Saturday, February 20, 2010
"Graves of the Insane"
Library of Dust by David Maisel:
In an Oregan psychiatric hospital, the deceased patients whose bodies were unclaimed were cremated. The ashes were placed in canisters in a basement that flooded. Each of the canisters aged differently, creating patterns that seem to evoke the lost souls contained within.
These photographs by Maisel are touching. The embellishment of these canisters through time, instead of decay, is uncanny yet beautiful. These were people, who were psychologically challenged and commonly called " Insane". The "insane" have been persecuted forever, often because they diverge from the mainstream. They were not just abandoned when dead, but also when alive. Since they don't merge in the society, the society turns its back on them. The level of poverty and deprivation these tinned souls have suffered is unknown.
There is a verse for Van Gogh in the song Starry Nights, " this World was not meant for someone as beautiful as you." Perhaps the World was confining for the "insane", just like these canisters, sealed like their fates. So the insane liberated themselves like the colors that oozed out and blended into unique patterns.
This is a common fate of people at the edge of the society like beggars, prostitutes, criminals, drug addicts, street children etc. When they trip over, their corpse meets a relentless fate, just like their life did.
These souls in canisters have to be grateful. They were rescued from the street to this asylum. Eventually there was someone who paid for their cremation and these canisters. In third world countries like Pakistan, they would be helplessly loitering on the streets. And a graceless death would require a free burial. Or else they would be taken by medical colleges for a dissection so thorough that hardly a speck would remain of them.
The pictures whisper two secrets. One of the forsaken mental patients and the second is of all those at the periphery of the society who slip through the security net, drown in oblivion and are forgotten. So let us dedicate these photographs to all those unseen strangers, whose sufferings we neither felt nor realized.
at 10:58 PM