The Artistry of Madness

This is now official : in January, I’ll start training as an art therapist specialising in mental health at Sainte-Anne, Paris most famous psychiatric hospital.

I first set foot in the psychiatric universe exactly two years ago, in December 2015. I documented my weekly dance sessions with the patients for about nine months (see a sample here and here). This piece of writing is very dear to me, because the Mad House characters were very dear to me. Some of the ladies are the greatest performers and poets I’ve ever met.

I’ve been viscerally missing the creativity and artistry of madness since I last passed through the doors of the psychiatric hospital last year. I’ve been feeling deprived from my main space of freedom and my main source of inspiration. 

I don’t want to become a dance therapist to “help people”. I have no sense of sacrifice and abnegation. It doesn’t interest me to be a saint. I’d rather be an artistry vampire. I want to work with the crazy to make art with them. I think that living hard and intensely is an artistic practice in itself. The tenants of the Mad House have the highest level of intensity and sensitivity I’ve ever experienced.

Also. I broke up with the first boyfriend I’ve ever had the day after I signed for my art therapy training enrolment. No causality. That story lasted for six weeks. He said things which brutally opened my eyes upon the fact that he hadn’t perceived me at all. Not one bit. He said he loved me but I tried to tell him that the girl he liked didn’t exist as she was the obedient, hetero-normed and thriveless version of me.

Of all the people I slept/fucked/made love with, wether it went deeper than the surface or not, I can’t help noticing that the common denominator is that none of them ever had the slightest interest in my creativity and vision of the world.

The lovers I had, the girls & the boys & the others all left the same question in my head. What exactly did they see in me? What did they like? Why did they want to get closer, and even closer, and finally the closest you can ever get to another human? Sometimes, I asked them. For all I know, they always got attracted for what has appeared to be wrong or false reasons. As the first thing that should put out your eyes is that I’m creative and I’m craving for you to blow on my burning embers to light my fire wilder. If you haven’t seen this, you failed me. You failed me.

I am not existing to bump up your ego by looking good around your arm. I am not existing to be a proxy for the life you don’t have the guts to live. I am not existing to mirror and solve your issues with femininity. I am not existing to take care of you and support you emotionally. I am not existing to make you a better person and educate you on equality. Above all, I am not existing to be attacked because you feel bad in your own skin. None of that is exhilarating and I want an exhilarating life.

Since I’ve been alone again, I’ve been finding my peace in books and art works. I’ve been swallowing tons of references about madness and psychiatric institutions. I’ve been reading Nellie Bly, Pierre Souchon, Michel Foucault. I am on a Raymond Depardon marathon this week. Depardon and his wife and sound engineer Claudine Nougaret started documenting psychiatric institutions in the 80s. I saw three of their documentaries in four days: Urgences, Douze Jours and San Clemente. They capture so accurately the poetry and verity of madness. I recognise some attitudes and expressions I used to witness. Their films are so genuine that they reactivated the smell of the long and gloomy corridors of the hospital in my memory.

There was a Q&A with Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret after the film Urgences the other day. They said this film was their honeymoon. They had just got married and spent the next three months filming the psychiatric emergencies as she was pregnant. God, that’s so the life I want. They said they managed to render the essence and truth of mentally ill people because they have a special ability to disappear and sync with the patients, which made them comfortable enough to open up and be natural despite the camera. Their words strongly resonated with me, because I instinctively understood that I have that ability as well and that’s why I am so comfortable around psychiatric patients.

I’ve been studying my feelings through the large oscillations of the last two weeks and I am coming to the conclusion that experiencing and making art is the main source of fulfilment and happiness in my life. Way more than any human relationship. I am not saying this because I am love bitter these days. I am not. You know, I wasn’t even sad for a moment when I left the boy. Apprehending, taming and forging an intimate relationship with an art piece makes me ecstatic. Doing the same with people often left me disappointed. All the art I’ve seen is the most precious thing I own. I’ll take these images to my death bed and all the rest will be long forgotten.

Paintings: Les Cathédrales de France by Anselm Kiefer

 

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