Theories of the "Savage": The Material Varek (Seagrass) As a Bearer of Meaning in Psychiatry around 1900
Katrin Luchsinger discusses in her text the manyfold meanings of such an unspectacular material as seagrass. In psychiatric hospitals around 1900 »fluffing Varek« (seagrass) is mentioned as the job assigned to the patients (the job was reserved for women) in the »disturbed« wards for the most seriously ill, or those women who refused to comply with the instructions of the nurses or doctors. Lisette H., born 1857, lived for 23 years in the Rheinau Asylum, Kanton Zurich in one of those wards. Not only did she »fluff« huge amounts of sea weed but she also knitted handbags, women's hats, fine stockings and baby jackets. These objects represent her tasks and belongings as a wife and mother which she had been. Lisette H. expresses through them her grief about her loss. On the other hand she demonstrates her unbelievable skills.