Disordered Bodies Fractured Minds (Private M., Patient A. & Traveller H.)
Reflecting on the year 1915, and the first report of shell shock, the video diptych Disordered Bodies Fractured Minds (Private M., Patient A. & Traveller H.) is based on three text sources that originate in three different conditions of mental and physical disintegration, following trauma, mental illness and substance consumption. The three text sources are: a clinical report by Major Andrew F. Hurst on the patient Private P. Meek, a British sergeant suffering from shell shock after fighting in World War I, a selection of texts by Antonin Artaud, and Henri Michaux’s writings whilst under the influence of the hallucinogenic substance Mescaline.
“I still have the use of my limbs (but for how long), but I have long since ceased to be in control of my mind […]” wrote Antonin Artaud in 1925.
The writer, actor and poet’s mental and physical suffering would constitute, feed and energize his extensive production until his death in 1948. The psychological materialism that emanates from his writing, can also be found in the case description of Private P. Meek, whose psychological breakdown whilst under heavy attack in France, had resulted in an almost complete physical paralysis, and loss of speech and memory by the time he came under the care of Major Hurst. Whilst Artaud not only reproduced his inner agony, he also gave a systematized positive version of it. For Private Meek an image of his suffering was formed by others and written up in medical history, used by Hurst to reflect the success of his treatment methods. The third position is that of the younger Henri Michaux, who did not fight in either World War, but started to experiment with Mescaline in the 50s. Michaux’s writing is an account of sensations, intensities and durations – an experience of borders breaking down within himself. Words and images appear and violently dissolve. He goes through moments of terrible fear, destruction and madness. Although he uses language as a vehicle to arrive in a zone in which meaning disappears, his voice in the final text Miserable Miracle remains very much one.