Queens Gazette

Museum of the Moving Image and the American Folk Art Museum present film series focusing on the legacy of Francesc Tosquelles


Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) and the

American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) will co-present the three-day film series Radical
Institutions and Experimental Psychiatry: The Legacy of Francesc Tosquelles on
Film, co-organized in conjunction with AFAM’s exhibition Francesc Tosquelles: Avant-
Garde Psychiatry and the Birth of Art Brut.

Inspired by themes in the exhibition, the series will explore mental illness and therapeutic
care practices rooted in community building, self-managed care, and creativity that echo
Catalan psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles’s leadership at the Saint-Alban psychiatric
hospital in Southern France in the mid-twentieth century.

During that time, Tosquelles developed a practice that came to be called “institutional
psychotherapy,” based on non-hierarchical and collective interactions between patients,
medical staff, on-site workers, and neighboring rural communities. Under this
organizational structure, patients—including now-celebrated artists such as Auguste
Forestier and Marguerite Sirvin—had access to a theater, a library, a cinema club, and a
printing press, and produced a prodigious artistic output that impacted Jean Dubuffet’s
conceptualization of “Art Brut.”

Screenings will take place at MoMI from Friday, June 21, to Sunday, June 23, 2024. This
series is co-organized by Mathilde Walker-Billaud, AFAM Curator of Programs and
Engagement, and Sonia Shechet Epstein, MoMI Curator of Science & Technology.
Through a selection of international documentaries, shorts, and feature films spanning
from 1962 to 2024, this program will highlight the lives of radical psychiatrists trained by,
influenced by, or working along the lines of Tosquelles, while offering new insights into the
history of psychiatric care and its intersections with politics and culture. Most screenings
will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers.

The series will conclude on Sunday, June 23 with the New York premiere of The Potential
History of Francesc Tosquelles, Catalonia and Fear (2021), investigating Tosquelles’s
forgotten legacy in Spain, followed by a conversation with filmmaker Mireia Sallarès; one of
the co-curators of the AFAM exhibition, Joana Masó; and sociologist Eric Fassin.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with MoMI on this important program which highlights and
expands on the extraordinary media materials included in the exhibition. This is an
opportunity to reflect on the ways in which experimental cinema has contributed to a
renewed and nuanced representation of mental illness and what psychiatric care can be,”
says Walker-Billaud.

“AFAM’s wonderful exhibition highlights how inspiring Tosquelles’s approach to his patients
—first and foremost relating to them as people—was to those who surrounded him. We are
very pleased to be presenting ‘Radical Institutions,’ which showcases that legacy through
film,” says Epstein.

The series begins on Friday, June 21, with Félix’s Couch (Le divan de Félix) (1985), a
short about Félix Guattari directed by François Pain, and the feature True Chronicles of
the Blida Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in the Last Century, when Dr Frantz Fanon
Was Head of the Fifth Ward between 1953 and 1956 (2024) by Abdenour Zahzah. Both
Guattari and Fanon were psychiatrists and political activists trained and influenced by
Tosquelles. The screening will be followed by a conversation with the filmmakers.

On Saturday, June 22, the program will explore the possibilities of educating the
“maladjusted,” or those who are unable to cope with the demands of a normal social
environment, through reinvented structures of care and knowledge, featuring En
Rachâchant (1982), a short fiction film by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, and the
documentary This Kid, There (Ce gamin, là) (1975) by Renaud Victor made with special
education leader Fernand Deligny. This will be followed by a selection of short films that
highlight the role of art in counteracting isolation inside and outside of psychiatric hospitals.

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