»Wilhelm Reich – Sex! Pol! Energy!«

 

 

 

 

Judith Fischer

 

 

Jüdisches Museum, Palais Eskeles
Wien
16.11.2007 - 2.3.2008

 

Vienna. »I still dream / of Organon […] everytime it rains / you’re here in my head,« Kate Bush sings in her fervent declaration of love to Wilhelm Reich, »Cloudbusting« (1985). The music video has been available on YouTube for a year: sexy Donald Sutherland as Wilhelm Reich, who, together with his son Peter (= Kate Bush), pushes the »Cloudbuster« up the hill, then returns to his laboratory before men in dark suits arrest him and take him away. But it will rain – and it rains.
Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957): doctor, psychoanalyst of the second generation, Freudo-Marxist, left-wing sex educationalist, orgasm theorist, scientist, body therapist, romantic energetist, anarchist, utopian, revolutionary, rainmaker and, towards the end of his life perhaps: paranoic.
Now – 50 years after his death (WR was found dead in an American prison cell in 1957) – his literary remains have been made accessible to interested parties as stipulated in his will1; one reason behind the informative, unpretentious, special exhibition on Wilhelm Reich, »Sex! Pol! Energy!«, curated by Birgit Johler.
After his years working in the Psychoanalytic Outpatients Clinic on Pelikangasse in Vienna, Wilhelm Reich went to Berlin in 1930 as a Freudo-Marxist, joined the German Communist Party and in 1931 founded the German Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics (the »Sexpol«) After this came exile in Scandinavia, new clashes with the authorities, and emigration to the USA, where he founded the centre »Organon« in Rangeley (Maine) in 1947.
Throughout his life, Wilhelm Reich was someone who polarised people, and he provoked various exclusions with his activities, research and theories: his own from the International Psychoanalytical Association (1934; up to then he had been a member of the Psychoanalytic Opposition, which was involved in left-wing social politics) and from the Communist Party (1933; he was seen as counter-revolutionary after his criticism of Stalin’s left-wing fascist policies). Wilhelm Reich’s condemnation as a »quack« in the USA, the destruction of his »orgone accumulators«2 and the burning and destruction of his writings in 1955/56 can also be noted in this connection.3 In Dusan Makavejev’s film »WR – Mysteries of the Organism« (1971), we can see documentary footage of Reich’s body therapies. For Makavejev, the two initials WR also stood for »World Revolution«. His film was banned in the former Yugoslavia and Makavejev was thrown out of the Communist Party, which led to his emigrating to the USA via Paris in 1973.
The invention of the »Cloudbuster« took place in Wilhelm Reich’s late phase, originating in his experiments on the creation and destruction of clouds with the aim of releasing energy.
Bernd Nitschke notes: »Reich believed in all seriousness that he had discovered the mystery of life: orgone energy. This >discovery< was his downfall. The Food and Drug Administration considered Reich to be a charlatan and had sales of the so-called ‘orgone accumulators’ banned. Reich, who in his last years felt like Giordano Bruno, refused to comply with a summons and was sentenced to two years in prison for contempt of court. [...]His ‘orgone’ works and the apparatuses had to be burnt and destroyed.«4
Reich has been cited as the father and pioneer in connection with various revolutionary sexual projects around 1968 (which must definitely a posteriori be seen as heteronormative and failures). For example, Otto Muehl is on record as saying: »Wilhelm Reich inspired me to found the commune.«
Breaking down destructive bio-psychological armour: various forms of armour, whether of the psyche, the character, or somatic, were the therapeutic focus of Reich and of his approach to the body. He encouraged his clients to breathe vigorously through their mouths, to grimace, to yell, to hit themselves and to convulse; to abandon themselves to a pulsation that for WR was the energetic essence of orgasm and a release of blockades: flow and being flooded versus armour; tension – charge – release – relaxation as an energetic formula for life; expansion/contraction, sexuality/fear, vagus/sympathicus. The cosmos, conceived as an ocean of blue orgone energy that can also mutate to dangerous DOR (= deadly orgone energy). Orgone rays: a blue flickering, like the northern lights, a prickling and a feeling of power in the whole body….«5
In the catalogue for the exhibition, Robert Pfaller reminds us of a problem formulated by Deleuze/Guattari in »Anti-Oedipus«: »The fundamental question of political philosophy thus remains the one that Spinoza could ask (and that Reich rediscovered): Why do people fight for their servitude as though it were their salvation?«

Birgit Johler (ed.), Wilhelm Reich Revisited, Vienna 2008

 

 

   

Translation: Timothy Jones

 

1 The material has been made available for academic research by the library of the Harvard University Medical School since November 2007.
2 The »orgone accumulator« is a box made up of several alternating layers of anorganic (metal) and organic material (e.g. wool or wood). The combination of metal and non-conductors makes it behave like a condensator: it accumulates orgone energy inside. Living creatures that sit inside it enhance their energy fields beyond normal levels. WR also used it for experiments in cancer treatment.
3 WR’s books and pamphlets were also burnt in 1933 under the Nazis.
4 Die Zeit, 19 December 2007
5 Reich’s orgone theory can be seen in relation with other energy hypotheses and vitalist concepts, such as those proposed by Nikola Tesla and Viktor Schauberger, as well as kinesiology, craniosacral therapy and osteopathy.
Exhibition publication:

 

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