In 1997 I was an involuntary patient in Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute, a U.S. state psychiatric hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My mother had been a patient in the same hospital in the 1960s. The Moccasin Bend project explores my experience in and of the hospital in the context of family and broader cultural narratives.
Moccasin Bend works to portray my experience of psychosis, intergenerational trauma and the sometimes frightening conditions in public psychiatric institutions in the U.S. through a collection of experiments in image, text and sound.
My hope is that readers of the Hearing the Voice blog will find productive links between the approaches myself and my collaborators have taken to this project and broader approaches to psychosis, voices and visions.
For instance, agency, understood as the capacity to act freely, or at least the felt sense that one is or can act freely (including the act of interpreting ones life world), can become distorted in various ways in psychosis. These experiences can involve a sense of powerlessness. Having the sense of being controlled by often malevolent forces, receiving coded messages, instructions or threats in the form of voices, the written word, television broadcasts or gestures were all things that for me were quite terrifying.
In a paradoxical way, agency over memories and meaning of this experience was in a sense restored precisely through inviting the active participation of other actors, including both collaboration with friends, but also the insertion of found material, text, recorded sound, image to act upon and reference the experience.
The image featured above is a silk screened reproduction by Sean Anderson of a 1959 newspaper article describing the architecture of the hospital.