ERGOTIZED SPACE, Academy of Arts, Berlin, 2014

The spatial interpretation of Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, (commissioned circa 1512 for a hospital chapel run by the Order of St Anthony in Isenheim, who specialized in the care of plague victims and suffers of Ergotism), serves as a fundamental context for the pathological space hypothesis. The altarpiece cultivates the ontological factors that underlie, connect and associates the pathological conditions of healing devices in respect with the mediation of trauma through a spatial setting.

Operating as a devotional device, the altarpiece presents death without concealment. Whereby Christ’s green corpse was (and still is) an apocalyptic vision of terminal pain, complete with nightmarish suffering and delusional visions. Grünewald’s work is harrowing; even today it infects our image of the dying Christ with an air of trepidation and aversion. The combined effect of Grünewald’s altarpiece, marshals a raised state of purgatory awareness that aspires medical contemplation and psychotherapeutic healing through a complex system of transformative symbols, allegorical meaning and aesthetic stimulation.

Why is the Isenheim Altarpiece a useful reference to the origins of a pathological space? Because the healing interpretation of the altarpiece assumes an ecology of connections between the sufferer through the curative symbols and serial mechanics of the altarpiece. This function can be interpreted as a pathological device, mediated through a highly specified and rarified space, charged with the curative message of bodily remission and spiritual transcendence that invests in the belief of healing through the investment of the self to be healed.


Pathological Space and the Spatialisation of The Isenheim Altar Piece.
Presented at ‘Health Care of the Future 5’, Academy of Arts, Berlin, 2014.


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