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The couch in My Shrink’s Couch is a stereotypical psychiatrist’s leather couch that belonged to my actual shrink, Dr. Baruch Fishman. Before that, it belonged to Dr. Samuel Perry - one of the early pioneers in the exploration of the physical effects of psychology on AIDS patients - who had recruited Dr. Fishman to lead Cornell’s Cognitive Therapy Clinic. Dr. Perry left specific instructions that upon his death the couch should go to Dr. Fishman, and it was upon this couch that I sat as a patient of Dr. Fishman’s for seven years.

Dr. Fishman gave me the couch for several reasons: because when he mentioned to me that he was thinking of getting a new couch, I lobbied against the change for months; because when he told me he was indeed going ahead and buying a new couch and getting rid of the original one, I asked him for it; and because at the very moment that Dr. Fishman was faced with the problem of how to properly dispose of an object that had been bequeathed to him as a final gesture of validation by a giant in the field, I presented him with the possibility of permanently sanctifying this piece of furniture.

The couch came to my studio, and I mounted it on a pedestal large enough so that when I sat down, I was still entirely in the sculpture. I titled the piece My Shrink’s Couch.

For six months, My Shrink’s Couch was an interactive artwork created for my own personal use, a sculpture with superpowers. I would sit on the couch for hours at a time, as if I had brought the intense psychological self-awareness of my shrink’s office into the studio and could harness it for free forever. I was on the couch when I began thinking about a new painting project in which I would hire painters to paint me nude in their own styles, exploring their own interests in painting, and then take the authorship away from them and sign the paintings as my own. The first paintings depicted me nude on the couch, but then the giant brown presence of the couch created compositional problems, and the softness of the couch swallowed me whole, distorting and dwarfing my body. I moved off the couch onto an IKEA chair to pose for the next group of paintings. That was the last time anyone would sit on the couch.

-Jennifer Rubell

 

 Photo by Adam Reich