Beweiße (Jakob Mohr)

Jakob Mohr, Beweisse [Proofs], ca. 1910. Prinzhorn Collection, University of Heidelberg

The psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn began collecting for his famous Museum of Pathological Art the same year that Tausk published his essay “On the origin of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia” (within a year Prinzhorn had acquired forty-five hundred works, which are currently housed in the Psychiatric University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany). One of these images illustrates an Influencing Machine in strikingly graphic form. The artist was Jakob Mohr, a farmer and hawker suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and his picture shows someone holding a small box which resembles an old-fashioned camera and transmits something like static at its victim. The structural workings of the contraption are explained in a palimpsest of scribbled notes, which Prinzhorn called “word salad.” The operator, who is thought to be the psychiatrist (he wears headphones so that he can listen in on Mohr’s thoughts), aims a radiation tube at his subject that emits “electric waves” and renders him a “hypnotic slave.” The machine’s energy flows two ways—it is a magnet as well as a gun: “Waves are pulled out of me,” Mohr scrawled, “through the positive electrical fluorescent attraction of the organic positive pole as the remote hypnotizer through the earth.” The appliance’s malevolent power over Mohr is illustrated by a series of childishly drawn arrows and wavy tentacles which unite both men in a painful-looking spasm of electricity.