“Culture, mental health, and social inclusion”
Period: August 18 – September 3
Location: ARCUB Gabroveni Art Gallery
The psychopathological art exhibition “Culture, mental health, and social inclusion” from ARCUB – August 18 – September 3, 2023
The ART IN/SANE psychopathological art exhibition, entitled “Culture, Mental Health, and Social Inclusion”, is a continuation of a series of events that started in 2019, with the first academic debate, under the aegis of the Romanian Academy, on the importance of psychopathological art as part of the national and transnational cultural heritage, as well as the contribution that presenting in art galleries and museums, open to the general public, has to reduce the stigma of the mentally ill and the marginalization and social exclusion of “sick artists”. Thus, in June 2019, we organized, at the Library of the Romanian Academy, in an exhibition space open to the public, the ART IN/SANE exhibition, the first exhibition of psychopathological works of art, made by people diagnosed with various mental disorders, coming from several psychiatric hospitals in the country. Another event in this series was represented by the organization of the exhibition entitled “ArtTherapy – the fabulous art of the mind” which took place in the gallery “1001 Arts” on Calea Victoriei, in Bucharest between October 18th and November 1st, 2020. The next stage of the project consisted of organizing itinerant exhibitions in other cities in Romania. Thus, an exhibition was opened in the foyer of the “Anton Pann” Theatre in Râmnicu-Vâlcea between August 1st and 31st august, 2019, and another exhibition at the Arges County Center of Culture and Arts in Pitesti, between October 15th and 29th august, 2019. If in the period 2019 – 2020 the exhibition of psychopathological art represented the physical support for a scientific discourse that brought arguments in favor of including this kind of art in the material and immaterial national and international cultural heritage, this year I decided to leave the academic environment and bring psychopathological art, as a sub-field of “outsider art”, in the public space of large, professional art galleries. Here, beyond the aesthetic aspect of the presented collection, the stake is to bring to the knowledge of the art-lover public, but also to the general public, a less explored form of culture, in our non-medical environment. As with the other ART IN/SANE exhibitions, this year’s collection is support for a message that addresses an extended audience in order to open up and become familiar with the ways of plastic expression of a category of social actors that are very special. They often suffer a wide variety of forms of social violence by being marginalized, stigmatized, and exposed to waves of resentment or hatred, when they are not simply completely ignored. It is, of course, about people diagnosed with mental disorders who, in our country, as elsewhere, “enjoy”, if we can say so, a status of second-class citizens who deserve attention only to be silenced, in their homes, or in institutional spaces, but also pushed to a way of life as far away as possible from the heart of the city or the community in general. Through art, however, these people express a wealth of experiences, a wealth of thoughts, and emotions, and this form of plastic expression has a role of diagnostic knowledge but also of healing a pain of the soul often difficult to express in words. Visual arts are therapeutic, but at the same time, they are also a form of culture that I think is worth talking about, without fear, false shame, and without contempt. Also, by creating art and culture programs, both in specialized hospitals and in community mental health centers, psychiatric patients can be included in society and some of them, endowed with creativity and talent, can participate in exhibitions of contemporary art, from the sphere of outsider art, both in the country and abroad. The exhibition “ART IN/SANE. Culture, Mental Health and Social Inclusion” from ARCUB – Gabroveni Inn also included the works of the OKAPI2 psychopathological art exhibition, made by children aged 9 to 19 who participated in weekly art therapy by painting sessions organized by the Entuziart Association, at the “Saint Nicholas” Special Vocational School in Bucharest, within the project Outsider Amnio art.3 This year, the large number of exhibited works – over 200 paintings and drawings – on the one hand, expresses the richness of Romania’s cultural heritage, in terms of psychopathological art, an integral part of outsider art. On the other hand, due to the variety of the exhibited works, different periods, execution techniques and styles of works created by mental patients in our country are present. The exhibition presents collections of psychiatric hospitals in the country (E. Iamandescu Hospital in Bălăceanca, Voila Hospital in Câmpina, Hospital in Câmpulung Moldovenesc), of important centers for mental health (Center for Mental Health No. 1 in Timisoara), but also personal collections, extremely valuable, such as the collection of Prof. Dr. Adela Ciobanu, a pioneer of art therapy in our country, reputed clinician and acting president of the Free Psychiatric Association of Romania (APLR). As I said at the beginning, psychopathological art is a part of the cultural heritage of each country, and through this exhibition entitled “Culture, Mental Health, and Social Inclusion” from the ART IN/SANE series, and organized by ARCUB – the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Bucharest, all those who visited the event at the Gabroveni Inn had the opportunity to discover a double aesthetic of the beautiful, but also the human suffering, which I hope they fell in love with. I also express my hope that the visitors left this exhibition with enough well-founded arguments that support the idea that we have the duty to preserve this national cultural heritage, to promote it internationally, and to pass it on, not only intact but also enriched, to the next generations. Let us not forget that, through art, the voice of the silent, or silenced by classical therapeutic means, is heard louder than ever in many countries of the world. As I had the opportunity to see in recent years, after the first ART IN/SANE exhibition, the works of psychopathological art from Romania are regarded as a special surprise for the curators of important collections in major capitals of the world. If they have already brought this kind of work into the cultural space of contemporary art galleries in the great metropolises, for us, this is only the beginning. The exhibition, which took place at ARCUB – Gabroveni Inn in Bucharest, took an important step in this direction. On this occasion, a website (www.artinsane.eu) was published. The first digital museum with collections of psychopathological art, from several psychiatric hospitals in Romania but also from private collections, with texts in English, accessible to researchers from the country and abroad interested in the study of the history of psychiatry or the comparative study of the psychopathological and/or aesthetic aspects of the works produced in several countries of the world.