Installation view, Every piece of dust on Freud's couch, The Freud Museum, London, 2015, image © Lisson Gallery, London 


For Every piece of dust on Freud’s couch, commissioned by the Freud Museum, Broomberg & Chanarin hired a police forensic team to scrutinise Sigmund Freud’s iconic couch, gathering DNA samples, strands of hair and a multitude of dust particles left by his home’s many visitors. These may include traces of Freud’s early patients such as ‘Dora’, the ‘Wolf Man’ and others, as well as other visitors, mainly tourists, who have travelled from around the world to visit this legendary item of furniture.

The couch itself was given to Freud by one of his patients, Madame Benvenisti in Vienna in c.1890, and the ‘Smyrna rug’, that covered it for it’s entire active duty was gifted to him by his cousin Mortiz, a trader in antiquities, as an engagement present. The rug still remains draped on the couch in North London where Freud spent his final years, after fleeing to England to escape the Nazis.

The Persian Qashqa’i rug that covered the couch for its entire active duty was the primary focus of Broomberg & Chanarin’s forensic analysis. The thick pile is covered in invisible household dust, most of which is keratin, the main protein of skin. In addition to skin, analysis found the rug to be covered with hair and cloth fibres containing human DNA.

The artists have transformed the forensic scientists’ findings – presented initially as a series of high- resolution radiographic quartz images – into large woven tapestries, that mirror the scale and texture of the original covering. The first in a series of these textile works is to be draped over the actual couch at The Freud Museum, London, replacing the rug with an abstracted portrait of one of its sitters.