Signa Köstler, unknown, Louisa Aisin

The Dorine Chaikin Trilogy (2007-2008)

The Dorine Chaikin Trilogy refers to three projects created by SIGNA between 2007 and 2008 that were set in hospital wards for psychiatric care. All three interpretations of the institutional fictions were executed under the auspicious attention and care of Dr. Dorine Chaikin, Dr. Cas Laval and their staff, leading experts in dissociative memory loss, and its psychological effects. Audience members checked in as patients, discarding their identity and belongings in favor of fictional names, mysterious histories, and a series of therapeutic practices to participate in - all guided by the domineering and encouraging gaze of the ward staff. Beginning with Night at the Hospital, each performance further developed the institutional mode of play as a way of examining power dynamics and identity, using a proliferation of therapeutic objects and terms to push the authenticity of the ward experience to an uncanny degree. All of the hospital shows created unique conditions whereby the constraints of the institutional setting were subverted to emancipate the audience from identity markers, and engage them in the gifts and perils of power in the therapeutic process.

Night at the Hospital was SIGNA’s first experiment with the institutional mode, as well as the characters of Dr. Chaikin & Dr. Laval. Visitors were checked into the ward for 12 hours at a time, during which they were assigned patients’ clothing and a bed in the claustrophobic basement cells of the former powerstation Turbinehallerne. Each was given an envelope that assigned them a temporary identity, subject to the rules and regulations of the nurses and medical staff. As the night wore on, forgotten tragedies and mis-rememberances emerged in an inextricable network of tales and treatments.

As part of the Nordwind Festival of Scandinavian Stage Art in late 2007, Dorine Chaikin Institute explored the therapeutic setting and psychiatric aesthetic of the hospital in greater detail. Set in an crumbling and cramped ward, Dorine Chaikin and her staff once again set to work aiding patients in the recovery of lost memory and inaccurate identity construction. Using object associations, group therapy and other experimental treatments, audiences were immersed in their roles as patients, and insinuated into the machinations of the institution and its members.

The trilogy finished in 2008 in Graz with Die Komplex Nord Methode. Spanning five large rooms of the Joanneum, Dr. Chaikin and her team managed a ward of new patients 24 hours a day for 10 days. Treatments ranged from talking therapy to primal sessions and creative activities designed to encourage pro-social interaction, such as music class and dance lessons. Patients were privy also to the underlying stresses and secrets of the ward, and the consequences of alliances and betrayals among the patients, nurses, and employees.

The trilogy immersed audiences in the visual construction of a isolated institution -replete with stethoscopes and medicine jars, floral lined drawers filled with syringes, broken toys and empty cigarette boxes. By engaging with the institutional mode in a fully curated and committed reality, moments of therapeutic fiction and simulated therapy were played out to various ends, left evident only by the piles of laundry, photographs taken, and scribbled notes on file in the mahogany desk of Dr. Chaikin.

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