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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Apology of The Dance Floor

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I arrived in wintery Berlin beaten and bruised-hearted.

I’m on my sixth month of gypsiness around the world. This is by choice, so I would never dare to complain about it, but sleeping on sofas and being jobless whilst processing a brutal breakup is getting somewhat rough.

But Berlin’s nightlife shifted my moods and softly helped me reopen to life.

I was invited to a Russian Disco themed party on Saturday night. It was organised by the tenants of a communal building, typical alternative Berlin life style. They had turned the top floor into a genuine USSR flashback. There was a body search performed by officers in uniform to access the premises. I got stamped with a red star on my left hand and got in. The event reminded me of the Brighton-based performance group Duckie. A band of fake Pussy Riots was playing. DIY Orthodox icons, ice skaters and Matrioshkas frames were hanging on the walls. Someone put a communist hat on my head and that was it, the spirit of the East was in me. I danced till 4am. God! It saved my life. I felt deeply happy and full of perspectives again for the first time in months. A guy much younger than me came to me and put a drink in my hand saying  he had been watching me dancing. He was cuuuute. He flirted with me all night and I remembered that people will like me again.

I went to bed at 5am on Sunday and made my way alone to the Berghain at tea time. The Berghain is Berlin’s most mythic club. It’s located in a Stalinian building which used to be a power station near a wasteland. It’s reputed to have the best techno and electro sound in the world. It’s also famous for its entrance policy: not everyone gets in and nobody knows what the selection is based upon. The Berghain has legendary back-rooms and a very particular atmosphere inside. There’s barely no light, no mirrors in the bathrooms, no photos allowed, and the most admitted outfit is of BDSM tendency together with football socks and Doc Martens shoes.

I didn’t wear any of this but still managed to get in after queuing ten minutes, but everyone seemed to get in that day. I paid 16€ and got a stamp that said “Faggot” on my right hand. With the red star that remained on my left hand, my hands were saying “Communist Faggot”, aka “I had a great Berlin weekend”.

I only stayed couple of hours inside, I was wandering around the different floors and spaces to observe people’s style and vibe. There was a lot of charismatic creatures like I love. I felt good by myself. Only one person talked to me. He asked:
“Do you like beer?
– No.
– Do you like cocaine?
– No.”

He gave up on me. I laughed and I danced alone in the small room with hundreds of strangers. The music was really great, even the Kylie Minogue remix. I was relieved that I was able to be happy alone in a crowd. I felt my heart pumping and my blood running faster.

Dancing saved my life again. When I walked out of the club, I found an authentic 70s disco ball vintage top on the street. The universe loves party girls.

Someone once said in front of me that they got a “more authentic life” once they stopped partying. What a silly thing to say. Why would partying be superficial?

I totally consider that partying can be a spiritual practice. I have never done drugs in my whole life and I don’t even drink much these days. It’s all about the human encounters and burning the dance floor in liberating outfits. You can be the quintessence of yourself for an ephemeral moment, and there’s infinite truth in that.

The dance floor is where people reveal themselves. It unlocks moments of realness. It triggers epiphanies. It’s always been my way to find redemption and feel alive again. When everything else goes wrong, I know the dance will take me back to the present moment and provide me flashes of pure joy.

At the Russian Disco, there was a guy in a wheelchair on the dance floor. He stayed for a long time. People were dancing with him. It was great to watch.

I’ll never forget one of my most beautiful dance floor moments. It was in Lisbon, in 2012. I was visiting the city alone and was living up the night life, the best I’ve experienced. I went to dance at the Finalmente, the only drag show club in Portugal. The crowd was all gay men. We were only two or three girls. I spotted a very short man in his early 50s, wearing an elegant shirt. I noticed him cause he looked like my former economy teacher in high school. I started observing him. He was dancing his heart off with closed eyes. He was so dedicated. He seemed alone in the world. He didn’t pay the slightest attention to people around him. He moved me to the core cause he was so present to himself and there was something nostalgic about him. I made up a whole story about his life in my head: he was coming from a village far from the capital and couldn’t assume his gayness till a very advanced age. People had been picking on him all his life. He finally moved to Lisbon to be himself, and was finding his way and salvation dancing every night at the Finalmente. But he was still closing his eyes not to read any judgement in people’s glances just yet. He would dance with open eyes some day soon.

I still have his expression of realness printed in my memory. This is when I realised the deep therapeutic powers of the dance floor and gained eternal respect for its benefits.

I’m leaving Berlin in two days. Spring has arrived in the meantime. I know I’ll end up living here.