Search Museum of the Moving Image

Radical Institutions and Experimental Psychiatry: The Legacy of Francesc Tosquelles

Jun 21 — Jun 23, 2024

Part of Science on Screen 

Presented in partnership with the American Folk Art Museum and their new exhibition Francesc Tosquelles: Avant-Garde Psychiatry and the Birth of Art Brut 

Purchase a full series pass!

The visionary psychiatrist Francesc Tosquelles (1912–1994) reshaped institutions of therapeutic care during his time at the Saint-Alban psychiatric hospital in Southern France. From World War II through the early 1960s, the Catalan doctor devised a series of psychiatric practices that came to be called institutional psychotherapy, based on nonhierarchical and collective interactions between patients, medical staff, on-site workers, and neighboring rural communities. At the heart of this “asylum-village” was the Club Paul-Balvet, a cooperative structure whose participants all convened, deliberated on administrative responsibilities, and proposed creative activities like celebrations, plays, dances, and meetings. The hospital had its own printing press, community journal, theater, library, and cinema. This organizational structure, conducive to creative endeavors—like those of Auguste Forestier and Marguerite Sirvins—would impact French artist Jean Dubuffet’s conceptualization of “Art Brut.”  

This film series explores approaches to mental health care rooted in community building, self-management, and creativity echoing the institutional psychotherapy developed at Saint-Alban. The program starts with a short film by François Pain on Félix Guattari and a docufiction by Abdenour Zahzah on Frantz Fanon; Guattari and Fanon were both psychiatrists and political activists trained and influenced by Tosquelles. On Saturday afternoon, the program dwells on the possibilities of schooling the “maladjusted” through reinvented structures of care and knowledge, featuring a short fiction film by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub and a documentary by Renaud Victor made with special education leader Fernand Deligny. On Saturday evening, a selection of shorts highlights the role of art in counteracting isolation inside and outside of psychiatric hospitals. The program ends with the New York premiere of a film by Mireia Sallarès devoted to the forgotten legacy of Tosquelles in Catalonia, Spain, and beyond.    

Co-organized by Mathilde Walker-Billaud, AFAM Curator of Programs and Engagement and Sonia Epstein, MoMI Curator Science & Technology  

Presented jointly by MoMI and AFAM, lead support for this film series is provided by the Institut Ramon Llull, Nina Beaty, Susan Weiler, and the Anthony Petullo Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Art Dealers Association of America Foundation, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions.   

Organized in conjunction with the exhibition Francesc Tosquelles: Avant-Garde Psychiatry and the Birth of Art Brut at the American Folk Art Museum, New York, from April 12–August 18, 2024. Co-organized by the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and Les Abattoirs, Musée–Frac Occitanie Toulouse, this four-venue collaboration was previously presented at the Abattoirs, CCCB, and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. It developed from a research project entitled “El llegat oblidat de Francesc Tosquelles” (“The forgotten legacy of Francesc Tosquelles), co-produced by the Mir-Puig Private Foundation (Barcelona), the University of Barcelona, and Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona).