Manteno Hospital, 2008 - 2011
A series of 12 large format photographs. 4"x 5" color negatives scanned and printed on archival pigment paper, 40"x 50" edition of 5.
The world of confinement consists of multiple iterations of control depending upon the era in which it evolved. Under the ruse of fabricating the dream city, the utopia without the blemishes of the wandering mad within its boundaries or upon its fringes, the mental hospital became a spatial construct that serves the needs of the state rather than the individual.
This work is an integral part of my research, which taps into a rich discourse that examines the political ramifications inherent to the governing of institutionalized medical facilities. It explores the appropriation of certain modes of governmentality and treatment of mental illness that are indelibly reflected in the values of western society. The spatial configuration and physical architecture of the institution contains symbolic and associative trademarks that are instantly recognizable. The buildings harbor a symbolic resonance that relies on surveillance, observation, and the representation of mental illness, to cast an image of the patient to the outside world.
Confinement as a form of social regulation remains one of the most bifurcated conventions within the field of psychiatry. From the padded cell to the halfway house, we are still faced with the alienation and anxiety of social and individual estrangement as a culturally marginalized condition.
"In the very place where madness had been laid to rest, in the homogenous space of unreason, an obscure, slow, barely formulated transformation was taking place, whose superficial effects alone are visible; a profound shift allowed madness to appear once again, as it set itself apart and began to define itself in its own terms. The new fear of the eighteenth century was again perceptible, as a confused presence, but one which before long began to problematize the abstraction of confinement once more."
- Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason
Archival Images from Research on the Project
During the fours years of research on this project, a massive archive of historic images was created. Below are some of those images. At its core this research documents and reveals the nation-states inability to integrate patients with mental illness into society, and the ineptitude within medical fields to find appropriate therapeutic and restorative modalities of treatment.
The institutional critique of insanity has undergone countless manifestations over centuries. From the leprosarium to the penal facility and the sanitarium, these structures have remained models of resistance, favoring a carceral system of disciplinary extremes that often drive the individual into social immobility. Michel Foucault’s intimation that the spatial nature of these institutions changes in tandem with the socio-political values of the society they are designed for, still rings true. These spatial practices, of treating insanity separately to other health conditions are deeply, philosophically embedded. Different forms of institutional exclusion are now so entrenched that we have come to accept the distance between ourselves and the mentally ill as an ambiguous void over which we have no control.