A site-specific installation by Alma Lily Rayner
A poem based on the DSM by Alma Lily Rayner
A poem by Alma Lily Rayner
An exhibition by Alma Lily Rayner

can you achieve multiple orgasms

In my project I explore the relations between the institutional modes of medical, therapeutic and academic discourses from a feministic perspective. I am primarily interested in the hierarchical power structures articulated by the discourses in a wider capitalistic context. In a site-specific manner and by means of appropriation, my project is composed of three main components- a classroom, a preparation video for a vaginoplasty surgery (edited in correlation with an EMDR therapy session) and multiple printed copies of a poem, constructed from diagnostic psychiatric questionnaires. 

 

Based on the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders (DSM), I have searched for online diagnostic questionnaires for every “disorder” specified in the manual. The DSM has grown from 134 pages in 1968 to 947 pages in the year 2013, and with every edition, new “disorders” are magically invented. Due to the creation of a classification system, in which symptoms are signified and thus qualified as markers of mental disorders, a wide range of behaviors has been pathologized. Among other things, I discovered that being unsuccessful or nonproductive is an indicator of numerous “disorders”. Literally, one might even die from it. On the other hand, having multiple orgasms is considered an achievement. 

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed as a therapeutic method aimed to rewrite traumatic memories by using bilateral sensory inputs. Even though the therapeutic framework differs from the psychiatric one by being less generic, the goal remains the same- to “fix” the individual, rather than change sociopolitical structures. For instance, surveys have globally proven that a high percentage of female patients within the mental health system have a history of child sexual abuse. As the women are being treated for varied “disorders”, the abuse, a phenomenon of sociopolitical character linked to patriarchy, is marginalized.

 

Corresponding with other appearance-altering procedures and cosmetic surgeries, vaginoplasty can be perceived as a symptom of an anti-aging culture shaped by consumer capitalism or yet another form of institutionalized gender-based violence. Nevertheless, just as the psychiatric and therapeutic discourses, vaginoplasty is intended to “resolve” the individual by means of classification and regulation. In the video, we see a vagina (hardly even connected to a body) and two male hands covered with hygienic gloves demonstrating how it is disordered, supposedly, in a medicalized way. Through the examination, a model of normality is generated: a “good” vagina is the one little girls have- hairless and without any visible marks of sexual activity or birth.  

 

The project was exhibited in a classroom at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, 2018

Read the full poem (and discover if you are human) here. 

Info in Czech here. 

Can you trust what you think is real