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Near the Acacia, Autism - An Enigma
Philippe Forest, Olivier Menanteau

Patrons - The staff of the Autism, Infantile Psychosis (API) Operational Unit of the Barthélemy Durand Public Health Establishment at Etampes
Mediator - Mari Linnman
Supporters - Fondation de France, Ile de France Regional Council, Ministry of Health - Social Affairs Department
Etampes, Essonne, 2002

Le contexte

The Public Health Institution - Barthélemy Durand manages twelve psychiatric sectors. A functional unit has been created for adult patients with autism who require appropriate care, often resulting in reactions in patients to whom the medical team has difficulty making sense. The patrons invited two artists, Philippe Forest and Olivier Menanteau, to create a work that reflects this therapeutic experience in order to make their work visible and communicate it within the department. The resulting work is a photo-novel : composed of texts and photographs, this book offers a subjective point of view on autism in everyday life and helps to update the debate around madness and change the way people with autism and the professionals who care for them are viewed.

La commande

The work - Near the Acacias. Autism, an enigma - is a photo-novel resulting from the presence of the artist Olivier Menanteau and the writer Philippe Forest within the Autism, Child Psychosis (API) functional unit of the Public Health Institution - Barthélemy Durand in Étampes. Composed of photographs and texts, the book offers a subjective point of view on adult autism in everyday life. For both artists, the book is based on the bet that "the experience of another word on adult autism can be tried. A word that is neither that of the patients nor that of the doctors, which in no way claims to tell the truth. Simply : a double word, distant and which, in its assumed distance, can discreetly constitute an act of intelligence in the double sense of the word : intellectual knowledge, friendly complicity". The invitation of its two artists corresponds to the staff's desire to open the service and communicate their practice. The purpose of the commission is to help update the debate around madness and change the way people with autism and the professionals who care for them are viewed.

Olivier Menanteau

As photographer, Olivier Menanteau, was already working with autistic children while still a student. Years later, he tried to find out what happened to these children when they grew up. Also, before the commission became effective, he had already been working as a photographer in the U.F. for four years. His artistic practice is based on a long-term investment in the places where he comes to capture images whose scope goes beyond the documentary approach. The writer Philippe Forest joined the project when the order was placed. The possibility of investing the place also became necessary. In his last two books, the questioning of the limits of the hospital service in the face of patients who will not heal is approached with finesse and restraint. For him, the literary commission disrupts the subjectivity underlying the act of writing, by forcing it from a story belonging to another, and, within the framework of the U.F. reserved for autistic people, it is a story where the absence of language is the basis of the disease.