Limiar da Trilogia – Ato 2/3. Manicómio at Fidelidade Arte
14 hours of sleep. Lying down body, prostrate body.
1 hour with the gaze fixed on the horizon, without purpose. Eyes that do not see, turned inwards.
1 hour eating or pretending to eat.
8 hours sighing, longing for the end of the day, for the 14 hours spent sleeping, with the body lying down and the body prostrate, another hour with the gaze fixed on the horizon, without purpose, and another hour eating, or pretending to eat.
The others celebrate your victories and achievements, the alleged victories and achievements; the others cry for you, the apathy and perpetual sleep to which you sentence your spirit; the others make an appointment for you to see a doctor because you are not well, you are not normal – and what is well and what is normal, and what does the world matter, if everything is sad and everything is black and everything is profoundly profound, exasperatingly exasperating, and everything engraves a scar that cannot be stitched up, an abyss that cannot be jumped over.
30 minutes of psychotherapy per week for months. Each session costs 90€. A renowned, qualified, experienced doctor, recommended by this one and that one.
75mg of Venlafaxine, Sedoxil and 1 Victan in emergencies. The anodyne Valdispert is left behind.
The voice falters, the head doesn’t process the horizon it can’t see, the alien alarm, the life you must live – because life is a blessing, a divine gift, and the bus ticket must be validated and Técnico is at the top of Alameda, and you must remember to go to the bathroom and eat, socialise, be present.
The voice falters because the head won’t process. But the hands rise to scratch the blank sheet, to sculpt the amorphous block of clay, to paint a meaning materialised in a non-verbal expression, in a language that is more body and silence and less sound and reason.
Limiar da Trilogia is an exhibition cycle that allows art to be what it is: the object of a paralinguistic expression, compounded by fears, frustrations, hesitations, illnesses, manias, but also achievements, breakthroughs, care, and healing. This project transcends the act of labelling – Outsider Art and the aesthetics of marginality are derogatory and exclusionary terms. It is merely an artistic project, with all the potential of art; it is art made by the hands of disquieted, restless, and infirm souls, inhabiting and going beyond transgression, the acceptance of abnormality and the denial of normality, creating new nexuses within the psychiatric treatment and new nexuses in life.
This is the mission of Manicómio – a project that takes up the experience at Centro Hospitalar Psiquiátrico de Lisboa to fight the stigma of mental illnesses, later integrating its artists into a community and system deemed inclusive. This system is not alien to the reductionist modern society, to positivist psychologism, to the compulsive taxonomic need to classify and name everything. And this system is made by the same individuals who inhabit the other social domains.
There are prejudices in the art world, as Lorenza Böttner showed us with her life and work – she learned to master drawing and painting with her feet and mouth, and she demanded a place in the history of contemporary art alongside any other artist with whole bodies or fully functioning abilities. Böttner refused to be associated with another Contergan girl, of art made under a hobby regime. Like the resident artists of Manicómio, she established herself as a full-fledged artist. Full stop.
However, alongside this prejudice, the romanticisation of mental illness is false, aestheticized, constructed, and nefarious: the artist riddled with demons, the pathologically misunderstood artist, mad, deranged, and therefore genius. In most cases, this artist does not want to be a genius, does not want to be an isolated individual alienated from the world; they want to belong, to cohabit, to share and to be heard beyond the seemingly discursive disorder.
Manicómio shows us how functional diversity and neurodivergence may not mean a shortcoming or a labelling. Epistemologically, functional diversity and neurodivergence may well mean forms of resistance to the normalisation of capitalist, hyper-productive, patriarchal, and hetero-normative society. Between escapism and overcoming, activism and integration, this is a project that helps resignify life, illness, and art – a place where one learns to build, to reside, a home where all the identity complexes, all the ghosts and monsters we learn to coexist with are.
During the first act of Limiar da Trilogia cycle, the aim was to give a face to the invisible beings that dwell in the artists’ minds – the sinister and adorable monsters by Anabela Soares, the incomplete subjects by Micaela Fikoff and the undecided daily repetition by Pedro Ventura -, between obsession and compulsion; in the second act, there seems to be a will to show the cycles of life.
Bráulio Moreira makes us see or revisit the innocence of childhood, the magical period where beings seem to be infinite, unlimited, in perpetual future power. The birds levitate with the background music – the effect is melancholic and beautiful, touching the wound of time’s inexorability and freeing us from it.
Carolina Carvalhal shows us the yearning for motherhood, the telluric and fantastic side of it. Everything is dazzling, saturated and experienced in double figures in these women: it’s the life that sprouts from their breasts, that oozes from their eyes, that is visible in their wombs between scars, distress, anxieties, depressions, guilt – but also, or above all, hope.
Cláudia R. Sampaio conceives urn-like ceramic pieces. She paints on them her life, traumas, fears and uses them as confidants. We read extracts from texts or poems, and medical prescriptions; we marvel at the leafy colours, the landscapes, and the drawings. There are pictorial and sculptural objects, interior, and exterior, many of these, prepared to accommodate multiple lives.
There is something reconciling in Limiar da Trilogia – Ato 2/3, deeply spiritual and therapeutic – a breeze, an uncompromising but interesting walk through life, without hiding hardship or concealing the truth. Limiar da Trilogia gives us back what much contemporary art seems to forget: art as a plastic possibility of inner life or as an artifice that embodies what escapes the visible, the logical, the deductive eye.
Coordinated by Sandro Resende, Limiar da Trilogia – Ato 2/3 is a Manicómio project, on show at Fidelidade Arte, in Lisbon, until July 15.