photo montage

Fraying Around the Edges

Fighting the hockogrokles: Amid the storms of pandemic and racial reckoning, Friderike Heuer's photo montages sail into the new reality

“When […] I first dabbled in this Art, the old Distemper call’d Melancholy, was exchang’d for the Vapours, and afterwards for the Hypp, and at last took up to the now current Appellation of the Spleen, which it still retains, tho’ a learned Doctor of the West, in a little Tract he hath written, divides the Spleen and Vapours, not only into the Hypp, the Hyppos, and the Hyppocons; but subdivides these Divisions into the Markambles, the Moon-palls, the Strong-Fives, and the Hockogrokles.”

–Physician Nicholas Robinson, 1732

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FREE ME OF THE HOCKOGROKLES. … Isn’t that what we all wish when the sadness hits again, no matter how justified the emotion is in response to external events?

I came across these inventive nomenclatures for depression when reading up on a 17th and 18th century English woman poet, Anne Finch, who took the topic of melancholy, solidly in male hands at the time, and ran with it. Wrong word. She didn’t run with it. She inspected it, talked to it, turned it inside out, related it to science, and, in the end, seemingly threw up her hands in resignation and surrender.

I had dug out her poem on melancholy, among other reasons, to reaffirm the notion that artists across history resort to creative action when grappling with hard times. Clearly, I was wishing for company in my own attempts to integrate current events, and the feelings they incite, into my artistic practice, with the latest results shown in today’s photomontages.

“Ardelia to Melancholy”

At last, my old inveterate foe,
No opposition shalt thou know.
Since I by struggling, can obtain
Nothing, but encrease of pain,
I will att last, no more do soe,
Tho’ I confesse, I have apply’d
Sweet mirth, and musick, and have try’d
A thousand other arts beside,
To drive thee from my darken’d breast,
Thou, who hast banish’d all my rest. 
But, though sometimes, a short repreive they gave,
Unable they, and far too weak, to save;
All arts to quell, did but augment thy force,
As rivers check’d, break with a wilder course.

Freindship, I to my heart have laid,
Freindship, th’ applauded sov’rain aid,
And thought that charm so strong wou’d prove,
As to compell thee, to remove; 
And to myself, I boasting said,
Now I a conqu’rer sure shall be,
The end of all my conflicts, see,
And noble tryumph, wait on me;
My dusky, sullen foe, will sure
N’er this united charge endure.
But leaning on this reed, ev’n whilst I spoke
It peirc’d my hand, and into peices broke.
Still, some new object, or new int’rest came
And loos’d the bonds, and quite disolv’d the claim. 

These failing, I invok’d a Muse,
And Poetry wou’d often use,
To guard me from thy Tyrant pow’r;
And to oppose thee ev’ry hour
New troops of fancy’s, did I chuse.
Alas! in vain, for all agree
To yeild me Captive up to thee,
And heav’n, alone, can sett me free. 
Thou, through my life, wilt with me goe,
And make ye passage, sad, and slow.  
All, that cou’d ere thy ill gott rule, invade,
Their uselesse arms, before thy feet have laid;
The Fort is thine, now ruin’d, all within,
Whilst by decays without, thy Conquest too, is seen.

 – From: Anne Finch, The Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea. Ed. Myra Reynolds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903. 15-16.

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Friderike Heuer, from her current series of photo montages “Setting Sail.” Each image is 20 x15 inches, printed with archival ink jet print on German Etching Paper, and the images shade from lighter to darker as the series grows.

FINCH HAD HER SHARE OF DIFFICULTIES in her lifetime, including a predisposition for depression, perhaps even bipolar disease. She was exposed to political storms that threw her and her husband from comfortable positions in monarchic circles into an unsecured existence when they distanced themselves from the ascendance of William and Mary after the revolution of 1688 deposed King James.

Continues…