The “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a seminal feminist text originally published in 1892. In the story, the narrator has been diagnosed with “nervous depression” and “slight hysterical tendencies,” or what might label “postpartum depression” today. Her husband, who is also her doctor, prescribes a summer of absolute rest in an old mansion where the narrator spends her days in an old nursery with barred windows and furniture that has been nailed down. She smuggled a journal that she hides in a mattress and writes in when she has the opportunity to provide her mind relief. The wallpaper in the room begins to occupy her mind in an otherwise barren room. Throughout the text the narrator extensively describes her experience of the wallpaper, “The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow turning sunlight…. There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck with two bulbous eyes staring at you upside down…. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere… There are things in the paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will… And worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern, I mean, and the woman behind it is plain as can be… I wonder if they all come out of the wallpaper like I did.” As the story progresses the narrator becomes increasingly fixated on peeling and removing the wallpaper from the room.
This installation is an attempt to simulate the narrator’s manic experience with the wallpaper. Like the narrator, the viewer must become physical with with wallpaper. Rather than compulsive peeling, viewer must use the heat of their bodies to warm the wallpaper surface in order to reveal its secrets.