they are punctured with metal insertions that form woundlike
imprints. Dispersed throughout the exhibition space, these human surface anatomies
encounter Sosunova’s Map of Tenderness, a similarly diffuse study of amorous
topographies. Drawing on the 17th century Carte de Tendre––a proto-feminist
representation of relationality that exceeded the then dictated forms of romantic
encounter––Sosunova maps the territories of queer intimacy onto a crackling and
imaginary landscape of frayed banners sourced from contemporary construction sites.
In the adjacent room, the soothing voice of a somatic practitioner recounts how
the analysis of bodily movements affords insights into the movements of the mind. In
the video, The Hurting Kind, a camera-eye observes people in a park while the
voiceover carefully decodes the movements of their organs and maps the energetic
flows supposedly at the origin of the people’s psychological and physiological patterns.
As the video moves forward, the initially relaxing, new-age soundscape takes on an
eerie and industrial ambiance, just as the voice and the gaze become increasingly
mechanized and glitchy. In its speculative narration, The Hurting Kind bears testimony
to the ambivalence of being seen. The wish to be seen in the particularity of one’s
condition (and not being reduced to a diagnosis) remains unfulfilled, and instead the
subjects/patients are subsumed under the labels of an algorithmic recognition

Sosunova’s video Coders is a genre-bending compilation of autoethnography,
documentary interviews, and found footage in which the artist recounts her own
experience of being “coded” to quit smoking. This method, created in the 1980s by the
Soviet psychiatrist Aleksandr Dovzhenko, is an addiction therapy in which the
coder/therapist verbally inserts a code into the patient and claims that something bad
will happen to them if they break this code. Through a combination of speech acts––
a concoction of a warning, a promise, and a prediction––and sometimes accompanied
by a placebo injection or hypnosis, coding is performed on the patient. The video not
only mediates on the will to deliberately give up one’s agency to a figure of authority,
but also addresses the role of faith and rituals in secular societies.

In Insiders, language––in the form of labeling, anatomies, and speech acts––
cuts through bodies and their experiences. What permeates both video pieces is the
notion that alternative practices, which emerge in reaction to dysfunctional institutions,
are often incorporated into the very system they initially set out to challenge. Often,
they wind up replicating a similar logic. Hunter and Sosunova are neither subscribers
nor deniers of the practices they investigate; as insiders, they unpack and explore the
inherent contradictions of these alternative systems of belief.

–– Johanna Thorell