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Adolf Wölfli’s Creation as an Attempt to Establish Time and Space

Based on a chronological reading of Adolf Wölfli, it is demonstrated that his work was a response to a psychological necessity to install the dimension of time. Following a brief sketch of his life, the effect of Wölfli’s encounter with the psychiatrist Morgenthaler is considered. More specifically, the effect this encounter had on stylistic aspects of his work are highlighted. Special attention is given to the “autobiographical” aspect and, in this context, it is argued that the imaginary journey which Wölfli describes can be interpreted as either an attempt to construe himself a past, or, via the paradox of sublation, as an attempt to install the dimensions of time and space. This is related to Wölfli’s capture by the desire of his mother for whom he took the place of a brother who had died earlier. In the face of these two failed attempts, it seemed that signing his work with “St Adolf II” could temporarily guarantee him his place in the family tree and furthermore could guarantee the difference between himself and his brother “St Adolf I”.