The Freud Museum

Events Archive

23 April 2015

Analysis: The Conservation of Freud's Couch

Screening and discussion between artist Jeremy Millar and conservator Poppy Singer

In September 2013, much needed conservation work began upon Sigmund Freud’s famous psychoanalytic couch. The process was carefully documented by artist, Jeremy Millar and resulted in his work 'Analysis'.

The evening begins with the opportunity to see the couch laid bare, followed by a short talk on the process by conservator, Poppy Singer, a screening of Jeremy Millar’s ‘Analysis’ 2015 (18:49), closing with a discussion between artist and conservator.

As the work began, it was difficult not to see the couch itself as a patient: elevated, lifted off its feet, prone, it’s more public appearance set aside. The conservators — Poppy Singer, Annabel Wylie, and Kate Gill — placed it under careful, and sensitive, analysis, making extensive notes on its condition, photographing it, peering into its depths. One began to ‘read’ the state of the couch as the accumulated effect of myriad small movements and gestures, each leaving their trace upon its fabric: the right-hand edge of the couch, as one looks down its length from the head, is flattened, the weight of bodies sliding on and off it, legs swinging up, and then down. And so what are we to make, then, of the various stains left upon the couch about halfway down its length, like human tidemarks? It seems that once its assured, bourgeois exterior is removed, the couch reveals its flaws, its failings, and the residue of a rather abject humanness. Mostly, a couch is just a couch, but perhaps Freud’s couch is more Freudian than we could ever have known - Jeremy Millar.

Poppy Singer - over 27 years as a textile conservator in private practice, Poppy Singer ACR, has worked on a huge range of textiles and mixed media works for Institutions and individuals. The nature of the work entails detailed examination and hands on conservation of textiles ranging from great antiquity to the ultra-modern, to the wholly iconic. The roles that textiles play in our lives can be intimate and domestic or high status and ceremonial. The work of the conservator is to strike a fine balance, revealing historic detail concerning construction, usage and intimate details of past lives, while undertaking conservation that preserves original structures with sensitivity and understanding. The conservation of Freud's iconic consulting couch could not provide a better example of this fine balance; acting as both analyst, and surgeon while carrying the weight of so many dreams.

Jeremy Millar - artist and tutor in Critical Writing in Art and Design at the RCA. His recent solo exhibitions include: 'The Oblate', Southampton City Art Gallery (2013), Chandelier Projects London, 'M/W', Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, and 'XDO XOL', Whitstable Biennale (2014). Jeremy's work is currently included in 'Made in China: An Imperial Ming Vase'. Willis Museum, Basingstoke, and 'Self', Turner Contemporary, Margate.


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