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The exhibition at the Library of the Romanian Academy “ART IN/SANE: Plastic expression in psychopathology” – June 5-30, 2019

“ART IN/SANE: Plastic expression in psychopathology”

Period: June 5-30, 2019

Location: Library of the Romanian Academy

The exhibition at the Library of the Romanian Academy “ART IN/SANE: Plastic expression in psychopathology” – June 5-30, 2019

Worldwide, today we can talk about one hundred years of history of modern concerns regarding the systematic collecting of artworks created in psychiatric hospitals and, broadly, by individuals diagnosed with psychological disorders, even if the interest of some doctors for the plastic expression created by the hospitalized mentally ill has manifested itself quite recently, after the establishment of the great European psychiatric institutions in the 19th century. However, the modern history of the renowned collections begins with the 1919 Germany, by the effort made by the art historian and psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), from Heidelberg University, namely the Prinzhorn Collection, then continues with France, through the Sainte-Anne Psychiatric Hospital Collection in Paris, Switzerland, with the initiative of the painter Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985), who lays the groundwork for the Lausanne Collection, and Russia, who, through the initiative of the psychiatrist Pavel I. Karpov (1873-1932), establishes a collection as well. More recently, in 1990, Australia, through the initiative of the psychiatrist doctor Eric Cunningham Dax (1908-2008), from Melbourne, lays the foundation of one of the amplest collections in the world (Cunningham Dax Collection), and, in 2015, Great Britain, through the initiative of the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust Charitable Foundation, offers the “Bethlem Museum of the Mind Collection” to the general public. In Romania hasn’t yet been set up a national collection and we don’t have a psychopathological art museum, but the ART/INSANE exhibition takes a step in this direction by putting together works created in different psychiatric hospitals (Obregia, Bălăceanca, Voila). Worth mentioning is the fact that the first artworks of the exhibition illustrated in this catalogue date from the 1960’s, when Professor Aurel Romila – back then a young doctor in the Acute Mentally Ill Ward of the Central Hospital (currently the Bucharest ”Al. Obregia” Psychiatric Hospital) – was introducing a fist art-therapy programme for the patients hospitalized there. The purpose was a medical one, firstly as a therapy, and then as a diagnostics mean, and the method of interpreting was influenced by major European authors, especially by the the most powerful of heads of French school, like Henri Ey (1900-1977) or Robert Volmat (1920-1998). Art-therapy was to be continued after 1989, within the Resocializing Programme (1994-2004), through the activity and workshops carried out inside Obregia Hospital, in the „Reso” Clinic IX facility. Furthermore, the ART/INSANE exhibition also brings an unique collection which, as well, will be exhibited for the first time in a public art gallery. It is the case of lawyer Carmen Nedelcu’s collection, from 2013 to 2018.  Consequently, more than 50 years of history regarding the plastic expression of the mentally ill in Romania are being covered. Different psychological sufferings are illustrated: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, epilepsy, together with depression and suicidal episodes, etcetera. Along with this public exhibiting of representative works of the „art of the insane” genre, there are explicitly called into question some of the biggest topics of the contemporaneous cultural psychiatry. The ARTINSANE exhibition, as well as the academic debate it visually supports, thus contributes to raising awareness of the great public eye about worldwide extremely important and present topics such as: the shunning of the mental patient, a stigma that still accompanies the severe mental illness diagnostics (psychopathy, psychosis, dementia); the creational status of the mentally ill, but also his right to be respected for his or her artwork; the effect of culture on the psychiatric disorders; the supposedly „acultural” status of the psychopathological plastic expression, etcetera. I believe the ART/INSANE exhibition represents an essential component of the anthropological advocacy for humanising the present-day psychiatry, increasingly criticised for its dehumanising and reductionist aspects, dominated by a theoretical model that some authors call „the paradigm shift”. Given the fact that most of the programmes financially enabling the hospital workshops, including the art-therapy ones, were discontinued, many of the artworks were left abandoned, whether on hallways  or in dusty storerooms, the most fortunate of which being saved by being exhibited in the psychiatrists’ offices. Thereby, in order to be of a satisfactory quality, many of the artworks went through a minimal restoration process, yet without intervening in any way in the disordered-authors artworks. I cannot close this brief presentation of the collections without addressing a word of gratitude to the hospitals’ managers who contributed with artworks to this first Romanian psychopathological art exhibition, as well as to Professor Aurel Romila and Mrs. Carmen Nedelcu. All the above-mentioned responded with great enthusiasm and openness to my request to exhibit in a public space psychopathological artworks whose life would have ended entirely different, in a sad way, between the covers of a lost drawing pad or in a Godforsaken closet. To all of them I am deeply grateful.
Ruxandra Săraru
Valentin-Veron Toma
Daniela Velescu
Ionuţ Gavrilă
Marius Tiţa
Eduard Andrei
Luciana Gingăraşu
Raluca-Gabriela Cîrcea
Monica Ghiţescu
Mihai Terecoasă

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