A living memory of psychiatry. On the occasion of the Valvert Psychiatric Hospital’s thirty-year anniversary, a group of current and former hospital professionals will open a dialogue about the evolutions within their professions. Having noticed that a large part of psychiatry’s history was being lost as a result of never having been formally collected for the purpose of transmission, they decided to commission a film in order to collect the professional memories of a hospital that was considered extremely innovative at the time of its founding. For the commissioners, it was also a way to reintroduce an critical dimension back into psychiatry’s daily activities. Their goal was to reintroduce the field of psychiatry into current debate with respect to its current practice, its history, its relationship with the health profession as a whole, its historical relationship with contemporary art, and, more generally, its place in society today.
Valvert is a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Marseilles that dates back to the 1970’s. Almost forty years after its creation, it is obvious that its treatment policies have changed, and that the generous and humanist spirit for which it was known at the time of its founding has ceded ground to concerns for efficiency, concerns that are virtually incompatible with the treatment of mental disorders. Contrary to the majority of medical establishments where physical symptoms are treated, a psychiatric hospital cannot claim to “cure” its patients before sending them home. The most it can do is offer them a place of welcome, an asylum in the literal sense of the term, a place they can call their own. We will try, through a series of interviews with members of the nursing staff and images of the hospital’s daily activities, to understand the reasons for this evolution and the way in which it reflects the changing attitudes of contemporary society. Valérie Mréjen, 2007.
Valérie Mréjen was born in 1969 and studied at the école nationale d’art de Cergy- Pontoise. She created her first videos in 1997. She was an artist-in-residence at the Villa Médicis (Roma) in 2002 and in 2004 she directed Pork and Milk, a documentary film produced by Arte (co-produced by Aurora Films/Ina).