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06/17/2019, 11:12, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH




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(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)

The Freud/Tiffany Project (Part I)

Author: Elizabeth Ann Danto

(03/20/2019)
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Like so many New York stories, the Freud/Tiffany Project came from a chance encounter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. About 6 years ago, I met Michael Burlingham, the grandson of Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, just when he had started to inventory the objects and documents in the estate of his father. That would be Bob Burlingham, Dorothy’s eldest son. As a teenager, Bob had taken hundreds of photos and placed the celluloid strips of his photo and film negatives, horizontally, into an album.

The photos captured the daily rhythm of students and teachers at Vienna’s modernist Hietzing School (Fig. 1), famously bearing the imprint of Anna Freud as well as Erik Erikson and Peter Blos as its first teachers. Bob and his siblings were pupils at Hietzing, endearingly called the Matchbox School and sometimes the Burlingham/Rosenfeld School after its host, from 1927 until it dissolved in 1932. Interestingly, the school’s afterlife has proved much longer-lasting: it spawned an entire field of psychoanalytically-informed education and inspired a range of programs in Europe and the US (like Pioneer House in Detroit), often staffed by Viennese analysts in exile. The tradition of psychoanalytic pedagogy continues today [Barrett, D. G. (2018) So You Want to Start a Psychoanalytic School? Succumbing to An Almost “Irresistible Temptation” The Psychoanalytic Study of The Child, 71/1, 201–204]: the Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools counts among its members the Hana Perkins School in Cleveland, the Studio School in New York, and the Lucy Daniels School in Cary, NC and more.

Back in Michael Burlingham’s studio on Prince Street, I was perusing the newly-scanned photos when Michael said, “Look, here are a few of Freud.” To which I answered, stunned: “We must exhibit these.”  Eventually, these photographs would form the core of the 5-part, international Freud/Tiffany Project whose main themes emerged from written, oral and visual histories of the school, of Anna Freud and Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham (Fig. 2), and of psychoanalysis in 1920s Vienna. For curatorial methodology, we followed Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett who urges us to let the sources tell the story. The memoirs, letters, diaries and autobiographies perform their meaning by being collected and exhibited.

Carol Seigel, the enterprising director of the Freud Museum London, ultimately joined our vision for the exhibit titled Anna Freud, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, and the ‘Best Possible School,’ and guided our proposal to approval by the Trustees in March 2015. At this point my Viennese colleague, Alexandra Steiner-Strauss, said “I think we should go to London.” After two years of research and planning, 6 trips to London from Vienna, 2 more to the Library of Congress in DC and several to New York, the exhibit was officially opened in May 2017 by Dr. Martin Eichtinger, the Austrian Ambassador to the UK. Leading up to that day, Alexandra and I worked with numerous lenders in Europe and the US; obtained funding in Austria, America and the UK; and built an enthusiastic network of Euro-American scholars who participated in almost every phase of the project. We also wrote a catalog and organized a day-long international symposium hosted by the Anna Freud Centre in London. Alongside the historical pieces exhibited in a variety of media, more photographs and original objects were added to the papers from this symposium to produce an illustrated book of memoir and history recently published by Routledge in the (formerly Karnac) History of Psychoanalysis Series. The final element of the project, to date, is 15-minute film titled Anna Freud and the ‘Conscience of Society.’
 

The Exhibition

The Freud Museum at 20 Maresfield Gardens is a distinctive site. Sigmund Freud died in this house one year after exile from Vienna, and the space is imbued with a memorial calm. Visitors become witnesses to his life at its end while, at the same time, they are stirred by the stories of Anna and Dorothy who lived there for over forty more years. In May 2017, a lively image of the two women, a frame from one of Bob Burlingham’s home movies, became the visual signature of the exhibit. Visitors wending their way up the staircase, to the left of the museum entrance, were greeted by mid-1920s portraits of Anna and Dorothy who, at the height of Viennese modernism in architecture, philosophy and music, set out to create what Erik Erikson called “the best possible school.”

On entering the Exhibit Room at the top of the stairs, on the 2nd floor, the visitor first sees the Burlingham series of Sigmund Freud (Fig. 3) photographs and reads Freud’s unambiguous challenge: “What if education aimed to help people sustain their fundamental energy while contributing to society?” In 1927, Anna and Dorothy responded by creating a school “organized according to psychoanalytic principles.” A showcase displays the Eva Rosenfeld 1929 album of Hietzing photos along with a striking, if little-known, Engelman album. The wall titled “Red Vienna in the 1920s – a Laboratory for Democracy” contextualizes the advent of psychoanalytic pedagogy: with Social Democracy as its governing core. The city’s extraordinary expansion of social welfare and cultural production is seen in 25 framed images of community buildings, public health programs, psychoanalysis and education. To the right, a built-in lighted vitrine is divided into four sections: the school, the students and teachers, curriculum and studies, and sequels to Hietzing. Enlarged photo collages of the Hietzing teachers and students line the interior walls, with objects and ephemera placed on the glass shelves: August Aichhorn’s lesson plan and his letter to Peter Blos, the intaglio ring which Bob Burlingham received from Freud, Montessori-inspired toys that Anna Freud brought from Vienna. More photos, urban scenes, and portraits—Fritz Redl surrounded by the Pioneer House teachers, Anna and Dorothy with families from the War Nurseries, and the charming Kyra Nijinsky, a Hietzing pupil herself, smiling from her ornate frame. But the substance of Anna Freud, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, and the ‘Best Possible School,’ is the transformative encounter of psychoanalysis and education, energized by the Hietzing School creators and framed by the interwar era of possibility.

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