Ultrasanity.
ON MADNESS, SANITATION, ANTIPSYCHIATRY AND RESISTANCE

ULTRASANITY, a project in four chapters, challenges Western scientific methods and perspectives on mental health and questions medical (mis)conceptions of psychopathologies by situating them in the context of coloniality, racialisation, objectification, and patriarchal oppression. Deeply entangled with our previous reflections on land struggles and toxicity, this project confronts us again with traumas and fears of displacement and contamination, this time offering an opportunity to ponder the notion of madness beyond a Western understanding.

Over the course of one year, we collaborated with clinicians, artists, patients, cognitive scientists, scholars and practitioners and unfolded this project jointly with ifa Gallery Berlin, the Association of Neuroesthetics (AoN), the Gnaoua Festival (Morocco) and Picha Art Lubumbashi (DRC).Together, we  interrogated the grammars of violence inscribed in universal therapeutic models and the pharmacologisation of care still practised today. Beyond a romanticisation of madness, we seek to address the heuristic and generative potential of certain forms of delirium. Beyond that we want to grant fundamental significance to community engagement and to spiritual, systemic, intra-generational histories in formulating healing strategies.

With this exhibition and discursive programme, we navigate the space of ULTRASANITY, moving beyond the dichotomy of insanity as the opposite of sanity, to inhabit the liminal space that lies beyond the norm, stripped of the process of normalisation and control. 

 

..for it is not man but the world which has become abnormal...

Antonin Artaud

Madness is not a safe space, not a place to walk in for an elusive diversion. Madness burns. And it doesn’t burn, as the Amazon, only because of governments, of corruption, because of our insane societies and the violent actions of men since centuries. It burns also of its own fire, sometimes combusting everything in it and around it, crumbling the possibility of certainty and comprehension. But amidst smoke and flames, fire also produces light, and in the night it gives us the possibility of seeing through the thickness of the gloom.

As Antonin Artaud wrote in Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society, those having superior lucidities and luminosity, those with the gift of special faculties and spirits, have been too often declared insane for breaking out of societal norms. 

Madness can be seen as a form of ultrasanity, an elastic space that lies beyond the dualistic categories of sanity and insanity.To compose a partiture of statements and a chorus of different voices, we deliberate on different trajectories, such as: the construction of insanity and madness as an attempt to normalise those out of the norm; the entanglements between madness, colonialism and coloniality, and sanitation and the politics of segregation; madness as a tool of resistance, of escape, and refusal (i.e. rebellion, hysteria, tarantism and other disruptive behaviours catalogued with medical formulations and treated as illnesses); and the power of intra-generational histories and community in formulating healing strategies.

We begin with Immy Mali and the imaginative powers and pains of childhood – a sonic tunnel leads us into the exhibition by way of polyglot stories, nursery rhymes and play songs from her youth, touched by trauma’s entanglements with the postcolonial landscape of Uganda. A cave where distant voices coming from inner spaces may disorient us, or take us by hand into the hyperlucidity of derangement. Through the work of Teresa Margolles, we encounter the shadow, the dark space of the gloom, here evoking the problem of systemic gender violence against women, in Bolivia and around the world. For the artist, the dark shade represents also a membrane of protection and intimacy, the same intimacy that Adjani Okpu-Egbe explores when inhabiting the cathartic space of his paintings, living art as a form of healing. John Akomfrah tells of jazz legend Buddy Bolden’s struggles with schizophrenia, hospitalization, and the violence of racist state powers’ capacity to make disappeared those in precarious positions. Lavar Munroe problematizes the notion of the spectacle with his painted portrait exploring family, non-white diseased bodies, human zoos, and mental and physical challenges as a means of entertainment. M’barek Bouhchichi explores the multiplicity of the self, giving shape to modes of expression that move from the individual discourse towards broader social, poetic and historic systems. Ulf Aminde presents his collaboration with the artist group Wilderers from the Foundation Diakonie Himmelsthür in Hildesheim, pondering creativity and cooperation questioning how group dynamics and identity arise. Yassine Balbzioui opens a door to eccentricity as an entry into a richer world, investigating madness as an absolute freedom of creation. Beatriz Santiago Muñoz delves into the sensorial unconscious of the Puerto Rican anticolonial movement, the memory and spirit of objects, and the supernatural. Tracey Rose drifts together with various unclassifiable and marginal characters in a carnivalesque subversion prioritizing the freakish, the strange, and the alien. Alessandra Eramo’s sonic work on the freedom that resists in the female voice traces the wild, bestial, untrained, and vulnerable voice of inner agitation and ritual healing by means of the tarantula spider’s tale and its inscribed, mythic memory in her region of Southern Italy. Larisa Crunțeanu combines reality and fiction to address the emotions of women that have been historically disregarded or treated as somatic illnesses in light of social etiquette, public space, motherhood, labour, and justice. Jaswant Guzder, a therapist who uses drawing as a filter between her patients and herself, subverts the canonical trope of the “outsider” artist, her visual works being an extension of her therapeutic adventures in collective decolonization. Virginia Chihota lays bare tensions of personal experiences, plummeting us into depths to explore anxiety, turmoil, and the remedies within. Nathalie Mazeas presents the architectural spaces and homes of the homeless in Paris, confronting us with the capacity of resilience in crisis. Eva Kotatkova peers into the clothing of children to make visible their worn places, asking us to consider the language of memory left in their holes and tears. Lukas Hofmann investigates the idea of the skin as a permeable border, aiming to open and close wounds inflicted by the contemporary condition, causing both restlessness and relief.