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The manifestations of a compulsion to repeat that we have described with respect to the early activities of the infant psyche and also with respect to our experiences in the course of psychoanalytic practice, plainly bear the stamp of drives, and wherever they are in opposition to the pleasure principle they equally plainly exhibit their daemonic character.

Freud:Beyond the Pleasure Principle

An encounter with Kolaczek and Alfandari. Corsets rigid and taut, spines framed and tied tight, splitting bare flesh. Bodies trussed and prepared. Naked legs and unpinned brown hair. A set of twins? One sits, one stands and stares accusingly. The fear of twins (concerophobia, also fear of simultaneity) provoked primitive cultures to kill one or both twins at birth, believing the second was a physical manifestation of the soul. An ancient geminicide lies repressed and deep, primeval reminders from a history of misunderstanding. History has a tendency of repeating itself, and so too the present and the future.

The twins in this white space secure our gaze and the emotions I feel; joy, sorrow, relief – and at the moment of repression, I reconstitute these emotions as morbid anxiety. ‘Am I good?’ whispers Kolaczek. She demands an answer. She needs to know the measures of her success. The repetitive enquiry determines and fixes experience of her presence. Radical instabilities begin to reveal themselves in a question that seeks to quantify perceptions of identity, being and representation. I am witness to a process of restriction inscribed in the mind and on the body. Purification and the violent integrating of past traumas into a psychic economy. I testify to an act of realization: I am the by-stander fixed within a process of self-affirmation where the acts of remembering, repeating and re-working become ritualized. Am I? I am.

Other attendant witnesses are led by the hand to Kolaczek. Alfandari gestures them to tug at the cords of the bodice. They carry out the task. Flesh is squeezed together; blood is brought to the surface of the skin as air escapes through the mouth. The question is repeated, no longer whispered but building in intensity, towards anger and exhaustion. More witnesses are implicated. Our actions become complicit and compulsory until the corset begins to suffocate. The breath quickens. The pulse explodes. The skin begins to break. The action becomes insufferable… Thus we repeat out of libidinal desire, and repeat out of a desire for punishment; the Over-I and the It assert themselves at the expense of the bewildered self.

Alfandari helps Kolaczek to her feet. The corset is slackened. The flesh is free. The pair embrace. The pain is over and the ritual complete. A jouissance. Relief and release. They breathe together. A catharsis complete. Their clasp is absolute. The air surrounding their bodies is palpable. Is she good? I hope so.