von Silas Edwards
In late-19th century France, escalating panic surrounding syphilis and its perceived role in demographic decline spurred the production of dermatological moulages. These began with plaster casts of the patient’s affected body part, which artisans then filled with wax to produce a likeness that could be coloured and finessed.
Sticky to make and to behold, Moulages of syphilis embodied a stark warning against sexual contact, often visualising punishment at the site of contagion. In the absence of a treatment against the disease until the 1910s, Alfred Fournier (who commissioned this example) campaigned for biopolitical measures to control the bodies of those he blamed for transmission.
Silas Edwards is a collections assistant at the Goethe University, where he also a student on the Master's program Curatorial Studies. This text was written in June 2023 for a pop-up exhibition within the conference "Sticky Films". The conference was organised by members of the PhD program Configurations of Film, and took Sara Ahmed's notion of 'stickiness' as a point of departure to discuss histories, theories and technologies of film-making.