Mermaid Honeymoon: A curatorial reflection on Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Docker's Museum


Leuvenstraat 32
2000 Antwerpen

The research presentation “Mermaid Honeymoon” takes as its focus the underlying “psychic subtext” of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (2010–2013). It does so through a speculative reading of the nascent theme of the mermaid/siren. Its departure point is the figure of the mermaid as portrayed in Mermaid Honeymoon (The Frenzy of Ferenczi). Sekula added this cartoon to his collection of “objects of interest.” Together with other objects that embody the imaginaries of dockworkers and seafarers, this satirical print encourages reflection on their lifeworld. With the title “Mermaid Honeymoon,” Sekula made reference to the Hungarian psychoanalyst Sandór Ferenczi, one of Sigmund Freud’s early disciples. It was Ferenczi’s 1924 book Thalassa: Versuch einer Genitaltheorie [Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality] that attracted Sekula’s attention (thalassa means sea in Greek).

Allan Sekula employed the figure of the mermaid as an imaginary concept rather than as a mythological figure. Thanks to her fish tail, the mermaid is inextricably linked to the oceanic realm, and by extension to the psychoanalytic depths. Like the dockworker, the mermaid serves as connective link between land and sea, suggesting an even greater symbiosis and impelling force towards the creation of solidarities.

Anja Isabel Schneider

Lieven Gevaert Centre
KU Leuven, Faculty of Arts
Blijde Inkomststraat 21 pb 3313
B-3000 Leuven

Lieven Gevaert Centre
UC Louvain, Archéologie et d'histoire d'art
FIAL - Place Blaise Pascal 1 bte L3.03.13
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve