Lying In: Bed

This event took place on Wednesday 29 March 2023. A recording is available until 29th April.

Through two talks and a film contribution based on a performative art project, Angela Alves, Monika Ankele and Céline Kaiser present a collaborative exploration around the bed as space of negotiation.

“Radical Resting”, “Tangping”, “Black Power Naps” – to lay oneself down and thus express one’s protest against the existing conditions seems to be booming. In our contribution, we take up this observation in order to examine some of the cultural meanings of lying (in bed), on which these albeit diverse movements are based, in their historical development and their current potentials.

Using the example of the introduction of bed treatment to psychiatry at the end of the 19th century, which stipulates that patients must not leave the bed for a prolonged time, Monika Ankele unfolds the interplay of spatial arrangements (the bed) and sensory perception (feeling sick) that should convince the patient to feel sick. The story of Oblomov, the eponymous main character of a novel by Ivan Gončarov from 1859, is about lying in bed and getting up, remaining horizontal and rising into the vertical. Céline Kaiser picks up the traces of the novel figure in literary and medical history, follows its reception, which appropriates Oblomov sometimes as a symbol of feudal decadence, sometimes as the eponym of a clinical syndrome, sometimes as a refusal of the neoliberal idea of self-improvement. The dancer and choreographer Angela Alves discusses in her sound installation REST resting in bed and out of the bed as an act of self-care, surrender and rebellion. Three women are talking about overcoming guilt & shame, the difference between devotion and sacrifice, self-care and self-improvement and the pleasure of inefficiency. A video version of this work follows the historical reflections on horizontal body narratives against the background of neoliberal thought.

About the speakers

Angela Alves is a choreographer and performer living in Berlin and identifies as crip artist. She deals with the relationship between health, equality and sustainability, translates practices of self-care into performative formats and questions perceptions of »healthy« and »sick«. Her artistic practice focuses on political dimensions of the unavailable body and explores its transformative potency in classist and ableist pre-structured spaces. She studied dance at ArtEZ (NL) and dance theory at Freie Universität Berlin. Angela is co-founder of TURN. Neue Bewegung für Multiple Sklerose e.V., an association that organizes inclusive dance workshops and sharing practices for CINS (people with chronic inflammatory diseases of the nervous system) and IHMAR. Institute for Medical & Health Humanities and Artistic Research. She is part of the collective BACKBONE Berlin and lectures at the Universität der Künste Berlin.

Monika Ankele is a historian and scientific researcher at the Department of Ethics, Collections and History of Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna (Josephinum). Before she left for Vienna in 2020, she was a curator at the Medical History Museum in Hamburg and a scientific researcher at the Institure for History and Ethics of Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf. In her research, she focuses on the history of psychiatry and its institutional cultures in the 19th and 20th century. Her current research addresses the material and sensual cultures of psychiatry, putting a special emphasis on the hospital bed and the bath tub. In doing so, she researches sources that enable her a patient perspective on these topics. In her work, she is seeking a better understanding for the entanglement of material culture, spaces, practices (of knowledge), and the senses in the context of medicine. She co-edited the book »Material Cultures of Psychiatry« together with Benoît Majerus that was published in 2020. She co-founded the International Association for Medical and Health Humanities and Artistic Research, e.V., and the IMHAR research institute ( that she is heading together with Céline Kaiser.

Céline Kaiser is a professor of media cultural studies and scenic research at the Hochschule für Künste im Sozialen, Ottersberg. After studying German literature, philosophy and the history of medicine, she did her doctorate in this interdisciplinary field on Max Nordau’s work Entartung (Degeneration). She is also a theatre and writing pedagogue and, as a Dilthey Fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation, researched the history of scenic forms of therapy since the 18th century. With the research project “Disabled writing”, her current research focuses on the intersections of disability studies, medical humanities and writing as artistic research related to neurodiversity. Recently, she co-founded the International Association for Medical and Health Humanities and Artistic Research, e.V. and the IMHAR research institute ( with Monika Ankele and Angela Alves, among others.

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