Sanatorium is a transient clinic that provides short, unexpected treatments mixing art and psychology. It is a space for encounter where people meet one-on-one or in groups: a horizontal organization run by volunteers. Perhaps you have a decision to make, or you are looking to release anger or reconcile with someone. Using a combination of play, small rituals, and warm-up exercises, you customize a self-suggestion mechanism intended to facilitate a desired change.

Pedro Reyes’
Sanatorium at Whitechapel
Gallery in London

The Spirit of Utopia
July 4 – September 5, 2013

The exhibition was curated by
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Daniel F. Herrmann,
Kirsty Ogg, Sofia Victorino and Nayia Yiakoumaki.

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High St.
London E1 7QX

+44 (0)20 7522 7888
info@whitechapelgallery.org

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The Museum of
Hypothetical Lifetimes

 

This activity is centered on a scale model of a hypothetical museum, where each room or gallery represents a different part of your life. You are about to see your entire life as an exhibition, from the cradle to the grave, looking both prospectively and retrospectively at your past, present, and future.

On the shelves you will find a large collection of small objects and figures. They represent the widest selection possible of objects, people, animals, and symbols that we find in the world around us, or sometimes within our own imaginations.

Select objects from the shelves to illustrate each area of your life. Arrange the figures in the same way sculptures and paintings are arranged in a gallery. Your therapist plays the role of the museum’s curator. If you wish, you can explain what you are doing as you go, or you may wait until the end. Therapists can explain how some galleries are supposed to be used, but remember that the rules are simple and you are the artist. Your vision is what counts.

 

The Museum of
Hypothetical Lifetimes

 
Number of participants

Individuals (On certain occasions couples have asked to do this therapy together. This is possible, although the intention of the therapy is to provide a space for autobiographical reflection.)

Time

Minimum 45 minutes,
maximum 2 hours

Space size

3.5 x 6m

Space requirements

Well-lit, silent, intimate

Furniture

Shelves, table, two chairs

Props

Architecture model,
assorted small figures

Therapist qualifications

Basic

 

The Museum of
Hypothetical Lifetimes

 
Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy and provide the participant with the laminated key.
  3. Allow the participant to select objects.
  4. If needed, explain the ways the galleries can be used.
  5. Encourage the participant to share the stories of the museum he creates.
  6. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  7. This therapy is not appropriate for blind visitors.
  8. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if accompanied by an interpreter to facilitate discussion with the therapist.
Participant Instructions
  1. Using the key provided, review the significance of the museum’s galleries.
  2. Select objects from the shelves that you feel represent your world. Place them in each of the galleries in the model museum.
  3. You may explain your choices as you work or you may wait until the end to do so. When you have finished, the therapist will help you present your exhibition.
 

The Museum of
Hypothetical Lifetimes

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

Artists, curators, and architects use models not only as an aid for design but also in a narrative way. When planning an exhibition it is very useful to have a model and small reproductions of artworks in order to plan what the experience of the visitor will be. We use models from a very early age. When children arrange their toys on the floor it helps them build a map of the world they live in. This is something that Dora Kalff pays special attention to. An accomplished professional pianist, she was also a neighbor of Carl Jung. Her children and Jung’s grandchildren used to play together, and Jung encouraged her to explore her interest in children’s psychological development. Noticing a correlation between the way children play arranging external objects in the sand and their own internal processes of the psyche led Kalff to the creation of sand tray therapy, also known as sandplay.1

Sandplay is a therapy that can be used with both adults and children, in which the patient plays in a sandbox with a wide range of small figures to which the subconscious attaches symbolic meaning. As the patient plays and organizes these objects and shapes, it creates a bridge between the conscious and the subconscious. Kalff says, “It becomes possible to break through the narrowing perspective of our bogged-down conception and fears and to find in play a new relationship to our own depth. Immersed in play, the person succeeds in making an inner picture visible. Thus a link is established between internal and external.”2

While the sandbox is a tabula rasa where paths and topographies can be created at will, the Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes has clearly defined spaces. These spaces are designed to tell a story and create feelings in ways similar to the proposals of Mexican architect Mathias Goertiz, co-founder with Luis Barragán of the emotional architecture movement. While the principle of “form follows function” is a hallmark of modern architecture, Goeritz declared a counter-manifesto: “form follows emotion.” The emotional architecture movement places the person, rather than the design of an object or a building, at the center; it is the design of an experience.

Goeritz and Barragan shared a key procedure: to resist the temptation to draw and to instead create a story, a narration to guide the design. Goeritz, while building the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City, used these principles and describes the space thus:

The lot for the Eco is small, but the walls are seven to eleven meters tall, with a long hallway that narrows at the end (while the floor rises and the ceiling lowers) in attempt to cause the impression of greater depth. The wooden planks in the floor follow the same tendency, growing more and more narrow, finally ending in almost one point. At this endpoint of the hallway, visible from the entrance, a sculpture is planned to be placed: a shout, which will have its Echo in a grisaille mural of about 100 square meters, possibly derived from the very shadow of the sculpture, which should be created on the main wall of the great salon.3

The shrinking hallway ends in a great hall with a towering wall. These physical aspects were derived from a sequence of emotions; the narrowing corridor is the angst felt with the closing of one’s throat, which leads to the monumental hall, a shout of catharsis so strong it was followed by an echo, the wall. Form follows emotion, emotion follows sensation. Here, architectural design is seen less as a diagram or a blueprint and more like the script of a film. The architect is the writer and the inhabitants are the moviegoers. A sort of storyboard can be made following the script, and from the storyboard comes the floor plan.

Following these ideas, I wanted to condition the meaning of spaces in the model of the Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes, as I think most lives share a group of universal experiences. The model is roughly divided into four axes: Genealogy, Work, Education, and Love. This is an arbitrary arrangement and arguably an oversimplified vision of life, but simplifying this diagram helps the participant to avoid getting lost in the overwhelming task of doing an autobiographical sketch in forty-five minutes.

The first section, Genealogy, uses squares and circles, which are a convention in genograms and sociograms: circles for female relatives and squares for male relatives. Our lives begin before our birth, so grandparents and parents serve as an introduction to the “departure lobby” shaped like a pill, which we call the cradle. This interplay of lines and curves continues in the world of work (straight lines) and the world of love (curved lines).

Education is represented by a group of square spaces representing classrooms that grow in size as information and responsibility increase with time. As responsibility increases, the play space (or garden) starts to shrink, but on the right, perhaps caused by the shrinking of the play space, a space with sharp corners and irregular shapes starts to grow. It represents truancy, rock and roll, drugs, parties, and all the experiences of youth.

As we exit the years of education and move into the Work axis, we find a maze that represents the series of odd jobs that we do in an effort to discover which field of activity we want to concentrate on. A square follows that represents how we come to define ourselves. Some of us may want to fill this space with more than one object if we participate in more than one field of activity. Next is a smaller square for the activity that pays the bills, which may or may not have to do with our self-definition. Directly opposite, an open triangle stands for our legacy, what we will be remembered for, and following that is a space that widens in a stairstep pattern representing the steps we must take to advance our career and plans.

The last axis is Love, which begins with several incomplete circles in which to place exes and past relationships. This moves into a series of three large, connected ovals. The first is for the partner we choose to commit to, the second the process of settling down with that partner (moving in together, having children, getting married, buying a house, etc.), and the third represents the process of growing and aging with that person. As the first oval moves into the second, the narrow conjuncture is a crisis that usually occurs as we begin to settle down and fulfill our commitments to our partners.

1 Lois Carey, Sandplay Therapy with Children and Families, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).
2 Dora Kalff. “Introduction to Sandplay Therapy,” Journal of Sandplay Therapy 1 no.1 (1991).
3 Mathias Goeritz. Manifiesto de la arquitectura emocional, trans. Lacey Pipkin, 1954, http://www.eleco.unam.mx/sitio/index.php/el-eco-contenido/manifesto

The Museum of
Hypothetical Lifetimes

Therapist Report
Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

I have very good memories of this therapy, as it is a very intimate moment with the participant. Some objects are chosen frequently: the image of the mother, for example, or the transparent ball for the offspring. The snail for death so that it arrives slowly. The partner is generally difficult to define. An eighteen-year-old girl chooses the pattern of the hand for acupuncture for the partner, and when I ask why she replies that the hand is easier to catch than the heart. Grandmothers are angels or cakes for cooking. The grandfathers are seashells or important characters. Fathers are cars, motorcycles and minerals. Mothers are pretty ceramic statues or an ostrich. The play-space is usually the tree, nature and friends. The classroom is books and pens. Personal experience, travel, alcohol, women, death ... Broken hearts are aggressive animals, fish tails or representations of macho men. “Finding My Way” is often the boat, the car accelerating or again the snail. “I am” is always different. “The Dilemma” is the hourglass. The “Money Maker” varies; this is a strange subject. Partner, labor, family, table, chairs, sofa, or something related to the community. Aging also relates to the community. The Key is meditation or writing a book. Death is difficult. I’ve done the therapy myself, and I do not remember what I put for death. Maybe nothing at all, but as time passed I asked myself over the last few days of the Sanatorium what I could put to represent death. I chose the Jamaican wristlet.

I remember the museum of Kim. Her mother was an ostrich: very protective, very strong. She took Kim everywhere during her childhood. Her father was absent: a motorbike driving off. Her maternal grandmother was cooking. The paternal grandmother was a diva aging badly; she was unkind. The paternal grandfather was a small stone; he did not matter so much. The cradle was nature. Her playground was nature and her mother. School was philosophy and books. She told stories of the heart: a figurine of a man that looks like Michael Jackson, with a red jacket and long hair, looking like he was walking outside the lines. She couldn’t see herself with children or with any particular partner. She replaced the Family with the community; she would like a castle in the center of France, lost in nature, a castle with her friends. With her Career, everything went very fast. She was hired as a lawyer just before she graduated from her studies in law and philosophy. Now, her boss wanted her to try to work less. First she chose time for her Dilemma, but later she replaced it with a mini plastic nuclear station, explaining that she defends a business related to pollution that has interests in the nuclear field. She felt responsibility, thinking of her values and her cradle close to nature. She said that she was studying philosophy and analyzed everything. She put a book in the Legacy box and also in the Key: she wanted to write book about what she sees and what disturbs her.

Gloria Maso, August 2012

I was always eager to give the Museum therapy, even though people often chose the same objects to signify the same things: the mermaid of Copenhagen for the Mother, the heavy brain for Education, the most unidentified objects for the Dilemma. I preferred when people went a little further, making combinations: the green Frankenstein in the empty cube for old age. But what I enjoyed most was being invited into people’s lives and listening to their stories.

At the beginning of the therapy I left participants alone to choose the objects comfortably. I thought that my presence might keep them from taking their time to choose. I would come back after fifteen minutes and have them guide me through their exhibit. Some asked for my interpretation (I hated doing that, feeling phony). Some didn’t want to give any explanation, truly satisfied with their private reflection, keeping the reasons for their choices to themselves. I quickly found that the most efficient and interesting way to proceed in the museum therapy was to start by going through the meanings of the rooms on the model while the participant followed with the booklet. Then, with a large gesture indicating the three shelves along the walls, I introduced the objects: “All these objects are at your disposal to signify people, events and memories from your life. They can give shape to any person or gesture, or even thoughts yet to occur. I suggest you inspect the collection [I would walk the participant closer to the shelves] without looking for anything special. Just grab the objects that catch your eye and we’ll figure out what to do with them together.”

When a person left a room empty, I always wondered if it was for lack of inspiration, bashfulness, or perplexity. I didn’t ask them to fill the whole museum. I even encouraged them to leave blanks if they couldn’t find a suitable object for their idea. Some participants told me there were objects the museum was missing and needed: a plastic lobster, a small camera, a miniature book, a pen or pencil, a living plant in a pot, and a mountain.

They also asked, “How did you collect these objects? Where do you get them? Are they part of the artist’s personal collection or did he choose them all for this piece? Do the objects vary depending on where you are showing the piece?”

Vaccine against
Violence

 

This is a cathartic procedure. Your therapist will ask you to blow up a balloon and draw on it the face of the person who has hurt you the most in your life. After doing so, you will place the balloon on top of a punching bag shaped as a headless dummy. Your therapist will encourage you to hit the dummy, yell at it, tell this person why you hate them so much and how he or she did you wrong. Get even with the dummy; punch it until the balloon bursts. At the end you will be given a sugar pill, a placebo that is your “Vaccine against Violence.”1

In our minds a symbolic act has the equivalent power of a real act. Consequently, the symbolic destruction of a person may free us from the drive to act against that person in real life. This therapy aims to make real acts of violence redundant, to free the subject from long-standing hatred.

 

Vaccine against
Violence

 
Number of participants

Individuals

Time

Minimum 15 minutes

Space size

Minimum 3 x 3 m

Furniture

A small table

Therapist qualifications

Basic

Space requirements

It is convenient to split this space in two sections. The antechamber, where the balloons and markers are, must have enough light for the participant to draw on the balloon, while the chamber will be darker. As people shout during this activity, it is recommended to soundproof the room or locate it far from other therapies. The dummy will hang from the roof or walls, so it is necessary to have special hooks installed for this purpose.

Props

A full-body dummy on a stand, balloons, permanent markers, sugar pills (placebos), placebo pill bottles, foam to insulate the space, hooks for hanging the dummy

 

Vaccine against
Violence

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Help the participant with the props and ask her to draw the face of someone who has hurt her on the balloon.
  4. Encourage the participant to explain why he or she hates the person chosen and how that person caused hurt.
  5. Once the balloon bursts give the participant a placebo pill; this is the “Vaccine against Violence.”
  6. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  7. Blind visitors will need assistance drawing faces or writing on the balloons, as well as orientation so they can hit they dummy.
  8. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if they are provided written instructions or accompanied by an interpreter to facilitate discussion with therapists.
Participant Instructions
  1. Take a balloon and blow it up.
  2. Draw a face on the balloon representing the person who has hurt you most in your life.
  3. Tell the dummy why you hate it so much and how much you were hurt.
  4. Get even by hitting the dummy until the balloon bursts.
  5. When finished, swallow the sugar pill you are given. It is a placebo that is your Vaccine against Violence.

Vaccine against
Violence

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and former mayor of Bogotá, created the Vaccine against Violence to address the issue of family violence during his administration. The following is a transcript of a conversation in which we discussed the origin and development of the therapy.

Pedro Reyes: Can you tell me about how you created Vaccine against Violence?

Anatanas Mockus: The idea for the Vaccine against Violence came about after I read a newspaper article about intrafamily violence. Shortly after I read the article, I met with a psychiatrist and was convinced that although violence has many many causes, the main cause is intrafamily violence. Therefore, if you could only do one thing to reduce the level of violence in any society, it would be to stop the violence trickling down to younger generations.

I invited psychiatrists to a meeting, and over two or three days I asked them to give me information such as the number of children needing professional attention after being victims of intrafamily violence. Astonishingly, the figure was as high as 600,000. There are not enough psychiatrists to treat them all. It was then that we knew that we had to do something different.

Inspiration for the actual vaccine therapy came from a public event called Años Viejos (Old years) on New Years Eve, in which people fabricate figures (normally someone unpopular) that are then stuffed with fireworks and burned. At the meeting with the psychiatrists, we made our own Años Viejos, dressed them up with balloons inside, and danced with the figures. It was very entertaining because at any moment the balloon could explode! I wondered how we could use this mechanism to allow people to express feelings of being hurt? The psychiatrists came up with a very good idea; they suggested using the balloon as a head and drawing the face of the aggressor on it.

After the festivities were over we thought we would give it a try. We asked a twelve-year-old boy, who also happened to be the son of a policeman, to come and test the first Vaccine against Violence. He began to speak and confessed that the worst thing that had happened in his life was that his father hit him. Next, he drew the face of his father, the eyes, the nose and so on, onto the balloon. The psychiatrist instructed the boy to say and do whatever he wanted to the dummy. The child had so much anger that I thought he was going to pop his father’s head. I actually tried to stop him, but the psychiatrist took my hand and said into my ear, “Sometimes you have to take sides. You cannot remain neutral.” The boy did pop the balloon, after which he was a little bit shaken. The psychiatrist assured him that he has not done anything bad and had not hurt his real father. She told him “It’s not your father’s body,” lessening the boy’s feelings of guilt.

After our trial we constructed the whole procedure. We prepared for three or four weeks, gathering with the psychiatrics and psychologists and performing a sort of self-training. The first Vaccine was done with an NGO that fought against intrafamily violence. We were enthusiastic; the first Vaccine had 15,000 participants. We used a small space and the procedure was individual. At the end of that Vaccine, the psychiatrists were absolutely exhausted. There was at least one case where the person was so hurt that he shouted, “This is the reason why I killed you!” There were four members of a family there, the entire family, and the father took the hand of one of his children and showed us a scar, saying, “Please cure us from this.”

So the medical treatment of violence involved in the procedure was to help people seek help for getting it out, for getting rid of violence. I myself did the Vaccine three times, two of the three times with cameras filming. In the first one I remembered a professor, a schoolteacher. I used to wear short pants, and there were only one or two boys with short pants. The teacher made us stand in front of the other students and began to hurt us with his keychain. Another time I remembered an argument between my mother and me. I didn’t pop the balloon of course, but I was verbally aggressive.

But the third time I decided I could not repeat what I had remembered, so I searched my memory and discovered something that I had never told anyone, not my girlfriends or professors, not my parents or friends. It was in an art gallery on a Sunday; the proprietor of the gallery was a friend of my mother, who is a sculptor, so she had also a sort of professional relationship with him. The gallery was closed, but he took me to a room and said he wanted to teach me some wrestling positions. He didn’t take off my clothes, but the thing was so strange that I never told anyone about it, in part because I had no language to explain it; at that age you don’t have the words. So at the moment of the Vaccine I said his name (not his surname) and I was very aggressive, hitting the balloon, and I shouted, “If you like men, look for adults, not children, never children.”

At first I didn’t want to give placebo pills to the people that came to the Vaccine, but there are studies that show people believe a lot more in the vaccination when they received the placebo. The first time we distributed it, it was really successful, and we also gave the people who came a paper printed with information about institutions that help with intrafamily violence. So we told people, if you feel the need, you can go to this institution for help, like a special offer. We used the intensity of people’s reaction during the Vaccine as a screening device to refer people to anger management programs.

PR: Screening to identify the people that needed specialized help.

AM: In medicine that has a special name: triage. So we were doing a sort of triage, and about ten percent of the people were invited not only to receive the paper but to actually make an appointment. The second time there were 30,000 people, a diverse range of people. We also offered a Vaccine by telephone. It was nothing complex; it was just my voice saying, “Thank you for participating in this journey against violence. Who is the person who has most wounded or offended you? If you were to meet with this person, what would you say? After the beep, say what you would say to him.” We received about 400 calls, and in many cases at the end of the message people said thank you — to a machine!

PR: You made a recording of those?

AM: Yes, and we made a transcription. But we did not answer the calls. What is amazing is how the Vaccine has been replicated. In a small town of 10,000 inhabitants, 100 km from Bogotá, a single employee of the health system said, “I can do something like that.” First, he went to the official medical institute, and the statistics showed that this particular municipality was the most violent in terms of homicides per each 100,000 inhabitants. He published this fact in the local newspaper, that his municipality was the most violent. H e began to do a variation of the vaccination, having people write on a piece of paper what had happened in the past that was wrong, and they made a pile of the papers to burn. In a town of 10,000 inhabitants he performed Vaccine on around 5,000 people, half of the municipality.

And some of my team members have done the Vaccine in other cities in Latin America, and the psychiatrist that has been helping me had been doing it on a smaller scale in Venezuela, too, so it has circulated. In 2004 I did a piece called Instant Rockstar in which participants were invited to choose a rock song and perform it, playing a surrogate guitar. Each act ends with the cathartic ritual of smashing the prop guitar. This work was partially inspired by Rafael Montañez Ortiz’s performances from the 1950s, in which he destroyed pianos with an axe as part of the Destruction in Art movement.

Ralph’s performances had previously inspired applications in the field of therapy, such as Primal Scream, as its creator Arthur Janov describes in his 1970 book The Primal Scream. In 2011 I spoke with Montañez Ortiz about violence and catharsis; below is a transcript of our conversation.

Pedro Reyes: Why do you think that we need to express, or experience, some violence in our lives?

Rafael Montañez Ortiz: In a sense what you’re referring to is the early brain because our brain architecture is sort of like a ship that builds itself in the ocean, hopefully without sinking. The brain rebuilds itself, with the exception of the previous fifteen models of hominids, which have all exterminated each other. We’re on the sixteenth model and hopefully we’ll overcome this ancient brain, which is where the chimpanzee begins. Chimpanzees are not these funny little things with diapers on TV, smoking cigars or playing poker. They’re savage beasts, they rip each other apart, they’re horrible, they’re gang bangers from the beginning of civilization. Later on, we build on that, whether it be australopithecine, archaic sapiens, sapiens-sapiens and in 180,000 years we haven’t done much more in terms of our cognitive potential. So within that framework you get a sense of the savage, barbaric potential that we have, it’s there built into our architecture. You can see how around the world a culture can focus the whole cultural process and cognition around that architecture. You have some cultures that focus themselves on this ancient architecture, and so they have this ancient cognitiveness, this ancient primalness about the way they solve things. Our culture — a lot of our culture — has the ancient brain. So if we’re wondering why we are so savage, how can we be so barbaric, the answer is simple: our culture has opened that possibility and cognition to us.

PR: This reminds me of what you mention in your manifestos as the need for fulfilling that “unconscious integrity.” So certainly, within these different architectures, some of them, like the most primitive ones, call for some violence and cruelty in our lives.

RMO: Yes, but it must be displaced in terms of object. In other words, to be conscious of it you have to displace it, you have to take it somewhere where they’re objects. It’s sort of like play therapy; instead of the children burning the parents’ house down, they make little fires and start understanding their relationship to fire and how to control it. It’s like the notion of moving from human sacrifice to flowers and butterflies. I believe this very important transition happened in Mexico.

PR: Yes, “Las guerras floridas,” wars that were fought by the Aztecs without having to kill people, using non-lethal weapons like sticks and whips. It’s like the ancient version of paintball. In some ways, this tradition of symbolic violence has been replicated up to the present. The best example of it was the Zapatistas, who in 1994 had an uprising where they were carrying rifles made of sticks and wood. This proved to be a much more effective form of warfare because the media really caught onto the asymmetry between them and the Mexican army.

What I find fascinating is that, for the mind, a symbolic act has the same weight as a real act. So if you have a space where you can kill someone symbolically that might actually prevent you from having to go and kill that person in real life. This is the premise used by Antanas Mockus in Bogotá when he created the Vaccine against Violence.

RMO: Yes, but there has to be introspection, lucid intellect involved in the process. In other words, if the catharsis happens for its own sake, it reinforces the object of catharsis and empathy doesn’t occur. You have to have a lucid introspective intellectual involvement and say, this is one of my potentials in terms of my human development over this period of evolution over millions of years. There are new ways of reconciling, like you said, even beyond the notion of the paint guns. We can fence with words and language; we can argue. There’s a more civilized framework within which we can do all of this. So it’s not just simply a question of opening up an arena where everybody can run in and destroy pianos, furniture, and whatever else. There has to be some introspective insight that is more civil than people beating each other up. Because that’s the ancient brain, that’s the chimpanzee in us.

PR: Freud once said “the first man who said an insult instead of throwing a rock was the founder of civilization.” How did you start to organize your ideas around the idea of symbolic violence?

RMO: The whole organizing aesthetic framework for it came out of my MFA thesis around 1958, where I had to sit down and really think, “What am I doing?” I’d read a lot of anthropology, psychology, and sociology. I did special research into the ancient shamanic rituals - Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890) is one of my strong influences. They explain how some cultures moved away from the idea of needing more flesh and blood for reconciliation and instead end up simply cutting down a tree. Finally the notion of moving from killing a human being to killing a chicken is a radical leap, a kind of more civilized notion of redemption within that primitive cognitiveness. In my thesis I recognize that artists were spending all of their time within certain moral or ethical issues — issues of constructing things. But the real critical issue as I saw it was destruction. It seemed to be that kind of razor’s edge upon which civilization maintains balance.

Vaccine against
Violence

Therapist Report
Anastasia Bruelle, June 2012

Since the beginning of her stay in Kassel, Christina had problems sleeping. She had really bad nightmares every night. She changed her bed’s position so it pointed north, as some people suggested, but it didn’t really help. The first night she might have felt a little better because she thought the change would be helpful. It was sort of a placebo effect; it worked because she believed it would. But after that night the bad dreams recurred. She couldn’t get any rest, so she was looking for something that could help her and made the decision to do this therapy, just to try. She was well aware that therapy was a symbolic proposal, that it made no promises. She chose to play the game, to project her feelings and to fight against the dummy. I don’t remember what she drew on the balloon, but she popped it. Her nightmares didn’t come back.

Sophie came to ask for an appointment; she wanted to do therapy and told me that she had serious psychological problems. I laughed. She insisted and said that she was followed to the Sanatorium by a doctor and really needed to do a therapy. I changed the look on my face, becoming solemn, and asked her to wait for a therapist. During this time I began to reflect on the role of belief in this project. To what extent do people commit their level of belief? What had started as a joke to me became serious. I decided to do the Vaccine against Violence therapy with her. I explained the process and left her alone in the room. I was waiting outside. She started to scream, to talk to herself, and to beat the dummy. I heard the balloon pop and entered in the room with apprehension. Her eyes were full of tears and her whole body was shaking, especially her hands. Sophie looked very uncomfortable. She wanted to leave the room as soon as possible. I proposed a glass of water and asked her whom she had drawn on her balloon. It was her boss. He was the reason for her problems, so she killed him and left.

Dirck didn’t know what to draw. He found it very difficult to think about someone in a negative way and told me, “I don’t hate anybody.” I commented that it was true, to hate is a very strong negative feeling, but it could be someone who hurt you some time in the past. After thinking for three minutes, Dirck decided to put himself on his balloon. He told me that the face on the balloon represented his dark side. In front of the doll, he felt helpless. It was hard for him to make the decision to hit it, to hit himself. Eventually, he did it, feeling that he could only blame himself.

On her first day at Documenta, during the group therapy Frauke shared her feelings. She was frustrated because in the morning she had seen some violent art videos, and she felt disturbed by them all day. When the group therapy finished I diagnosed her and decided to propose the Vaccine. Frauke came in the room, saw the dummy, and started to feel afraid. I insisted on one thing: this therapy seems violent in the first stage of the reading but it’s important to start at a negative point, to go through the process and to finish on something positive. She blew up the balloon but didn’t know how to proceed. I told her to think about something abstract like an idea and to consider the balloon not like a head but like a round space where negativity is concentrated. She did, and after the therapy she felt much better. She commented that it would be preferable if the dummy didn’t look so human, with the figure of a person. It would be more open to abstract ideas.

Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

Something strange happened when we arrived in Kassel. We were accommodated in an ex-hospital that had still been functioning as a children’s hospital just two months before. The strange thing is that a very large number of students, including myself, had nightmares and slept restlessly. I had very violent, vivid nightmares every night. I remembered them in detail, dreams where I was killing people, dreams where I was killed. I woke up every morning with aches and pains from being so tense as I slept. Among the bizarre characters from my dreams was a friend I’d had a few years ago, to whom I no longer speak. I dreamed of her two or three times a week, and it was very disturbing. I was violent with her. I broke glass bottles on her head. I humiliated her and forced her to pick up the crumbs under the dinner table. Once she jumped on me, insulting me with hurtful remarks. The more she appeared in my dreams, the more I thought about and hated her during the day. I decided to do Vaccine against Violence. I had never directly tested this therapy, but I activated it as a therapist twice during the time I worked. I felt relatively comfortable with this therapy. I started the therapy as a participant, so I drew the friend’s face on the balloon. My therapist told me I should do what the ritual requires. So, plunged into darkness, I pushed her face into the ground and hit her. I made a final kick like in Quentin Tarantino’s film Death Proof. Then I took my pills and returned to work. She never came back to me.

Goodoo

 

In popular culture, the voodoo doll is a surrogate for an intended target of sorcery. This therapy is a positive iteration of this doll, thus called “Goodoo.” Here we take a generic cloth doll and personalize it using diverse materials. Think of a person for whom you would like to do good. Then choose five lucky charms or tokens that you will place on different parts of the Goodoo doll. Think about the meaning of the objects in relation to the body. For instance, a key on the head may mean that you wish for the person to open his or her mind or find a solution, while putting the key on the hand may mean the person will open doors, perhaps finding a new home or job. Objects have different meanings for each person, so you must do what feels right to you. Once you have selected and placed the five objects, your therapist will help you attach them to the doll, and at the end you will “switch on” each spot. Close your eyes and press each point, focusing your positive energy there. Imagine that every time you switch on these spots they will have an effect on the real person. Now the Goodoo doll is working. Take it with you. You can show it to the person for whom it was intended.

 

Goodoo

Number of participants

Individuals

Time

30 - 40 minutes

Space size

Minimum 2.50 x 2.50 m

Space requirements

This is a very intimate therapy where participants often cry. We have learned it is better if this space does not have windows where the participant can be seen by other people. If the room has windows they must have curtains that can be drawn. It is important that the table area is well lit.

Furniture

Shelves, table, two chairs

Props

Generic dolls made in advance, small objects or charms representing a wide range of meanings (see List of Charms for examples), sewing materials, superglue, wire, pliers

Therapist qualifications

Basic

Goodoo

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Show the participant the demo doll with examples.
  4. If needed, help the participant attach the objects to the doll. Make certain that each object is securely attached and will not fall off of the doll, using wire, pliers, or superglue as needed.
  5. Allow the participant to explain the meaning of the doll.
  6. Invite the participant to put a hand on the doll to fill it with good energy.
  7. Once finished remind them the Goodoo is always working.
  8. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  9. Blind visitors will need assistance choosing different materials (therapists should describe materials to them) and making a doll (therapists will need to do the gluing and sewing).
  10. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if accompanied by an interpreter to facilitate discussion with the therapists.
Participant Instructions
  1. Choose a Goodoo doll from the stack.
  2. Take a moment to think of someone for whom you would like to do good. It can be yourself.
  3. Choose five objects to decorate your Goodoo doll. Think about what they mean and where they belong on the doll’s body.
  4. Attach them securely to the doll. Make sure the doll is exactly as you want it to be.
  5. Explain the meaning of the items you have chosen.
  6. Press each point and concentrate on its meaning to “activate” it.
  7. When finished take the doll with you and remember: it’s always working.
    If at any moment you feel that the doll has lost its power, press the points again while focusing on the good they are doing. This will “ recharge” your doll.

Goodoo

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

The use of dolls — inanimate representations of human beings, animals or imaginary characters — is widespread, timeless and ageless. Dolls are found wherever people are present, and their use is not limited to children. When we are young, dolls are considered toys to be played with; they are babies we pretend to care for, puppets or figures we use to role-play, or companions in our daily activities. Adults use dolls in entirely different ways — often giving them new names in attempt to distinguish them from toys. We enshrine them as saints to be worshipped, we create displays of them in store windows, we burn them as effigies, we travel thousands of miles to kneel in front of them, and we put them in museums once the culture they belong to has become (or is close to becoming) extinct.

The Goodoo doll in this therapy draws on many different traditions of using dolls to express our desires for others, or perhaps for ourselves. The name “goodoo” is a play on the concept of the voodoo doll as it has been portrayed in popular culture over the past century. Here it is important to note that Goodoo uses dolls and charms for their symbolic significance and does not contend that they are anything more. It references the great power of dolls and symbols considered sacred in many religious traditions, with no intent to disparage these traditions, which are excellent examples of the power of symbols as places of pilgrimage. Here we are “casting a spell” on the person the doll represents, drawing on examples of this kind of sorcery from all over the world, from ancient Africa to medieval Europe to the United States in the twentieth century.

Wherever they are practiced, the power of these spells lies in induced autosuggestions, a phenomenon suggesting that when a person is repeatedly told a statement, either by someone else or by that person himself, regardless of its accuracy he begins to believe it. An example would be if someone is repeatedly told that she is clumsy, eventually she begins to knock things over. If someone who is insecure repeats to himself that he is worthy of love and affection, he is more likely to overcome self-doubt. For a spell to have power, its object must be aware of the spell as well as its intention. This is why we encourage visitors to show their dolls to the objects of their Goodoo, but often the process of the therapy itself is enough to create reconciliation within the person present, as is evident in the therapist report from Tereneh Mosely, found in the following pages.

The origins of the symbols are found in the popular tradition of milagritos in Mexico and Latin America. These are small metal charms, often in the form of body parts, that practitioners pin to a wooden object such as a cross or to the robe of a saint to whom they pray. The charms represent a specific desire or petition: a charm in the shape of a leg could refer to a prayer to help someone recover from an injury. A pair of eyes might represent a prayer to heal someone’s eyesight, or it might refer to a wish for a saint to watch over him. The intention of the charm is defined by each person. Just as in the Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes, the objects uncover mental associations that otherwise would remain hidden; for this reason the therapy must offer a wide variety of charms, tokens, miniature toys, and decorations to choose from. As the intent is always to cause good, these objects should be selected to trigger positive associations. For instance, figures such as guns or flies should be avoided. The Goodoo doll is a virtual body that stands for someone in the real world who might be known or unknown to the visitor. Some visitors choose to make dolls for themselves.

The many possibilities of the virtual body are exemplified by a visitor who wanted her Goodoo doll to represent all of humanity. She pinned to the doll her wishes for every person in the world. She placed an elephant on the doll’s shoulder, calling to mind both the strength of the animal itself and the need for us to be strong to shoulder heavy burdens. A light bulb was a crown on the doll’s head for enlightenment. A shaft of wheat on the belly stood for her desire for everyone to have enough food to eat.

The last step in the therapy, the “switching on” of the points, recalls the healing practice of the “laying on of hands” in many religions and forms of alternative treatment, in which placing the hands on different parts of the body is believed to allow the healer to channel the flow of energy to cure illness and address emotional traumas. So we perform a sort of acupressure on the virtual body to complete the therapy.

LIST OF CHARMS

Broom Mug Flowerpot Watering can Mirror Humming bird Sun Moon Virgin Pigeon Cross Arm Hand Foot Leg Shell Light bulb Bell Star Key Plate of food White dove Baby’s bottle Book Lollipop Bible Large bottle Mask Candy Palm fan Wheat Corn Garlic Egg Onion Bread Basket Eyes Glass bottle Stone Candle Comb Tree trunk Coffee cup Heart Elephant Airplane Sheep Flower Pig Shoe Pliers Scissors Hammer Jug Potato masher Sieve Pestle and mortar Cheese grater Bucket Doughnut Medal Saint Judas Skull Scrubbing brush Coin Jewel Popsicle Wicker basket Bird cage

Goodoo

Therapist Report
Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

On my second day at the Sanatorium, I was at reception when a Danish woman in her fifties came in with an appointment to make a Goodoo doll. I began the therapy, explaining she had to choose a doll and five small objects to sew to it. She sat in front of me, listening intently. When I asked whom her doll represented, she said it was her son. Right then she began to cry very hard, which worried me and made me want to cry, too. I wanted to do something, to hug her, but that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I was afraid of what she would tell me.

Eight minutes later she had chosen her five objects. They were:

  • – A white plastic dove
  • – A small toy cowboy
  • – A seashell
  • – A wooden cross
  • – A sun

I was terrified; the combination of the cross and the dove frightened me. I feared this woman would tell me her Goodoo was for her child who died. As she continued to cry I explained that she should find a place on the doll’s body for each object. We’d sew the objects on to “switch on” those magic points. This meant she must concentrate and think quietly, and I said I’d leave her alone for this time. When she called me back ten minutes later she was still crying, but she had started to regain her composure. I was still scared but I tried to have an encouraging attitude, despite my anxiety. Timidly she began, “He is nineteen years old…” Then I breathed easier because her child wasn’t dead. She began with the belly, where she placed the cowboy. I held the doll while she sewed. She said, “When he was a child, we did not know how to manage his hyperactivity. He was difficult and agitated, and he fought all the time. One day walking home from the park with his sister and father, we saw a carousel. These rides are very expensive, but of course my son wanted a ride. He became unbearable, crying and making a scene. Nearby, a disabled child was having the same kind of tantrum. My son grew even more difficult, and my husband ended up taking out his wallet. Right then, our son calmed down and looked around him. He realized the other child was crying for a ride, too. My son was little, between nine and ten years old, but he was affected by the other boy. When his father gave him a coin, he took it and gave it to the little boy, so he could ride instead. I chose the cowboy because of this story, to remind me that underneath all his angry behavior, my son is good.”

She placed the dove on the doll’s heart and continued, “I chose the dove on the heart so my son can feel freer. Six years ago I left my husband. Our marriage wasn’t working at all anymore and we argued about everything. We often fought about the violent video games my husband gave my son, which I couldn’t stand. When my husband and I separated, my son felt responsible for our arguments. The dove is for him to know it was not his fault.”

We sewed the sun on the doll’s chest: “The sun is to make him strong and healthy.”

The seashell went between his legs, and she explained, “The seashell is so that my son can live his life as a man, as he wants. He is leaving home to live with his girlfriend. I want him to be happy with this. I hope she will take good care of him, too.”

Last, she placed the cross on the doll’s head, saying, “The cross is for him to be protected. I would like to still protect him like a little boy, but he is leaving me, and I can’t look after him like before.”

The woman was dazed as she ended her Goodoo. She had let it all out. I was moved, too, but I stayed attentive and discrete throughout, despite her tears and outbreaks. As she walked to the exit with her doll, she thanked me a thousand times. One of the other therapists who watched me walk her out told me later, “It was like she was going to kiss you on the mouth!”

The day we closed the Sanatorium, I did a Goodoo. I opted to do it for myself. I put a coin on the right foot for financial stability and protection from want. On the right hand, a black fist for power, success, and perseverance. On the left hand, a white fist for strength of mind, intelligence, stability, and peace. On the heart, a golden eagle for charisma, on the shoulder, a daisy for youth as an ally. My head had a bell, for music, joy, good ideas, and laughing. That evening there was a party to celebrate the end of Documenta. I left my bag with my doll in it in a corner, and the next morning I realized my doll was gone. I left it in Kassel and went home without it. Maybe she wanted to stay in Kassel.

TERENEH MOSELY

A woman came for the Goodoo therapy. I had been asking people about whom the doll is for and what the charms symbolize. They could talk about this while they were putting the doll together or wait until after they finished. She decided to wait until it was done, when she finished she said, “This doll is for my mother, my birth mother, whom I’ve never met and whom I don’t know. I don’t know where she is. I don’t know if she’s still alive.”

That changed everything in my mind, but I just listened to what she said and she went on to start describing the different charms. The first charm she described as the Madonna, a medallion that she put on the womb as the symbol of motherhood and giving birth. The second charm was a key on the doll’s hand, because the woman was starting the process of trying to find her birth mother. As her birth mother had to be willing to be found, she felt that her mother had the key to reunite mother and daughter. Then she put the dove on the heart because she hoped that her mother was at peace with the decision that she made to give her daughter up for adoption. And then she put the wheat on the arm as a symbol of home. Even though she didn’t feel like she had a home, this was the symbol of home she carried with her. She put the skeleton as a necklace, as a charm, because she said she read that parents who give up a child for adoption feel like the child dies or that there is a death of their parenthood.

The last thing she explained was the mirror [on the face] because the only reflection she had of her mother was her own face, and she may actually resemble her mother.

As she described this I actually started crying because I’m estranged from my mother. I feel like I lost my mother and that my mother gave me up because she was very physically and emotionally abusive to me. So I was feeling very connected to this doll because it was something that I wouldn’t have done; I would not have made my mother a doll. But then I realized that this doll was partly mine in a way.

As we finished the client got up and left the doll at the table. I said, “Wait, this is your doll. Everybody is taking their dolls.” She said, “I don’t think I want the doll.” So I said she could leave it here and if she changed her mind she could come back and get it. She went to try out the other therapies, and I watched her out of the corner of my eye. I also wrote down what the doll’s symbols were in case the doll got left and no one knew what it meant. But as the time went by, I realized that I didn’t want her to come back for the doll, because that is the doll that I should be making for my mother. I felt like this woman made the doll for me and for my mom, and for herself and her mom, because in some way we both lost our mothers. She was actually brave enough to make this doll, and so in leaving it she left it for me, because it’s something that I needed.

She didn’t come back for the doll. Now I have it and it’s something that’s good for me to have, I think. It’s the first time since I was abused as a child that I’ve ever really, truly thought of giving something positive back to my mom. I always think of her in either neutral or negative terms, so this has been part of my own healing.

Citileaks

 

In this activity, the therapist asks you to think of a secret. The therapist will cover his or her eyes while you write your confession on a piece of paper. It is very important that you omit personal names or details that could jeopardize your reputation or anyone else’s. Once finished, roll the paper up and use a string to fasten it shut, leaving one end of the string about forty centimeters long. Place the roll inside one of the glass bottles, keeping the long end of the string outside of the bottle. Lastly, place a cork in the bottle and your bottle into the tub.

In exchange for writing your secret, you are given the chance to read someone else’s. Pick one bottle, remove its secret, and read it.

 

Citileaks

 
Number of participants

One to five people

Time

15 - 20 minutes

Space size

3 x 4 m

Space requirements

Basic

Furniture

Shelves, table, five chairs

Props

Empty glass wine bottles, tub, paper, pens, string

Therapist qualifications

Basic

 

Citileaks

 
Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Ask the participant to think of a secret.
  4. Cover your eyes while the participant writes down the secret.
  5. If this therapy is to be offered to children or visitors under the age of sixteen, it is important to provide a separate area or “zone” of bottles containing only the confessions of young people. Care must be taken to ensure that no child visitors read the confessions of adults.
  6. This therapy is not recommended for blind visitors.
  7. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if written instructions are provided.
Participant Instructions
  1. Write down a secret on a piece of paper.
  2. Roll it up, place it in a glass bottle, and put it in the tub of water.
  3. Take another bottle from the tub and read the secret from the bottle.
 

Citileaks

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

Citileaks is a cathartic procedure. The root of the word “catharsis” means “purification” in Greek: to expel a toxic substance from the body. In our daily lives we experience a number of toxic interactions; they leave certain traumas that are part of our autobiography, but we hide them in order to fit in. So the act of confession relieves us of the burden of carrying these secrets. This is different from the tradition of confession in Catholicism and from that found in psychoanalysis. Here the process is done in absolute anonymity. Literally, it’s a message in a bottle. What I find fascinating is that it is a mix of extreme anonymity and extreme intimacy. You are requested to write your most intimate secret, something you don’t tell even your best friend. This honesty is sought after at the Sanatorium as a place for encounter. There may be better opportunities to open up with total strangers than with people you know, precisely because you are free from the pressure of the group.

Another element in Citileaks is non-commercial exchange; there is a price, but it is not money. You can only read someone’s secret if you’ve previously paid the price, which is to write one yourself. I am very interested in accountability, in having precise means to measure participation. In a way, this is very similar to Web 2.0 or anything that is based on user-generated content, but it also goes beyond the mere number of exchanges. There is an element of reconciliation.

When I interviewed Alejandro Jodorowsky (see page 197) he mentioned something that is crucial here. He says that actually there is no “someone else,” that there is no “other”: “The other is a disguise of yours, and you are a disguise of theirs.” So in our interaction with others we are actually looking for ways to reconcile with ourselves, and according to Jodorowsky, “There are people that awaken your consciousness and people that close it, that steal it from you.”1 The confession aims to make connections among the individual experiences of catharsis. The catharsis felt by the person who wrote the secret you later read will create its own echo in you. When in Citileaks we say, “We care about the sin, not the sinner,” it produces a certain pleasure, too, not so dissimilar from the pleasure that we take in gossip. Gossip is a guilty pleasure because we are talking behind the back of someone we know. Why do we like to gossip? It gives us a certain feeling of relief when we comment about someone else’s failure, because seeing someone else fail relieves the pressure and fear we have of failing. Yet the secrets in Citileaks have been inoculated. There is no risk because no one knows who is confessing, and the pleasure doesn’t have to be guilty. Paradoxically, it creates a place where we can let down our façades of confidence and be vulnerable.

Citileaks

Therapist Report
Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

One day, a French couple came for Citileaks. They each wrote a secret while I was blindfolded and they thought it was great fun. Their bottles contained two rather amusing secrets. The first told of a man’s shame from when he was caught stealing candy as a little boy. The other was the confession of an au pair at a large house in England. One evening, taking advantage of the owners’ absence, she invited over the neighborhood drug dealers. She said she drank, used drugs, and had sex with them. The French couple was surprised and entertained, asking lots of questions and discussing the principle of patient empowerment. They were so excited that I suggested they exchange other secrets, which they did. I put on my blindfold and when I removed it the woman had not folded her secret. It was written very big and red and I read it by reflex. She didn’t hide it; she just folded it while saying it was a lie. After that we spoke about the act of lying. With Citileaks, we agreed that lying didn’t matter; it was the same as if you didn’t lie. Your contribution on paper had the same impact as if you told the truth. Still, I didn’t see what would be interesting about lying. The secrets could not be traced - there was no reason to be afraid. What was interesting was observing people’s level of shame. If you didn’t want to tell too big a secret, you could tell a little one, like “I stole candy.” After this conversation the French couple left.

More than a week later an older woman came to reception, insisting on having therapy. I had fifteen minutes to spare, so I offered her Citileaks and she agreed. While I was blindfolded she took five minutes, a rather long time, to write her secret. When she said, “Finished,” she had already rolled her secret up well. I put it in the bottle and took another bottle from the basin. As she gently unfolded the secret inside, I realized she had the lie of the French woman: “I WOULD LIKE TO KILL MY MOTHER,” a big lie written in red. She grew mysterious as she held it. She said, “It’s funny and ironic to get this one. I hesitated initially when I wrote my secret. I wanted to write this same thing, but finally I found something else.”

One evening I spoke with Daniel, an art student in Kassel, about the Sanatorium. He told me he wanted to do Citileaks, but he hadn’t come because he didn’t know what secret to choose. He had too many. He said it was the first time a work of art made him think in advance of experiencing it.

Ex-Voto

 

Ex-votos are devotional objects from the past that can be found in churches and chapels where worshippers wished to give thanks for an event they considered miraculous. Though ex-votos take a wide variety of forms, they always include a text and an illustration describing someone’s recovery from an ailment, rescue from danger, moment of joy, etc. We may consider them a sort of prayer.

There are two common kinds of prayers. The first is a petition, when we ask for something. This is probably the most typical prayer, for we often live with a sense of dissatisfaction, feeling that something is missing from our lives. The second kind of prayer is an expression of gratitude. It’s easy to lose sight of all that we have. Assessing our lives to look for what we have to be grateful for is a powerful way to acknowledge the good around us.

This therapy requires you to think of a special moment for which you feel grateful. Perhaps you got over an illness, survived an accident, got an unexpected promotion, or found the love of your life. Making an Ex-voto is an opportunity to express your appreciation for this. Tell your therapist what happened and illustrate the scene with a painting or collage.

 

Ex-Voto

 
Number of participants

Individuals

Time

30 minutes

Space size

2 × 2.50 m

Space requirements

The ex-votos are to be hung on the wall, so there must be a space where the paintings can be tacked or nailed. The space must be well lit.

Furniture

Two chairs, a desk or drawing table

Props

Cardboard, paint, brushes, pens, pencils, paper (colored and white), thumbtacks, newspapers, scissors, glue, tape

Therapist qualifications

Basic, although it is preferable if the therapist has basic drawing or painting skills

 

Ex-Voto

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participants.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Listen to story of what the participant is grateful for. Draw or paint a picture to depict it. If preferred, therapists can make collages with colored paper to represent the story.
  4. When finished, help the participant hang the Ex-voto on the wall.
  5. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  6. Not recommended for blind visitors.
  7. Not recommended for deaf visitors unless accompanied by an interpreter.
Participant Instructions
  1. Take a moment to think about an event in which you experienced gratitude. Write down a brief description of what happened.
  2. A resident painter will paint your story or make a collage to illustrate it.
  3. When the painting is finished, the painter will help you choose a place on the wall of the room to hang the painting along with your written description.

Ex-Voto

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

I once read a Jewish story by a famous mystic rabbi; I’d like to cite his name here, but I seem to have lost the book. The story, however, has stayed with me. The rabbi said that when we complain about our problems to God, he can respond by sending us more trials and difficulties to make us realize that we didn’t have much to complain about before. And conversely, that when we give thanks for our blessings, he will send us even more blessings to show us how much more he has to give us.

This story outlines two basic kinds of prayer. One is to ask and the other is to thank. In the context of psychology, therapy often leans towards the first kind as a space for airing our disatisfactions rather than our contentment. The general assumption is that if you are happy you don’t need to go to therapy. In this activity you’ll find yourself placed in a state of happiness by recalling concrete events for which you are grateful.

This idea is at work behind the Ex-voto therapy. Part of the effect that the rabbi describes has to do with how we perceive what is around us. When we focus on our problems and complaints, we are more likely to notice things that we have to complain about. Ex-voto is about making ourselves aware of what we have to be thankful for, an exercise that can in turn open our eyes to other good things in our lives.

Ex-votos are commonly found throughout Latin America; they are a tradition with European origins that blended with indigenous systems of votive offerings in Mexico and Central America. A worshipper would go to a painter and tell him a story of a “miracle” for which he felt gratitude: the healing of an injury, salvation from an accident, a marriage, etc. The painter would depict the stories in full color, painted on a piece of wood or tin, and the worshipper would bring the painting to the church or saint’s chapel as an offering of thanks.

Wherever the Ex-voto takes place, the walls will start to fill up with other prayers of gratitude. It is not a chapel, but it will become some sort of sanctuary full of the happiness of others.

Ex-Voto

THERAPIST REPORT
Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

I remember two Ex-voto anecdotes. The first is a about a fifty-year-old woman who came with her very young son. I suggested that the child could also do an Ex-voto; he could draw while I wrote his story, and meanwhile his mother could write her story so we can do a regular Ex-voto.

The child tells me he has been camping for a week in the countryside with his mother. They rode horses and roasted marshmallows. He drew a horse and colored it with watercolors.

His mother took a moment to write her story, so I left her alone in the room for a few minutes. I preferred to leave the participants alone with themselves when they needed to think and find the best story.

When I came back she read what she had written. She had always been alone in her life and had had a very sad childhood and youth. She lost her mother when she was a child; her father remarried and was completely absent; she grew up in the care of people she did not really know and she never saw them again. Her older brother, who was much older, had disappeared.

She did her Ex-voto to thank the energy that she had found, rather late, to live her life. She had a child by herself and now lives in Kassel with her friends. Telling me this she shed a few tears that she cried for happiness. I drew a flying carpet. She left, satisfied with the drawing.

The second Ex-voto participant I remember made the appointment for the therapy but did not really know what Ex-voto was. He had already come to the Sanatorium the day before and did Philosophical Casino. When I explained that he was to share a happy event of which he has good memories, he looked strange. He did not expect that. I left him alone for ten minutes and then he called me. He wrote in German, but I read in French. He said, 102 / 103 Ex-voto “Eight years ago I visited an empty workspace in Paris. I told myself that if I had the opportunity to have a space like that, I would be the happiest man in the world. I was finally able to occupy this space and it became an artist’s squat, ‘The C’, where we showed dance, music, performances, and exhibitions.”

Fascinated by this story, I wondered aloud what was going on there now. The man’s eyes went dull and he told me that “The C” had burned down two years before. He lost everything. This was a beautiful story that ended badly. This man found himself by chance doing an Ex-voto, and it allowed him to view the drama of his life from a different angle. He just had to cut out the tragic part, leaving only what the beauty and magic. The Ex-voto, a multicolored collage of his text, represented the happy part.

NOTE FROM PEDRO REYES

We can take an unpleasant event in our past and begin to change details in order to turn the bad memory into a good one. As George Gurdjieff said, “A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering,” so it’s not easy for some to let go of their bad memories.1 However, Milton Erickson would heal some patient memories under hypnosis, for example, a man who resented the absence of his father during his childhood, especially when the father failed to attend a baseball game he’d played in. Under hypnosis Erickson would take him back to the day of the game, and he would point to the audience, showing the man that the father was actually there, then taking the father’s role in cheering for the son. Coming out of hypnosis, the man would have a completely different memory of the event.2

1 P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, 1949).
2 Milton Erickson, MindBody Communication in Hypnosis, Vol. 3, Ed. Ernest Rossi, Margaret Ryan (NewYork: Irvington Publishers, 1986).

Compatibility Test
for Couples

 

The objective of this therapy is to discover one person’s compatibility with another. To test this, couples can take part in this experiment, in which they choose fruit to represent themselves and their partner and then make juice from their selections.

 

Compatibility Test
for Couples

 
Number of participants

Individuals or couples

Time

20 minutes

Space size

3 × 3 m

Space requirements

It is very important to have a sink, as the blender and utensils must be washed often. If the Sanatorium is installed for a short period, it may be possible to use a space that has a nearby kitchen or bathroom. However, it is preferable for this space to have its own sink.

Furniture

Table, chairs

Props

Variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, blender or juice extractor, cutting board, knife, drinking glasses, cleaning supplies

Basic

 

Compatibility Test
for Couples

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participants.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. If the participant is on her own, have her select the fruit or vegetable that best represents her. Then ask her to choose the one that best represents her partner. Encourage her to explain her choices of the two fruits or veggies.
  4. If there are two participants, have each of them select the fruit they identify with, as well as the fruit they identify with their partners. Encourage them to explain their choices; they will choose a total of four fruits or veggies.
  5. Slice the produce and blend it to make juice. Couples may decide to make one juice for each person based on the individual selections, or they may combine their four fruits into one juice. Have the participants taste the juice or juices and judge their compatibility accordingly.
  6. Before making juice ensure that fruits and vegetables, as well as juicing equipment, are washed.
  7. Keep the juice station clean and wash the blender thoroughly after each use.
  8. This therapy is appropriate for children (families) as participants.
  9. This therapy is appropriate for blind visitors.
  10. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if provided with written instructions.
  11. If someone who is single wishes to do this therapy, suggest that he chose another relationship in his life to test: a family member, a friend, or a co-worker.
Participant Instructions
  1. Choose the fruit or vegetable with which you most identify.
  2. Choose the fruit or vegetable with which you most identify your partner.
  3. If your partner is present he or she will also choose the fruits or vegetables that represent you both.
  4. Cut slices from your fruits or vegetables and blend them to make juice.
  5. You can make two separate juices from each of your selections or mix all the juices together into one.
  6. Judge your compatibility as a couple by the juice blend’s taste.

Compatibility Test
for Couples

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

In the late 1940s and early ’50s, poets in Chile wanted to take poetry beyond the pages of a book. Vicente Huidobro, not satisfied with the mere act of writing lines such as “Why do you sing about the rose, oh poet! Make it grow in the poem,” covered the floors of the rooms in his house with soil and planted a hundred rose bushes. Another pair of poets decided to walk through the city in a straight line; no matter what obstacles they encountered, they found a way to advance: climbing over trees, jumping walls, ringing doorbells, and passing through people’s homes with as little explanation as possible. Another similar act involved a poet’s decision that money could be transformed and his subsequent act of offering boiled shrimp instead of cash to pay bills (this plays on Chilean slang for money). A bus driver was so surprised he simply accepted the shrimp and let the poet ride.

Called actos poéticos (poetic acts) these actions showed the unpredictable nature of reality and challenged these poets to think in metaphors not only in their writing but in their actions. Alejandro Jodorowsky, one of the Chilean poets who developed the concept of poetic acts, says that these actions intuitively led him to discover that the unconscious accepts metaphorical acts as real ones. For instance, walking through a city in a straight line without allowing obstacles to make him change course helped his mind to learn how to overcome challenges by incorporating them into his art.1

In this activity, choosing a fruit as a metaphor for yourself and for your partner is the first step; the second is to mix them together. Carl Jung said that relationships are like chemistry: if two substances make a reaction, both are transformed. Blending the fruits and/or vegetables you’ve selected lets you experience the reaction and the transformation.

Ex-votos are commonly found throughout Latin America; they are a tradition with European origins that blended with indigenous systems of votive offerings in Mexico and Central America. A worshipper would go to a painter and tell him a story of a “miracle” for which he felt gratitude: the healing of an injury, salvation from an accident, a marriage, etc. The painter would depict the stories in full color, painted on a piece of wood or tin, and the worshipper would bring the painting to the church or saint’s chapel as an offering of thanks.

Wherever the Ex-voto takes place, the walls will start to fill up with other prayers of gratitude. It is not a chapel, but it will become some sort of sanctuary full of the happiness of others.

Compatibility Test
for Couples

THERAPIST REPORT
Gloria Maso, August 2012

We appreciated having fresh fruit at the Sanatorium every day; it was a great source of vitamins and happiness on rainy days. I enjoyed doing the Compatibility Test with families, who were thrilled to get their children interested in contemporary art.

I kept a few recipes from the compatibility test:

A family of two artists and a cucumber-loving four year old: Apple, ginger, pear, strawberry, cantalope, and a cucumber slice

Characteristics: Sweet, refreshing, pleasant, conventional, sensitive, considerate

Suggestion: Needs vodka

Two photographers: Apricot, radish, mint, yellow bell pepper

Characteristics: Fresh, confusing, undefined. Would make a wonderful gazpacho, chunky salsa, or salad.

Suggestion: Needs ginger, hot pepper, or orange juice

Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

The Compatibility Test for Couples is for me the most obscure part of the Sanatorium.

This story of lovers choosing fruit seemed to me the most interesting when an older couple came to the test. They said funny things like: “I choose the apple for you because it’s a classic. You are not eccentric; you are someone safe and I count on you because you are healthy and stable. You are always tempting and beautiful.”

Once a young couple chose only lemons and a green apple. The juice blend was completely undrinkable, but they drank it all. They liked it and were delighted. This therapy is good for forcing couples to remember that they are in love.

Mudras

 

Mudras are a symbolic gesture involving the body; most are performed with the fingers and hands. Often employed in the iconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions, they are used to guide the flow of energy in the body and to the brain. Research has demonstrated that hand gestures stimulate the same regions of the brain as language. In this therapy you will be taught several mudras that you may find useful. After practicing these, you will invent some mudras of your own. Think of an issue that you would like to address, visualize how to improve or change it, and translate what you see and feel into a gesture using your hands. Incorporate other parts of your body if you’d like. Share your new mudra with the group and practice it together.

 

Mudras

 
Number of participants

Up to ten (can be more if desired)

Time

30 minutes

Space size

Minimum 3 x 3 m

Space requirements

This activity is conducted with participants sitting in chairs, forming a circle. Since it is a meditation, a quiet environment is recommended

 

Mudras

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participants.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Demonstrate some mudras, then ask participants to practice them with you.
  4. The therapist will introduce the second part of the therapy, saying for example, “I’m going to show you a new mudra I’ve invented. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping and I want to create a mudra that will help me find deep rest.” Then he will show a mudra that relates to sleep, or to another example.
  5. The therapist will say to the person to his left, “Is there anything that you would like to improve about your life right now?” After the participant responds, the therapist will say, “How would you translate that into a mudra or a hand gesture?” If needed, participants can use something other than their hands.
  6. Each person in the group will be asked to make her own mudra and teach it to the group. The whole group imitates the mudra before moving to the next person.
  7. In this therapy, the second part in which participants invent their own mudras is very easy for everyone to access. However the first part requires some practice for the audience, for which reason it is recommended that therapists rehearse in order to project their knowledge of the mudras.
  8. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  9. This therapy is appropriate for blind visitors if accompanied by someone to assist them. It is preferable to have blind visitors participate in small group settings.
  10. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if accompanied by interpreters.
Participant Instructions
  1. Work with the therapist and other members of the group to practice mudras together.
  2. After you have practiced the mudras, you will be asked to create your own.
  3. When you have finished show your new mudra to the rest of the group. Teach it to them and practice the mudras they have invented.
  4. Thank your group members for sharing their mudras.

Mudras

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

Our mind is in constant flow. We frequently swing from one mood to another. One idea behind this activity is to give physical form to a particular thought or feeling, in order to make it easy to return to it later. By focusing on the feeling or mental state that you would like to achieve and translating it into a gesture using your hands, fingers, or other parts of your body, the brain must visualize what it desires and manifest it with the physical motion. By repeating the motion and continuing the visualization, the aim is to “fix” the gesture as a pathway to this desired state, creating a meditative shortcut to help us access this feeling or thought when we find our moods changing or our minds preoccupied.

The group aspect of this therapy is critical. Participants sit in a circle to give the activity a horizontal structure in which everyone participates. After practicing the traditional mudras, the therapist begins the process of inventing and sharing the personal mudras. It is important that she be the first to disclose her own desire in order to help the group warm up to the activity. The sharing and practicing of each participant’s mudras is an exercise of our mirror neurons, a neural mechanism that enables individuals to understand the meaning behind movements made by others—the intentions and emotions that drive others’ actions. It does so through activating the individual’s own internal representations coding those movements. That makes the other’s movements easier for the individual to physically imitate, and also produces in the individual an imitation of the emotion the other felt while moving.1

When we are children, mirror neurons help us to learn by observing what our parents and other people around us do—walking, talking, eating, getting dressed, etc. As we grow up, our mirror neurons let us develop empathy, our ability to relate to the feelings of other people. So the activity of listening to each group member’s desire and practicing the mudra he invents leads us to exercise our empathy as well as to consider our own relationships to the desire he expresses.

I discussed the phenomenon of mirror neurons with neurologist and Sanatorium advisor Dr. Alice W. Flaherty. An excerpt of the conversation follows.

Pedro Reyes: It’s an interesting point that some contexts make changes easier than others, to the degree that sometimes you have to change your context for the personal change to take place.

Dr. Alice Flaherty: Yes. Willpower is typically a weak force, but it is usually strong enough that it can get us to an environment that can make us do things. Often what is most helpful is when that environment already has a lot of people doing what we are trying to do, like going to the library when you’re going to study, right? Your mirror neurons respond to the sight of those rows of heads bending over their book, and it’s easier to keep your own head bent on your task. I can’t study in the kitchen. My willpower is sort of worthless there.

PR: What is that phenomenon called where you start with an action that then produces a feeling?

AF: Like when you imitate crying, it makes you feel sad? Your action changes your brain’s physical environment in a way. From your mind’s point of view your body is a part of the environment, and if the body is making a sad face that is evidence to the brain that something is sad.

PR: Tell me about the “wiring” that makes that happen. Actors do this; they have command of their feelings through gestures as a feedback loop.

AF: The mirror neurons are involved, though there are other systems too. Mirror neurons give us a bit of an urge to imitate actions we see others make. We tend to dismiss the urge to imitate other people as really primitive. But it’s produced by high level brain areas and is very important for learning. Although we say “monkey see, monkey do” because chimps imitate more than other species do, kids imitate way more than chimps do. They need to. Learning by example is much more efficient than trial and error learning. Mirror neurons are essential for learning language. When the mirror neuron system doesn’t work well, it’s very hard for babies to learn speech That is a problem in autism. Autistic babies’ mirror neurons are underactive, and they don’t imitate their parents’ speech sounds. They don’t babble. For the average baby, if you go, “goo goo gah gah,” it says “goo goo gah gah,” When their mother sweeps the floor, autistic kids don’t pretend to sweep the floor. They don’t have imaginative play. And they have trouble imagining what other people are feeling because they never pretend to be other people.

PR: Like Albert Bandura’s idea of Modeling Behavior and the Bobo Doll Experiment. It’s this classic experiment from behavioral psychology where a kid is shown a movie with an adult hitting a doll. Then he is left alone in a room with the same doll. The kids that saw the movie hit the doll and even invented new ways to harm the doll, while the kids that didn’t see the movie hugged the doll.2

AF: Yes, mirror neurons can make bad emotions contagious too, not just make everyone more sympathetic. Doctors use the word very narrowly; they mostly talk of feeling another person’s pain. In fact, empathy was originally an art criticism term (Einfühlungsvermögen). It meant the experience of seeing a view from the perspective of a figure in a painting, an imaginary character. When doctors took the word “empathy” out of the world of the imagination and into the real world, things got visceral. Our brains have images of our bodies, but the image is made with nerve bodies, not paint or pixels. Mirror neurons put another person’s body map into your brain, on top of your body map. That changes your brain and also your body. If you watch somebody being injected with a needle, most normal people tense up the same muscle that is getting needled in the patient. Your body is physically changed by what that person is going through. It’s kind of cool that there is a visceral way that people’s selves merge to some extent.

PR: I think this is extremely relevant regarding change. To improve human relationships, which are often thought to have been motivated by honest and pure intentions…

AF: Honest desired exchange. You believe that, yes.

PR: No, it’s the opposite. It’s more about the basis of action. Modeling our behavior on another person lets us work on actions previous to the belief and adopt a habit even if it hasn’t been internalized yet … to do the right thing even if you don’t feel like it. This is the reason why manners and etiquette were invented; the form sometimes may precede the content.

AF: “Fake it until you make it,” as they say, though that’s a snarky way to describe such an important process. Some of your collective rituals change people that way. The Sanatorium mudras do. And your Palas por Pistolas (Guns for shovels, 2008) project in different cities. Even if I didn’t have a strong urge to melt down my boyfriend’s guns, but all my women friends are getting rid of their husbands’ guns, I’m more likely to want to do it. Then once I’ve done it, I can start to feel pleased that I have done this good, life-affirming thing. That’s what makes a community; empathy for good emotions can be as contagious as bad ones. Actually, more contagious. A researcher named Nicholas Christakis showed that people are more likely to “catch” happiness from contact with happy people than they are to catch sadness from contact with sad people. So in your Pistolas project, when you organize the tree planting and you get all these people together doing the same thing, it’s an important force that not only every individual person does this, but 1,500 people are doing it together. I think it’s great that this supposedly low urge to imitate can really be so powerfully elevating.

1 Giacomo Rizolatti and Laila Craighero, “Mirror Neuron: a Neurological Approach to Empathy,” Neurobiology of Human Values, eds. J.P.Changeaux, A.R. Damasio, W. Singer, Y. Christen (Berlin: Springer, 2005), 107.
2 Albert Bandura, “The Role of Imitation in Personality Development,” Journal of Nursery Education 18 no. 3, April 1963).

Mudras

Casino

 

Philosophical Casino works like an oracle. You will be assigned to a group. Each person in your group will write down three questions. The questions will be put in a box. You will find a series of dice, each of which features a philosophical quote on each side from one of five categories: Greek, Far East, Renaissance, Nineteenth Century Philosophy in German, and Mid-Twentieth Century Philosophers. Your therapist will ask the group to select one die to roll to give an answer to the question she pulls from the box. How does the quote that comes up shed light on your question?

 

Casino

 
Number of participants

Small groups of three to five people

Time

30 - 40 minutes

Space size

Minimum 3 x 6 m, ideal 4 x 8 m

Space requirements

Carpeted floor with some kind of padding to absorb the impact of the dice

Furniture

Table, chairs according to number of participants

Props

Five oversized fiberglass dice featuring selected quotes silkscreened on each side, notecards, pens or pencils, a box to collect questions

Therapist qualifications

Basic

 

Casino

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participants.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Ask the participants to write down their questions.
  4. Have the participants place their questions in the box and select one to ask the die.
  5. Have the participants select the die they will use, ask the question and roll the die.
  6. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  7. This therapy is appropriate for blind and deaf visitors with adequate assistance.
Participant Instructions
  1. You may ask any of these oracles one question, with a maximum of five questions total.
  2. Think of your questions. Write them down on the cards provided by your therapist and place your questions in the box near the oracles.
  3. If your question involves names that should remain secret, use X or Y in your question to stand for the names.
  4. Spin the die and read the philosophical quote on the side that lands upright. How does it apply to your question?
  5. Your questions are anonymous; they are collected solely for statistic purposes.
  6. Not recommended for blind visitors.
  7. Not recommended for deaf visitors unless accompanied by an interpreter.
  8. Therapists will need to roll the die for visitors with limited mobility.

Casino

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

An oracle prepares your mind to assign special weight to a text or a symbol. One mundane example is horoscopes; even if you find them corny, you pay special attention to your own sign and read the horoscopes of other signs according to the people in your life. The same applies to other oracles, from the I Ching to fortune cookies.

In the Philosophical Casino, the quotes on the dice are selected to be epigrams, maxims, and sentences that are universally useful and can shed light on most situations that may come up. They are particles of wisdom - a term that seems to be out of fashion, as we’ve moved from valuing wisdom to valuing knowledge and then from knowledge to information. But we must continue to seek wisdom, judging something wise according to its usefulness or capacity to awaken consciousness in the other, to lead to new insights.

In this activity the quotes serve to spark the ultimate exercise of philosophy, conducted very much in the style of the ancient Greeks. The peripatetic practice of philosophy involved a small group walking and conversing or talking while resting under a tree -- this is why laurel wreaths were associated with knowledge. When you are in the Philosophical Casino, your question is read and a quote is offered to you as a key to help you see your problem in a different light. The random partners you find next to you can make interventions, suggesting facets of the situation in a light-hearted manner. “What philosophy is and how much it is worth are matters of controversy,” said German philosopher Karl Jaspers. He continues:

One may expect it to yield extraordinary revelations or one may view it with indifference as a thinking in the void ... One may take the attitude that it is the concern of all men, and hence must be basically simple and intelligible, or one may think of it as hopelessly difficult. And indeed, what goes by the name of philosophy provides examples to warrant all these conflicting judgments.

The attempt in Philosophical Casino is to offer the tools of philosophy in a casual yet meaningful manner, avoiding these extremes, as one of philosophy’s main questions since ancient times has been simply “how to live?”

Casino

Therapist Report
Mathilde Fernandez, October 2012

We organized group sessions of Philosophical Casino. When the group was too large, we separated participants into two teams and asked each to agree on two questions. This technique worked quite well because we had a better chance of getting more thoughtful questions that fit well with the answers.

I remember an individual session of Philosophical Casino with a middle-aged man who came alone from Berlin. I explained the therapy and asked him to write three questions. After five minutes I came back and he had only written two questions. The first was, “Will my wife and I stay together after the departure of my son?” The answer on the die had absolutely nothing to do with the question. I saw from his behavior that it weakened him. We tried to twist the response to apply to the question but nothing happened; we could not link the two.

For the second question he asked, “Will my son and I keep the same relationship we have despite his departure?” The response fell on Rabelais: “Life is not a vase to be filled but a fire to be lit.”

The answer was good. It corresponded directly; he interpreted that perhaps he should return to camping with his son in the mountains. We spent a little time talking and he told me that he was twenty years old the last time he came to the Documenta. He had come with his friends and they had camped.

Epitaphs

 

In this therapy participants are given the chance to write their own epitaphs, using language as plain or poetic as they wish.

Most people never get to know what will be written on their tombstones, although some — especially writers — leave instructions on what they want said in summary of their lives.

In this exercise you get to choose the words that will tell future cemetery- goers something about you, and perhaps about the meaning of life as well.

 

Epitaphs

 
Number of participants

Individuals

Time

30 minutes

Space size

3 × 3 m

Space requirements

Quiet, intimate. It is desirable to have a control to dim or lower the lights.

Furniture

Carpeted floor or mats, low table

Props

Hammer, letter chisels, notecards, thumbtacks

Therapist qualifications

Basic

 

Epitaphs

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. When the participant has composed an epitaph, he will use the letter chisels to stamp it into a set of two notecards. Show him how to arrange the letters and use the hammer to create the “tombstone.”
  4. Hang one of the epitaphs on the wall and give the other to the participant.
  5. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  6. This therapy is not recommended for blind visitors.
  7. This therapy is appropriate for deaf visitors if written instructions are provided.
Participant Instructions
  1. Lie on a mat or carpet and picture yourself at your funeral.
  2. Take a few minutes to compose the words for which you will be remembered. Write a draft.
  3. Once you have completed your draft, choose two cards for your epitaph and place them on top of each other.
  4. Carefully pick up and place the letters of the metal stamps and hammer your epitaph, letter by letter.
  5. Once you have finished the lettering, place your epitaph in the “cemetery.”
  6. Keep the second copy of the epitaph for yourself.

Epitaphs

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

The Epitaphs therapy asks visitors to project into the future to a moment when they no longer exist. An epitaph composed by a visitor provided me with a key to understanding the intention of this therapy: “Die before dying.”

She explained that the concept comes from Muslim tradition (it is also found in other religious traditions and meditation practices) and states that we must choose to “die,” or to give up the tangible world and all that traps us inside ourselves, before experiencing literal death. By recognizing the inevitable end to ourselves and our egos, we are freed to live more fully in the world.

When participants are invited to lie down, they are encouraged to die before dying. Then, writing an epitaph, the words for which one wants to be remembered, requires visitors to reflect on how they would summarize their lives up to now, or how they would like to be remembered for the lives they have yet to live. In order to do this they must embrace a measure of mortality that gives them distance from which to consider the past, present, and future. The benefit in this therapy comes with the insight one gains by finding this perspective, which may help us evaluate our priorities and make changes to ways we’re not living the lives we wish for.

Some visitors take this therapy very seriously, while others may use a humorous or silly approach. This can be seen in the epitaphs as well: some will be earnest, some will be literary, some will be funny, etc. All approaches and results are welcome here; Epitaphs is a judgment-free place for people to get comfortable with the thought of the world without them.

Epitaphs

Therapist Report

Transmigration
Express

 

This therapy is like a poor man’s movie theatre. We are going to use our own minds as a projector. It’s a session of “inner visioning.” Participants are asked to lie comfortably on the floor and close their eyes, covering them with a mask or goggles. Slowly warming up, the participants listen to instructions given by the therapist in a soft voice to help them open up to inner visions. They will be asked to hold a balloon between their knees and squeeze it gently while breathing evenly, concentrating their awareness on the effect this motion has on their bodies and minds; combining the inner visioning with this movement creates a kind of conscious dreaming, a state of creative being. This therapy may bring up memories of experiences, visions, or past emotional states, or it may create insight into the present state of mind.

 

Transmigration
Express

 
Number of participants

One to 40 people, depending on room size

Time

40 minutes

Space size

6 × 6 m

Space requirements

Carpeted floor, yoga mats or blankets

Furniture

None

Props

Pillows, balloons, eye masks or sandblasted goggles

Therapist qualifications

Conducting this therapy requires a confident guide, especially when working with larger groups, for which reason it is recommended that therapists practice with members of the staff several times before taking on participants.

 

Transmigration
Express

Therapist Instructions
  1. Greet and welcome the participant.
  2. Explain the therapy.
  3. Instruct participants on how to use their balloons. Begin giving them instructions for the inner visioning in a slow, gentle voice.
  4. This therapy is appropriate for children as participants.
  5. This therapy is appropriate for blind visitors.
  6. This therapy is not recommended for deaf visitors.
Participant Instructions
  1. Take a pillow and a balloon. Lie comfortably on the floor and close your eyes, covering them with a mask or goggles.
  2. Listen to the therapist as she gives instructions and suggestions to help you relax and guide your mind.

Transmigration
Express

What is the Intention of this Therapy?

This technique is based on physiopsycho- alchemy, which was a series of inner visioning experiments conducted by Raphael Montañez Otriz in the 1970s and 1980s. Interested in the potential for healing and reconciliation offered by meditative visits to past lives and parallel dimensions, Montañez Ortiz described his motivation for creating physio-psychoalchemy in this way:

Whatever our time and place in history or on this planet, we are all of us today as we were prehistorically, as we were in the beginning, dreamers, and as dreamers we have all experienced our transmutations of matter to mind and mind to matter. It is a process we have all realized in every dream we have ever dreamt, it is our process of unconditional imaginative belief, it is when our soul is most spirit, our mind most matter, and all matter most mind. Unconditional imaginative belief is a critically important process within the context of our processes of being and our development because our formless, forming alchemical spirit at the core of our reforming soul, what Jung calls our anima corporalis, makes no distinction beween experience that takes place in what we call our imagination and experience that takes place in what we call reality.1

When participants are invited to lie down, they are encouraged to die before dying. Then, writing an epitaph, the words for which one wants to be remembered, requires visitors to reflect on how they would summarize their lives up to now, or how they would like to be remembered for the lives they have yet to live. In order to do this they must embrace a measure of mortality that gives them distance from which to consider the past, present, and future. The benefit in this therapy comes with the insight one gains by finding this perspective, which may help us evaluate our priorities and make changes to ways we’re not living the lives we wish for.

Some visitors take this therapy very seriously, while others may use a humorous or silly approach. This can be seen in the epitaphs as well: some will be earnest, some will be literary, some will be funny, etc. All approaches and results are welcome here; Epitaphs is a judgment-free place for people to get comfortable with the thought of the world without them.

  1. Rafael Montañez Ortiz, Towards an Authenticating Art, Vol. 1 and 2, (New York: Columbia University Teachers College, 1982), pp. 21— 22.

Transmigration
Express

TRANSCRIPT OF A TRANSMIGRATION ExPRESS SESSION

Here are the steps to follow. You are going to work on relaxing. This doesn’t mean you will immediately relax, but you are conscious of the fact that you are working on relaxing. The reason you are working on relaxing is so that you can release tension and the energy in the nervous system that we must always control because we are constantly making adjustments for gravity.

So right now you are going to surrender to your musculoskeletar resonance.

What I’d like you to do while you are squeezing the balloon is to pay attention to your breath.

Breathe in and then release the breath completely.

Repeat that —make it a cycle that keeps going.

While you are breathing I am going to ask you to pay attention to your pelvis. I want you to simply follow the instructions.

I want you to think of a clock on the back of your pelvis. 12 o’clock is at the top towards your head. 6 o’clock is towards your feet. From there you go clockwise, one two three four … What I am going to ask you to do now is to tilt your pelvis to 12 o’clock.

Now, slowly tilt it to 6 o’clock.

Now, move it as an arc over to 9 o’clock. Continuing the arc, go to 12 o’clock. Now continue the arc back to 6 o’clock. Now go to 12 o’clock, without the arc, straight back.

You are at 12 o’clock.

Slowly go from 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock in an arc. Now, from 3 o’clock back to 12 o’clock in an arc. Now, from 12 o’clock straight to 6 o’clock.

Go back to 12 o’clock.

Do a complete arc from 12 following 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11,12; a full circle. Now the full circle in reverse.

By now you should be in touch with the pelvis and the idea, because the energy has released the pelvis and moved up to your rib cage and moved up into the shoulders. Keep the pressure with the knees. If your legs tremble, release that tremble.

Take some breaths.

Work on the in-breath.

Release the in-breath.

If you find any congestion in your nasal passage you can continue breathing in and out.

By now your legs should be trembling a little. Let the tremble go.

When you let out the air, the tremble should get stronger.

Put pressure on the balloon.

Let the tremble get to the pelvis and release the pelvis. Let it go up to the rib cage. Release your rib cage. Release your shoulders.

I am going to ask you now to let your imagination take you somewhere. See where it takes you.

[For increased fantasy: Let your mind take you somewhere else in time. Go back as far as you want to go… years, decades, centuries ago. You have lived before. Find yourself. What era is it? In which place on Earth are you? What situation do you find yourself in?]

Allow yourself to be there. Experience there. Experience that place.

Slow down your breath.

Breathe slowly.

[Allow four to six minutes of silence.]

Come back here.

Feel the rug with your fingertips. Now do it with your toes.

Let go of the balloon. Roll to your side in the fetal position. Then slowly sit up.

Turn to the person next to you and take turns telling each other where you went.

[For smaller groups, instead of pairing with partners to talk about where participants went, the group can sit in a circle and go around the group counterclockwise to share their inner visioning experiences.]

 

To Heal Yourself,
Start Healing OthersA Conversation between Pedro Reyes and Laurent Schmid

Laurent Schmid:

At the first workshop with the volunteers there was a good energy in the air. In Kassel at Documenta it was contagious; it went from the therapists to the visitors. So Pedro, is the Sanatorium an optimistic project?

Pedro Reyes:

believe so. It may be optimistic in the sense that the environment allows for a plethora of insights, which happen in an almost effortless way. Many small miracles happen. It is optimistic in the sense that we are always surprised by the fact that helping each other is easier than what we had thought. So after you test the experience you gain confidence. There is a general assumption that when you help someone you somehow lose energy, but often the opposite happens. There is a spark of excitement that you get from helping others.

LS:

You said that it is important to you that the therapies can be conducted by anyone and everyone, and you reference Jacob Levy Moreno’s “sociatry.” Moreno wrote in Who Shall Survive? that “… a truly therapeutic procedure should have as its objective nothing less than the whole of mankind.” You also mentioned the aim to open the Sanatorium to a wider public and to share this project, to let it develop in a broader terrain.

PR:

These days therapy is a luxury for a lot of people, and every day there are more people in the world who need it but can’t afford it. There is also a stigma attached to it that makes many people think that those who go to therapy must be crazy. Yet today, especially in cities, there is a vast population who could benefit from it: unattended victims of depression, loneliness, neurosis, family violence, suicide, etc. That’s why I’m so interested in alternative structures, like Moreno’s sociatry, in which human connection is paramount. You won’t find it in prescription drugs or hospitals, but it’s crucial to generate healthier communal life.

I am also very interested in deprofessionalization, which Iván Illich wrote extensively about in the 1970s in Mexico.1 In Illich’s terms, our obsession with growth and productivity discourages people from satisfying their needs and forces them to consume the treatment and services of specialists who do not care for the poor. In many different fields, like education, social work, and transportation, he finds a vicious cycle in which new knowledge is applied and progress is measured and then used to exploit society as a whole to the benefit of the professional elite. In opposition to that capitalist model, he defines convivial society as the result of social arrangements that guarantee everyone free and ample access to the tools of the community, limited only to ensure the equal access of others. In other words, individuals relate to society in the way they use its tools.

In the case of Moreno, when he developed psychodrama and the notions of "encounter" and group therapy, he was basically creating a toolbox that reveals the resourcefulness of the group. The beauty of these approaches is that their procedures are equally effective regardless of the credentials of those who use them.

LS:

So these ideas have to do with acknowledging that you could not wait for solutions to come from the top in order to achieve greater social justice?

PR:

Yes. Paulo Freire articulated this in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and his ideas had enormous penetration in Latin America from the 1960s into the 70s and 80s. In his own words, the school system “teaches the need to be taught,” when true learning has to be driven by the curiosity and desire of every person.2 Likewise, in the sphere of hygiene and mental health, Iván Illich offers an example to illustrate this:

I know a North American girl, a sixteen-year-old that was jailed for treating 130 cases of first-stage syphilis. A technical detail pointed out by an expert earned her pardon: the results she obtained were statistically better than those of public health services. Six weeks after the treatment she performed satisfactory control tests on all of her patients, without exception. This is about knowing whether progress should mean progressive independence or progressive dependence.3

I like this quote because it clarifies that the desire for these alternative approaches is to move towards progressive independence. Today we cannot expect to reach good results out of pure spontaneity nor pure planning. The Sanatorium is not conceived as a substitute for existing therapies and social services, but as a space for encounter, since so many of our everyday pathologies result from this lack of connection.

LS:

Illich often mentioned the need to rethink the very idea of learning, rather than the methods used in its enforcement. What could this mean if we apply it to therapy? Could this also mean that it is necessary for everyone?

PR:

Illich introduces the idea of iatrogenesis, which means diseases that stem from previous treatments, prescribed by physicians, that have a negative impact on health. These begin, in many cases, at the moment of birth, the main example being excessive reliance on Cesarean deliveries, as well as doctors who encourage mothers to feed their children with formula instead of breast milk.

We’re waging a “war on drugs” right now for the reason that drugs are considered a threat to public health. But if you compare the number of deaths each year from legal and illegal drugs, you see that in the United States the number of prescription drug-related deaths rose from 6,000 in 1990 to 27,658 in 2007.4 Each year at least 106,000 people die from the drugs they are prescribed and administered,5 while illegal drugs result in around 10% as many deaths.6 This shows how much we need to readjust our priorities.

There is another concept that is the opposite of iatrogenesis: salutogenesis, which Dr. Gabriel Stux lectured us about at the Sanatorium in Kassel. The term describes an approach focusing on factors that support human health and well-being, rather than on factors that cause disease. Aaron Antonovsky developed this theory in rejection of the “traditional medical-model dichotomy separating health and illness.” He described the relationship as a continuous variable, what he called the “healthease versus dis-ease continuum.” 7 Antonovsky says that we have to understand health not as the absence of disease, but as the way people maintain their “sense of coherence,” by which he means the belief that life is manageable and meaningful. It’s how we retain our ability to keep going when facing changes internally and externally. Here the key is to be prepared to make changes in your life.

LS:

How can the Sanatorium help prepare you for these changes?

PR:

This is an amazing question, because that’s why play is so important in the Sanatorium. One of the main aims of the Sanatorium is to be a rehearsal space. In the Museum of Life you can do a kind of draft for your future developments. In the Philosophical Casino you can reflect on a decision that you have to make in the same way that people in ancient times consulted with oracles. In Goodoo you prepare for reconciliation with another person. This has to do with the idea of “surplus reality” that Moreno talks about. In Moreno’s psychodrama you stage a confrontation that you plan to have, and this helps you foresee all the interactions that can happen in that future conversation. This provides the patient with a new and more extensive experience of reality, a “surplus” reality.

At the Sanatorium Moreno founded along the Hudson River in Beacon, New York, part of it was a psychodrama stage, which I find remarkable. It’s like the equivalent of an operating room in a hospital, with the difference that on the psychodrama stage you can rehearse the changes needed in your life.

I realize that it may be too much to ask for a work of art to have such an impact. But here I see art, and particularly play, as a warm-up phase that prepares us for change. What is most important to achieve is a mental state where we have the confidence to produce changes, but it is very difficult to arrive at this state. That’s why the warm-up of the light-hearted spirit of play is so critical.

LS:

So you are talking about discoveries that are the result of a collective process. It seems that in all these processes the “other” is very important, as if these kinds of breakthroughs were hard to reach on your own. How important is it that the Sanatorium’s activities are done in groups?

PR:

Moreno defines encounter as an exchange between two people where each of them sees themselves from the other person’s perspective. This stuff doesn’t happen every day, where people get to really talk to each other and forget about their roles or whatever other ways they define themselves. What we’re looking for at the Sanatorium is for people talk to each other without the client-specialist relationship. Actually, there is an advantage that these encounters happen among strangers, which is that you may never see this guy again. It’s not your family or friend or coworker; these are people you usually just make small talk with, but here it’s the inversion of small talk. You talk about what’s most important and share deeply personal experiences. There is a famous quote from a poem by Moreno, which is super trippy:

A meeting of two: eye to eye,
face to face,
And when you are near
I will tear your eyes out
And place them instead of mine,
And you will tear my eyes out
And place them instead of yours,
Then I will look at you with
your eyes…
And you will look at me with mine. 8

It’s interesting that some visitors to the Sanatorium requested to conduct therapies in addition to receiving treatment. On occasion the students have become their coaches and taught them how to conduct the sessions. This is an example of how the protagonist is the process, and how important it is to have a companion with whom you can do a role-reversal and warm up your spontaneity. It’s important to have horizontal structures where everyone can take the lead as well as follow.

LS:

Were the students always ready to take the lead?

PR:

I remember that when we were doing the training in Geneva prior to Documenta, we had a session of questions and answers. I knew the expectation was for me to be the resource for all answers, but what I did instead was to ask the person on my left if he had a question. Then, instead of answering, I deferred the question to the second person on my left. Once that person had come up with an answer, she asked a question that was answered by the person on her left, and so on until everyone in the group had both asked and answered a question. This is one quick activity that takes less than fifteen minutes and shows the group its own resourcefulness and independence from a leader.

However, it was equally important for me to be available as a resource when questions came up, especially because it’s necessary to know where the therapies come from.

LS:

Now to reverse roles on you, what have you learned from the volunteers?

PR:

Well actually, if I’ve done each therapy a dozen times, an average volunteer may have done it fifty times by the end of Documenta. So you could say they have more mileage. That is why I felt it was so important for this book to include testimonials on the encounters they had. In every case there were discoveries that I had not foreseen.

LS:

All therapists had a shared common background as art students/artists. Did this change the parameters? In what ways?

PR:

It was a very privileged situation where people were ready to be surprised with progressive ideas. When one person is more creative, his inquisitive skills become more sophisticated. So there was a constant inquiry about the meaning of the project.

LS:

Have the therapies ever changed from the input of the volunteers?

PR:

Sure, there have been suggestions that have been incorporated. For instance, with the Goodoo doll, one therapist from the Sanatorium in New York suggested that the patient should press each of the five points in order to “switch on” their intentions. This is a sort of symbolic acupressure. In the Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes, Sylvain, one of the therapists in Kassel, pointed out a missing space for friendships between the work axis and the love axis. This is something I’m still trying to fit into the blueprint. At first, in the Compatibility Test for Couples each couple could only choose two fruits; each person only picked one for themselves. But then a therapist suggested that each person pick a fruit for herself and one for her partner. When the partner does the same, you have four fruits total. You can make one juice per person, which is the couple according to A or B, or mix them all together. There are many possible combinations.

LS:

Your project is participatory and also questions the hierarchic structure of common therapies. It was interesting to see the problems this led to. I remember that we discussed with the students/ therapists the power relationship they found themselves involved in without actually wanting it. The aesthetic you used, from lab coats to the architecture, relies on a well-known system and instantly transformed visitors to patients. I see a certain contradiction here, and I never really understood to what extent you play with irony here — for me it was intriguing and disturbing not to be sure. At the same time I liked to feel this resistance of the piece.

PR:

Role play is fundamental to free oneself from the one-dimensional labels that society assigns to each of us. While white coats are used by doctors, they’re also used in schools when you go to the lab or in other work environments. So the white coats actually have more than one connotation, and there is room to play here. Friedrich Schiller says that someone is only fully a person when she plays, and she has to play in order to fully become a person.

RS:

But you are clearly empowering the volunteers with the white lab coat…

PR:

In hospitals, doctors who don’t wear a white coat usually carry a stethoscope when attending patients, whether they need to use it or not. The white lab coat is in itself part of the placebo effect. The placebo effect doesn’t only refer to sugar pills but to the entire aura surrounding medical practice, which encompasses the clinical aspect of hospitals, medical jargon, etc. The whole idea of bedside manner is actually something close to what a shaman or medicine man would do: to use the expectation of the patient to activate the healing process. One of the Sanatorium’s advisers, neurologist and writer Alice Flaherty, had extensively studied this. She gives as an example that if an overweight doctor asks a patient to lose weight, the patient is less motivated to comply than if that doctor were a healthy weight.

LS:

So once a volunteer is “in character,” thanks to the lab coat, what specifically happens next?

PR:

Every therapy is like a small ritual. Rituals are procedures that help you reconcile your desires and change your mindset. The problem is that you often access rituals in a religious or esoteric context, so you have to subscribe to those systems of beliefs. So what the Sanatorium attempts is to reproduce the same psychodynamics by conducting rituals without any ethnic specificity, without their aura of authenticity. It’s not only about creating an alternative space from the health system; it’s also an attempt to create alternative spaces to those provided by magic, religion, etc. Because these places are also industries in which a few gurus concentrate huge followings.

So in that sense it’s very important that in the Sanatorium there is not one dogma or fundamental text and that volunteers have the opportunity to develop therapies, which after a phase of trial and research can become part of the inventory of services the Sanatorium provides. I’m interested in the democratization process here. In a way what I’m doing is a sort of reverse engineering of medical environments, borrowing their clinical packaging as a neutral space in which you can benefit from these rituals that are often beyond our reach.

LS:

The notion of ritual makes me think of Félix Guattari. He understands ritual as a “machine” that determines the fluctuations of real and virtual forces, producing subjectivity in a process-driven concept not limited by subject-object division and reloading the real with possibilities (“possibles”). This seems to me quite near to your project. I suppose that Guattari’s thinking, as well as the way he got to practice his theories in the context of the experimental La Borde clinic, has influenced you?

PR:

Yes, indeed. La Borde is one of the most inspiring antipsychiatric experiments, since it blurred the division between patients and psychotherapists. The interns took on duties, including in management and administration of the clinic. It is a Marxist-Leninist idea that members of a community must engage in both manual labor and intellectual labor.

But this idea can be traced back to Plato’s ideal community. Just as Guattari wanted the asylum to embody a shelter, a place of refuge, and a sanctuary, in Mexico, Vasco de Quiroga also created “hospitals” were also places where the peasants learned trades such as music, sculpture, iron work, etc. But I’m interested in Guattari because, at a time when deconstruction was so hyped, he was also interested in reconstruction. Reconstruction has a specific aim, it’s therapeutic in itself. When it’s made through ritual, as you said, the subject and the object are integrated. That’s why it works.

LS:

Often you are doing a recontextualization of existing techniques, which were intended for a different context than the ones you use here.

PR:

Actually, most of the therapies are combinations or mashups of existing traditions. What we are going for is spiritual promiscuity, not exclusivity! We are trying to borrow whatever works, anything, from anywhere, getting rid of tunnel vision. The Sanatorium is “dogmatically anti-dogmatic.”

LS:

Artists are often afraid of being copied and thus to lose control over their work, but you chose to open your project, to think it as a medium of circulation.

PR:

You mention circulation, which is indeed appropriate. Moreno proposes that creativity is like a “sleeping beauty” that has to be woken up by the catalyzer, spontaneity. He says spontaneity is something that operates in the present, in the here and now, that propels people to find a good response to a new situation or a new response to an old situation. He describes the relationship as an arch: spontaneity awakens creativity, which then produces “cultural conserves,” the name he gives to works of art and inventions — books, music, theories, technology, etc. In turn these cultural conserves inspire more spontaneity when they are experienced, like when you whistle or hum along with a song. Doing this, a musician may come up with a melody that can become a song or a score. So when this song is played again, it trig-gers more spontaneity and people dance and sing and may interpret the song, incorporating new elements.9

In the Sanatorium, the therapies are crystalized as cultural conserves, but it is in their nature to inspire the spontaneity of those who take part either as therapists or participants. In that way the participant is incorporated into the system as an artist, which is very close to the notion of the “spect-actor” articulated by Augusto Boal, where the spectator becomes an actor.

LS:

You have called the Sanatorium a prototype and have mentioned plans to multiply it, to transfer it from the space of art into a wider cultural field. How will this be done?

PR:

I feel very fortunate to be working in the field of contemporary art because it’s a cultural environment that welcomes uncommon ideas. However, it would be a sad prognosis to expect these inventions to remain under the umbrella of art institutions. The nature of the project itself asks to be tested in different environments, to try itself in the wider arena of culture. My plan for the Santorium’s future would be to tour around Mexico. It could travel to different cities, but I would prefer to avoid local museums and instead place it in street festivals and traditional fairs that have combined commerce and culture for centuries. The Sanatorium mobile unit would be composed of several geodesic tents and remain in one place for two weeks at a time. In these contexts it is local governments that can sponsor each installment out of the budget they would otherwise dedicate to music, theater, and traveling amusement parks. So the Sanatorium is “marketed” not much differently from a roadside attraction. What I find interesting about this is the creation of new audiences that otherwise would not go to a museum.

In a way, treating the Sanatorium as entertainment is also a tactical device, because in certain social sectors there is a stigma for those who go to therapy: they may be seen as weak or disturbed. It is the pretense of being a Sanatorium that helps people drop their defenses. Also, it is important that as a space of encounter you can visit it in different groups: with friends, classmates, coworkers, family, on a date, etc.

LS:

The Sanatorium — like other projects of yours — has notions of utopian thinking. Do you refer directly or indirectly to utopian communities?

PR:

In the early 1990s Harald Szeemann came to Mexico. I attended a week-long seminar where he presented some of his groundbreaking exhibitions in detail, such as Gesamtkunstwerk, When Attitudes Become Form, etc. But what left the biggest impression on me was his exhibition about Monte Verità, which was established in 1900 in Ascona, Switzerland, as a cooperative colony based on the principles of primitive socialism. It later became the Monte Verità Sanatorium. The members detested private property and practiced a strict standard of conduct based on vegetarianism and nudism. They rejected marriage, dress, party politics, and dogmas. One remarkable aspect of Monte Verità is how many artists spent time there, such as Isadora Duncan, Paul Klee, Hugo Ball, Mary Wigman, as well as intellectuals such as Carl Jung and Rudolph Steiner, among many others. So it was not only noteworthy for its utopian ideals but for the imagination it took to come up with it and what it inspired in these people.

LS:

Which other utopic projects do you feel connected to?

PR:

Charles Fourier has been another important inspiration for me. His invention of the phalanstery is one of the most fun things to read, and “fun” is no small adjective; for me, it is a combination of imagination and intelligence. Obviously, Fourier is far out there, and it’s good to read visions that far exceed that which could happen in reality. There are many parts of his vision of the phalanstery and all the activities that happen inside that make a lot of sense, such as the mix of urban and rural environments, as well as the fact that jobs would rotate so people could do different jobs, which were compensated in such a way that everyone could make a decent living. Also, a big part of leisure time at the phalanstery was spent in grandiose parties that were carefully choreographed.

LS:

What about contemporary references?

PR:

One to mention is the Flux Clinic, which was originally started in the 1960s as a kind of happening in New York. It was then adapted into van, a “mobile clinic” that drove around Seattle in the 1970s, visiting only streets that began with the letters V, T, R, and E. I don’t know why, there is not much information about it. And of course there are many important places such as Esalen in Big Sur and Patch Adams’s Gesundheit Institute.

In the case of Patch Adams, I’m very interested in his sense of humor, yet I don’t like how it translates into a visual form. Clowning is very canonical. There is this attachment to red noses and big shoes. It’s curious that the same often happen to alternative healing places; they look like hobbit dungeons, which really creep me out. I’m interested in a wide range of esoteric subjects but I dread all the packaging. I can’t stand incense, Celtic diagrams, mandalas, etc.

LS:

So it seems that in the Sanatorium itself there is a role reversal between reason and magic, between science and art…

PR

I believe that one of the most important parts of life is to pay attention. When we get used to things, we cease to pay attention and things become grey. So how do we bring color back? What is needed is a sense of estrangement, of wonder, of surprise. What art can do is to make the normal look strange, as well as the opposite process, to make the strange normal. Let’s look closer at these effects. If you suddenly look at normality with estrangement, you may realize how much of the status quo is arbitrary, even ridiculous. In the reverse operation, art may also be useful to introduce something strange but somehow necessary in life and to welcome this change.

  1. Iván Illich. Némesis médica. Obras Reunidas, eds. Valentina Borremans, Javier Sicilia. (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006).
  2. Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. (New York: Continuum, 2006).
  3. Ivan Illich. La Convivencialidad, (Mexico City: Editorial Posada, 1978).
  4. Jeffery Kluger, “The New Drug Crisis: Addiction by prescription,” Time Magazine, September 2010.
  5. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN, “Incident of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients,” JAMA 280, no. 20 (1998).
  6. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 56 no. 5 (2007).
  7. Aaron Antonovsky, Health, Stress and Coping, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1979).
  8. J.L. Moreno, The Essential Moreno: Writings on Psychodrama, Group Method and Spontaneity, ed, Jonathan Fox. (New York: Springer, 1987).
  9. Ibid.

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