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Simon Chang, Psihiatrična bolnišnica Hawler v Erbilu v Južnem Kurdistanu v Iraku

Objavljeno: Mon, 04.07.2022 - 16:28

/English below/
 

Besedilo: Hana Čeferin

 

To so primitivni začetki v umetnosti, kakršne navadno najdemo v etnografskih zbirkah ali v domači otroški sobi. Ne smej se, bralec! Tudi otroci imajo umetniško sposobnost in v njej je modrost! [...] Vzporeden fenomen predstavljajo dela duševno bolnih; v tem primeru besede otročje obnašanje ali norost niso žaljive, kot so navadno. Vse to moramo jemati nadvse resno, bolj resno kot vso umetnost javnih galerij, ko govorimo o reformaciji današnje umetnosti. - Paul Klee, dnevniški zapis (januar 1912), citiranje svojega zapisa v mesečniku Die Alpen, 1911–1914 (prevod avtorice).
 

Psihiatrična bolnišnica Hawler v Erbilu v Južnem Kurdistanu v Iraku © Simon Chang
Psihiatrična bolnišnica Hawler v Erbilu v Južnem Kurdistanu v Iraku © Simon Chang

 

Upodobitve »norosti« v umetnosti se morda na prvi pogled zdijo kot nenavaden izbor motiva, vendar se stanje duševne nestabilnosti ali anksioznosti ob podrobnejši obravnavi pokaže kot globoko prepleteno z najslavnejšimi umetniškimi gibanji. Motivi norosti segajo vsaj v antiko, v kateri so bile interpretacije pogosto povezane z vinjenostjo, plesom ali polno luno. V krščanski motiviki srednjega veka je bila »norost« pogosto enačena z božjim razodetjem, blodnje o demonih in peklenščkih pa so lahko pomenile božanske vizije. V slikarsko pogosto upodobljenem prizoru Skušnjav svetega Antona lahko spremljamo le eno od takšnih upodobitev, v katerih peklenščki vseh velikosti in oblik v pravi alegoriji »mučenja uma« poskušajo svetega Antona napeljati k skušnjavi in grehu. Umetnost je skozi zgodovino v mnogih primerih prikazovala duševne bolezni kot pomemben del tega, kaj pomeni biti človek. Z razvojem romantične ideje umetnika kot duševno obremenjenega, celo trpečega posameznika, se je duševno stisko pogosto enačilo s kreativnim zagonom in ustvarjalnostjo. V drugi polovici devetnajstega stoletja je duševna stiska kot vodilo likovnega izraza doživela vrhunec v umetnosti Vincenta van Gogha, pomemben doprinos k umetniškemu tolmačenju norosti pa so imeli tudi sodobnejši Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko, Tracey Emin ter številni drugi umetniki in umetnice. Zakaj torej zanimanje za norost? Zdi se, da prav umetnost odpira prostor, kjer so duševnim boleznim odvzete družbene stigme in jim je pripisan drugačen, pogosto simboličen pomen. Umetnost se še danes kaže kot prostor za oblikovanje različnih pogledov na duševne motnje in njihovih različnih, tudi pozitivnih interpretacij.*

 

Simon Chang je fotograf, ki je paciente psihiatričnih ustanov pričel fotografirati že leta 2004 v Pragi, kjer je ustanovo Bohnice fotografiral več let. Med letoma 2018 in 2019 je v Erbilu, glavnem mestu iraškega Kurdistana, fotografiral psihiatrično bolnišnico Hawler, katere celice polnijo predvsem pacienti, ki trpijo za posledicami nedavnega vojnega razdejanja. Serija fotografij je tokrat predstavljena v gradu Cmurek, ki je med letoma 1956 in 2004 deloval kot institucija za duševno in živčno bolne. Prenos podob iz umobolnice v Erbilu v nekdanjo ustanovo v Sloveniji tako vzpostavlja nekakšen dialog med obema prostoroma, zidovi gradu Cmurek pa postanejo univerzalni zidovi umobolnic, prežeti s spomini in dogodki, ki so se pripetili njegovim nekdanjim prebivalcem in obenem prebivalcem vseh tovrstnih ustanov. Za Changa je značilno, da svojih fotografskih subjektov ne obravnava eksploativno, v prizorih ne izpostavlja šokantnosti in pogoste grotesknosti prizorov. Namesto tega je v ospredju vedno integriteta upodobljencev in iskrena želja po pripovedovanju njihovih zgodb, po razkritju večplastnosti razlogov, ki so jih potisnili v trenutno stanje. V podtonih njegovih fotografij se vedno skrivajo namigi na prave krivce za situacije pacientov – kulturni, zgodovinski in verski razlogi, vojna in uničenje, revščina in korupcija, predvsem pa večno nerazumevanje družbe in zavračanje drugačnosti. 

 

Intimne zgodbe svojih fotografirancev Chang pogosto tudi zapiše. Ker so njegove pripovedi polne osebnih detajlov, ganljivih opažanj in bogatih opisov, je vsebinska interpretacija njegovega opusa iz bolnišnice Hawler nepotrebna. Navsezadnje nam o življenjih ljudi, ki so zaprti za zidove Hawlerja, lahko pripoveduje le nekdo, ki je tudi sam prestopil meje bolnišnice ter zaradi svoje radovednosti in sočutnosti med sivimi, umazanimi stenami prebil dolge ure s pacienti. Pomen fotografij se razpenja nekje med dokumentacijo in umetniško upodobitvijo – z vidika dokumentacije so posnetki pomembno pričevanje o nepravičnosti in krutosti psihiatričnih ustanov, degradacije in sočasne topline, ki jo je fotograf izkusil v Erbilu. A obenem segajo globje, v raziskovanje neke univerzalne človeške izkušnje in iskanje odgovora na vprašanje, kaj je »normalno« in kaj ne, na kakšen način zarisujemo ločnico med deviacijo in običajnostjo ter kaj resnično pomenijo stene, ki to ločnico udejanjajo. Changove fotografije psihiatrične bolnišnice Hawler nas soočajo s tistim, kar velikokrat želimo prezreti, pospraviti za štiri stene in se pretvarjati, da ne obstaja. Lahko bi rekli, da je prav slednje inherentno lastno umetnosti – narediti vidno tisto, kar družba rada ohranja skrito očem, ter prikazano obrniti tako, da le-to vidimo zunaj ustaljenih okvirov. Tudi Simon Chang nam ponuja drugačen pogled na prebivalce Hawlerja. O njihovih izkušnjah, polnih osebnih ran in kolektivnih travm, izvemo v tenkočutni pripovedi, ki presega meje dokumentarnega. 


Nekaj fotografij: https://simonchang.onfotomat.com/stories/hawler-psychiatric-hospital-erbil-kurdistan-iraq-2018-2019


* Več o umetniških upodobitvah norosti v: Gilman, Sander L. Seeing the Insane: A Cultural History of Madness and Art in the Western World. New York: Wiley & Sons, 1982.
 

Simon Chang je bil rojen v Taipeiu na Tajvanu leta 1978. Kot dokumentarni fotograf živi in dela v Evropi od leta 2003, s poudarkom na zgodbah o ljudeh, katerih glas je redko slišan, skupnostih, ki jih obča družba ignorira, o duševnih motnjah v regijah nekdanjega konflikta, itd. Kmalu po tem, ko je diplomiral na oddelku za komukacijsko umetnost na univerzi Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taipei, se je preselil v Prago na Češko ter leta 2004 nadaljeval študij na praški FAMU (Film and Television Academy of the Performing Arts). Od leta 2010 živi v Ljubljani.
 

Simon je prejemnik številnih nagrad Slovenia Press Photo v kategoriji najboljša zgodba (ljudje/šport) v letih 2011, 2012 in 2015. Prejel pa je tudi nagrado Kaoshuing in dvakrat nagrado Golden Tripod, dve izmed najbolj prestižnih nagrad za sodobno umetnost in založništvo na Tajvanu (2011, 2018 in 2020). Njegova dela so bila razstavljena v muzejih in galerijah v Evropi in Aziji, med drugim v muzeju Reina Sofia v Madridu (Španija), National Centre for Contemporary Arts v Moskvi (Rusija), Cankarjevem domu v Ljubljani (Slovenija), Balassijevem inštitutu - Collegium Hungaricum Berlin (Nemčija), Trieste Contemporanea (Italija), Taipei Fine Arts Museum (Tajvan), National Art Museum Beijing (Kitajska), itd.

Vabilo

ENGLISH
 

Text: Hana Čeferin
 

These are primitive beginnings in art, such as one usually finds in ethnographic collections or at home in one's nursery. Do not laugh, reader! Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in their having it! [...] Parallel phenomena are provided by the works of the mentally diseased; neither childish behaviour nor madness are insulting words here, as they commonly are. All this is to be taken very seriously, more seriously than all the public galleries, when it comes to reforming today's art.Paul Klee, Diary entry (January 1912), quoting his text in the journal Die Alpen, 1911–1914

 

Depictions of »madness« in art might at first glance seem like an odd choice of motif, yet the state of psychological instability or anxiety reveals itself to be, upon closer examination, deeply embedded in the art world's most famous movements. Images of madness extend at least as far as the ancient Roman depictions, when interpretations used to be connected to drunkenness, dance and the full moon. In early Christian iconography of the Middle Ages, madness was often connected to divine revelations, while hallucinations of demons and fantastical creatures could be interpreted as visions of the divine. The Temptation of Saint Anthony, a scene frequently depicted in painting, is just one of such depictions, where devils of all shapes and sizes try to tempt the saint to sin in a true allegory of “torturing the mind”. Throughout history, art has often shown mental instability to be a fundamental part of the human experience. With the development of the romantic idea of an artist as a suffering individual, burdened by their psyche, psychiatric conditions were often equated to creative drive and originality. In the second half of the 20th century, mental illness as a guiding principle of artistic creation reached its peak with the art of Vincent Van Gogh, while important interpretations of it were made by Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko, Tracey Emin, and many others. Why, then, the fascination with insanity? Art, it seems, opens up a space where mental illness is deprived of its social stigma and acquires a different, often symbolic meaning. To this day, art shows itself as a place where different views on mental illness are formed, allowing the possibility for other, positive interpretations*.

 

Simon Chang began photographing patients of psychiatric wards already in 2004, when he visited the Bohnice hospital in Prague several times since then. Between 2018 and 2019, he focused his lens on the Hawler psychiatric hospital in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Their cells are filled mainly with patients who suffer the consequences of their war-ravaged recent history. This time, the series of photographs is presented in Cmurek castle, a former institution for the clinically insane, active between 1957 and 2004. The transfer of images from a hospital in Erbil to a former institution in Slovenia creates a certain dialogue between both spaces, the walls of Cmurek castle becoming universal walls of the psychiatric hospital, permeated with memories and events that happened to their former inhabitants, and simultaneously, to inhabitants of all such institutions. Chang is a photographer who never depicts his subject exploitatively, nor does he accentuate the often shocking or grotesque aspects of his subjects. Instead, he above all values the integrity of the patients and a genuine desire to tell their stories, to uncover the layered reasons for their current states. The undertone of his photographs always hints to the real culprits of the patients’ situations – cultural, historical and religious circumstance, war and destruction, poverty and corruption, and mainly the ever-present misunderstanding of society and its rejection of difference. 

 

While photographing his stories and speaking to his subjects, Chang often writes down the tales full of vivid personal details, moving observations and rich descriptions. Thus, interpreting the stories that happened in Hawler would be unnecessary in this text. After all, the lives of people in the cells of Hawler can only be narrated by someone who, due to their curiosity and compassion, spent hours behind the grey, filthy walls with the patients. The meaning of his photographs spans somewhere between documentation and artistic depiction. From the viewpoint of documentary photography, images are an important testament to the injustice and cruelty of psychiatric hospitals, degradation and simultaneous warmth that the photographer found in Erbil. And yet they also reach deeper, to an exploration of a certain universal human experience. In the end, they pose the obvious question – what is “normal” and what is not, how do we draw the line between deviation and sanity, and what is the true meaning of the walls which keep them apart? Chang’s images of Hawler face us with the people we most often wish to ignore, neatly stow away and pretend they don’t exist. One could say that the true power of art lies exactly therein, to make visible what society tries to keep hidden, and present it in a way that makes us change our set perceptions. In such a manner, Simon Chang offers us a different view of the patients inside Hawler. Their experience, full of personal wounds and collective traumas, is told in a thoughtful tale which far exceeds the boundaries of the documentary.


Some photos: https://simonchang.onfotomat.com/stories/hawler-psychiatric-hospital-erbil-kurdistan-iraq-2018-2019


* More about artistic depictions of madness in art in: Gilman, Sander L. Seeing the Insane: A Cultural History of Madness and Art in the Western World. New York: Wiley & Sons, 1982.

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