expo space café Rood-Wit
Generaal Drubbelstraat 42, 2600 Antwerpen

opening Friday 06.08.21 6pm

on view 07.08 – 22.08
weekends 07&08.08 / 14&15.08 / 21&22.08 > 1 – 11pm
weekdays > by appointment > contact brenda.lush@theartsinstitute.org

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In his 1927 book “The Function of the Orgasm” and later work, the Austrian doctor of medicine and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich claimed that better orgasms could cure all society’s ills. In 1939, escaped from a Nazi Germany that had burned his books, the US became the place where he could test the ideas that would stir up controversy in the bourgeois circles of that time. America was in the process of a ‘sexual liberation’ mainly channelled through popular culture, and people were confronted with the tension between the modern temptations provided by jazz, magazines, fashion and the movies on the one hand, and the challenge to uphold a puritan decency in their family life and professional careers on the other hand. When Reich presented his ‘Orgone Energy Accumulator’ to the world, claiming that a session inside the specially designed wooden cabin could improve ‘orgastic potency’ and, as a consequence, general and especially mental health, his sexual dogmatism got him already kicked out of both the psychoanalytic movement and the Communist party [1], but he became a guru for Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and many other leading figures of counterculture.

In April 1947, Harpers Magazine published an article entitled “The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy”, in which the author Mildred Edie Brady discussed ‘the strange case of Wilhelm Reich’, concluding that the ‘growing Reich cult’ had to be dealt with [2]. By that time, Reich had already been under investigation by the FBI who suspected him to be a secret communist weapon aimed to undermine and subvert American advanced liberal and industrial society, but the FBI dropped the case after concluding he was nothing more but some kind of harmless weirdo.  One unforeseen consequence of the Harpers Magazine publication, however, was that Reich came under the attention of the Food and Drug Administration who considered his claims with regard to the healing potential of his machines false and dangerous. Reich’s Orgone Accumulators became legally banned, and his books were burned – again. The ban had a great effect on his mental health, which was deteriorating already, and that became more clear with the fact that he started to believe that the planet was under attack by UFOs, especially targeting Orgonon, his community and research centre for the study of orgone. His continued attempts to sell his ideas and machines ‘that could heal the world’, violating the legal injunction against him, finally brought him in jail, where he died of a heart attack.

[1] Christopher Turner 2011, Wilhelm Reich: the man who invented free love, The Guardian, Friday 8 July 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jul/08/wilhelm-reich-free-love-orgasmatron

[2] Wikipedia 2021, Wilhelm Reich, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich

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Kris Gevers – ‘This is My Foot though Foul’ – oil on canvas, 1 m x 1 m
Gaston Meskens – ‘Reset’ – duratrans in lightbox