Lay Her Down Upon Her Back is a body of work that examines the legacy of the 1880s treatment known as The Rest Cure. It was generally prescribed to women who were deemed to be of nervous disposition, anemic, or hysterical, and involved them spending up to two months on bed rest, over-feeding, isolation and electrocution. This treatment has since been discredited, but its legacy in women’s healthcare remains today. The Rest Cure cultivated mistrust in women’s pain and discomfort, and made the female patient solely dependent on her male doctor. The method in which the Rest Cure was administered solidified power relations between doctor and patient and ensured that she would be submissive to her treatment.
“And here lies the trouble: there are women who mimic fatigue, who indulge themselves in rest on the least pretence, who have no symptoms so truly honest that we need care regard them. These are they who spoil their own nervous systems as they spoil their children, when they have them, by yielding to the least desire and teaching them to dwell on little pains.” (Weir Mitchell, S. 1877).
The lasting effect can be seen in the mistreatment and mistrust of women by physicians today, with average time for a diagnosis of endometriosis at 7 years. With most women being told to get some rest, lie down, grin and bear it.
This project uses found photographs and archival material to weave a narrative between the past a present, as a mode to connect the artists practice with that of the historical legacy of medical mistreatment.