Déconnage Critical Episodes (1957-2011). MACBA Collection
As part of the exhibition Critical Episodes (1957-2011). MACBA Collection, Level 2 of the Museum presents two new episodes of the MACBA Collection. One of these episodes is Déconnage, a video-essay by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato that looks at the life and work of the psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles (1912-1994).
In Déconnage, one of the pioneers of critical psychiatry in post-war Europe is introduced. Anti-psychiatry is recovered here through the figure of Francesc Tosquelles: a discourse and practice that address not mental illnesses, but vital, social and ethical problems. Anti-psychiatry foresaw the dysfunctions that would eventually afflict people in contemporary societies.
As a visual artist, Angela Melitopoulos produces videoessays and documentaries around the concepts of migration, mobility and memory. She has collaborated with Maurizio Lazzarato, a Paris-based Italian philosopher and sociologist, known for his work on cognitive capitalism and immaterial work. Déconnage was produced in the context of an exhibition project presented in Bern, 2010, Antwerp, 2011, and Vienna, 2011. Entitled Animism - Modernity through the Looking Glass, the project revises modernity in the light of animism. Déconnage is presented as a visual research on psychiatry's political line. The work relates two contemporary thinkers to one of the renovators of institutional psychoanalysis, the Catalan psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles (Reus 1912 – Granges-sur-Lot 1994).
In 1985, the French filmmaker François Pain conducted a three-day interview with the renowned Catalan psychiatrist resident in France. Pain, who had been a patient of Tosquelles, was helped during the recording of the interview by the psychiatrists Jean-Claude Polack and Danielle Sivadon. In the spring of 2011, Melitopoulos and Lazzarato screened the interview to two contemporary thinkers and recorded their comments, thus creating a virtual dialogue between the limits of psychiatry and the political effects of this discipline. Tosquelles' interview was shown to the philosopher and visual artist Elisabeth von Samsonow in Vienna, and to the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jean-Claude Polack – a former friend and collaborator of Félix Guattari – in Paris. Using a screen divided into three images, the philosopher and the psychiatrist view and comment on the interview. The result is a three-sided discursive revision of Tosquelles' theories and his medical experiments from the point of view of today's theories.
Born to a progressive local bourgeois family, Tosquelles studied under the psychiatrist Emili Mira at the Institut Pere Mata, Reus, in a context of anarcho-syndicalism and experimental psychotherapy. A sympathiser of the Bloc Obrer i Camperol [Farmers and Workers Block] and the Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista (POUM) [The Workers'Party of Marxist Unification], in 1939 Tosquelles was forced into exile in France. He had been sentenced to death by the Franco regime for his peculiar psychiatric practices – during the Civil War he had employed prostitutes as nurses, among other innovative experiments – and his republican Marxism. In France he joined the Resistance and arrived at the SaintAlban Psychiatric Hospital at Cévennes, Lozère, a poor region in the south of the country. At first he was employed as a male nurse, since his medical qualifications were not recognised by the French authorities. In 1952, Tosquelles became medical director of the hospital and soon radically changed the institution. Together with Lucien Bonnafé, he was one of the founders and creators of psychothérapie institutionnelle, a psychiatric current that led to a French version of the international anti-psychiatry movement in the 1960s.
Tosquelles reorganised the therapeutic methods and the everyday practices with the patients. Among other things, he abolished all hierarchies between patients, medical staff, members of the Resistance, local people, intellectuals and artists. The idea was to get rid of the 'in' and 'out' dichotomy, in what Félix Guattari would later call 'a field of heterogeneous subjectivities'. Tosquelles' methods at the hospital in Saint-Alban were a key influence on thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Guattari used them as a model for the psychiatric clinic of La Borde, an institution committed to the political resistance during the war in Algeria, in much the same way as the hospital in Saint-Alban had given refuge to the anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War.
During the interview, Tosquelles follows his own life trajectory while adopting a critical stance before Freud and Lacan, and developing concepts that are central to him, such as the body, migration and displacement. What interests Tosquelles are the rhythm of the discourse, pauses and sequences, silence and the position of the body rather than the discourse itself. His ideas are revolutionary: the representations of disorder, such as dementia, send messages not of themselves, but of the representations of order. In Tosquelles' own words: 'Parce que moi, la psychiatrie, je l'appelle la déconniatrie.'