Environment as psychic apparatus   (L'environnement en tant qu'appareil psychique)

Haruchi OSAKI

In this presentation, I would like to introduce two projects that I planned as an artist. I have been working on arts while working in mental health settings such as psychiatric hospitals. I usually do artwork for patients at psychiatric hospitals. As an artist, I also present contemporary arts that raises issues for society. My works seek to achieve a fusion of art and medicine by engaging the body of the viewer. The work was influenced by medicine and humanities. The works introduced here are not only presented in galleries and museums but are often set up for practical purposes related to welfare services and research institutions. These works literally combine the metaphoric and therapeutic effects inherent in art.


Air tunnel(2013)
The work "Air Tunnel", which I produced around 2013, is a piece of art made up of four large cloths measuring 7 meters on each side, allows people to dive inside it. Because it is made of cloth, the height does not change even if you go through the layers. It is a work that enables horizontal movement back and forth in a three-layer structure. The view is blocked by the cloth, so you can see only your feet. However, only the first layer is being blown by the circulator and is inflated.

Although it is called a "tunnel", there is no passage from the beginning. There are only the cloths that overlap. However, a space is created dynamically when a person dives between the cloths. When multiple people move inside the same cloth, the cloths interact with each other, such as being pulled together.

This is mainly used in facilities for children with developmental disabilities. Some occupational therapists say it works for children with ADHD. Although the cloths simply overlap, children lose their sense of direction because their view is obstructed by the cloth. I think that it is useful to train sense of direction, especially for hyperactive children. This also helps build muscles of children, as it naturally encourages a crawling posture.

The air tunnel can be thought of in relation to objects of desire during a period of development, such as Linus's blanket, or in relation to something like an autistic "hug machine" of Temple Grandin. Winnicott states that these characteristics of transitional objects remain alive in play later in life. The air tunnel can be said to be a space that brings out the playfulness of the developmental body as an object of such transition. The size of the body so directly interferes with the space of the work that if an adult stands around like a pillar, it can be like a large tent.

The structure of the air tunnel is simple, but its folds (pli) may be comparable to the structure of Freudian unconscious. In a draft written two years after his Study on Hysteria, Freud described a hysteria of his patient, which consists of multiple scenes, as the "hysterical architectural style," i.e. as some sort of building, and discussed its mechanisms of repression. In this draft, he explored the relationship between the four layers, which had been described as a concentric network in Study on Hysteria. In other words, what he perceived once as "foreign body (Fremdk«Órper)" or "infiltration (Infiltration)" was replaced by a metaphor of architecture, and the pathology of hysteria shifted to the problem of how hysterical patients felt between the layers. Could we call it building-ization (norm-alization) of unconscious by Freud? The metaphor of architecture is only an abstract one, but the air tunnel has a concrete form that allows you to experience this architecture. In his Studies on Hysteria, recollection (Erinnerung) is presented as an important concept, and its etymology is said to be internalization (Er-innerung). The fold-like space of the air tunnel is also like an internalized fold of memory. This is an apparatus with a body memory that is recalled by opening the folds. Children often guide adults inside the air tunnel, probably because children have a physical memory. It can be said that it is not a simple storage and regeneration of memories but an environment as a psychic apparatus activated through recollection. Freud believed that in a concentric hierarchy, the closer the pain was to the nucleus of trauma, the greater the repression. If the memory of trauma is a problem, a space like an air tunnel that externalizes the memory may also lead to experiencing the process of cure.

Freud describes a vertical mechanism in which the painful representation of unconscious is repressed from deeper layers to upper layers and captures repression between the layers. In the air tunnel, on the other hand, the space of layers is replaced by horizontal links with others. People on different layers are invisible to each other, and people encounter others, such as clothed zombies. Normal communication takes place in a variety of non-verbal and unconscious, invisible conversations, and the air tunnel makes it possible to experience that conversation through cloth with others. It creates an unusual way of engaging with others. Some children who used this cloth also said that they had more friends by using it. A social link is created from a heterogeneous encounter that occurred in the air tunnel.

The space that embodies the mind, along with the texture and weight of the cloth material, is perceived as an extension of the skin sensation (boundary of the body). The space embraces concentric relationships by creating relationships between others. The lower layer of cloth becomes thicker and heavier. Various fabrics are used, and each fabric has a different tactile texture and sight. In the part made of mesh ground, there is a place where the next layer can be seen through. The play of multiple people through the same space opens the individual's unconscious into horizontal links with others through the folds of the cloth. What is realized here is a therapeutic effect due to physical connection through the body. A clinical psychologist commented that this was a type of "group therapy."

In this way, the layer structure becomes a physical environment by making the hierarchy structure of the unconscious flexible, and an apparatus that enables you to enjoy connection and disconnection (i.e. barrier by the clothes) with others. I think that this work can be used for various purposes in the field such as psychiatry, psychotherapy and art therapy. Sometimes we can try to give out a leaflet with written instructions and use it as a tool to see the relationship with poetic language in a non-linguistic space. Here, in relation to "pain", I am influenced by the work of contemporary artist Annette Messager.


"Barrier House (House of Disability)" Project (2015-)
Next, I would like to introduce the "Barrier House (House of Disability)" project that I have been conducting since 2015. If the air tunnel is "the softest architecture in the world", this "Barrier House (House of Disability)" project is literally the hardest architecture. In fact, we are working with architects. The term "disability" as used herein refers to the "disability" of the "disabled person", as well as the "barrier" and "destruction" of the house itself. In light of these considerations, this project examines the inseparable relationship between individuals and the environment. "Disability" generally has a negative meaning, but it is doubtful that universalization of the modern world to eliminate disability always has a positive meaning. Universalization is rather uniform one in that it must adapt to everyone. Universalization thus can be against human diversity. On the other hand, the "Barrier House (House of Disability)" considers various disabilities as positive. By living in a space with disabilities, we try to demonstrate the creativity and richness of disabilities. In an art called "Art Brut", patients with mental illness or disability create talented work, while the "house of disability" examines creativity and richness by living in a disabled environment. Being open to a different sense through living in a space with some kind of difficulty. I would like to make this an environment that ultimately is useful for minority people as well.

At the start of the project, we planned various models of the house for the people with disability. There was also a plan for a "tightening room", which is a transform of a "hug machine" produced by Temple Grandin into the house. It is an upcoming task to think about the architectural environment for people with atypical development, and it is possible to think of space as a tool for mutual understanding of the senses of different people through the environment.

The area of research called "disability studies," assumes the transition from medical model to social model of disabilities. But it doesn't mean that people with disabilities themselves have changed by social models. Conversely, living in a "house of disability" means that everyone potentially becomes a person with disabilities. My idea comes from the clinical setting of severely handicapped children, and I would like to think about the human body and create works in a material environment. As such, "house of disability" includes cognitive and ecological psychological perspectives, and the project involves cognitive scientists. There are experiments in cognitive psychology where the perception of the human body changes depending on the environment in which they were born and raised, and if the environment of the house changes, the body living there can also change.

The idea that people are created and changed by the environment is influenced by the ideas of Shusaku Arakawa (who started his carrier with Dada-like works) and Madeline Gins. In addition, these works are in the background of houses destroyed by the Great East Japan Earthquake and houses that were swept away by the tsunami at that time.


In the installation at Kitasenju (in Tokyo) in 2017, the entire house with a courtyard was used as the venue for the "house of disability". Since the house was already broken, we gave the broken parts the names of disabilities. The house was originally used as a community space, so it was like a musical instrument where human voices resonated. With the park in front of the house, children play every day. For the children, it is not a barrier, but rather a space to play and exercise as much as they want. With the private space open to the public and remodeled into a space different from the park, the children's reaction to the "house of disability" was an unusually hot one. Adults, on the other hand, hesitated to play in the "house of disability".

We opened the attic and the underfloor in the house and visualized its potential uses. The light bulb is flickering behind the empty ceiling. Opening under the floor, we made the cat's passage. In Poetics of Space (La Poetique de l'Espace), Gaston Bachelard takes up the rationality and dream of "attic" and "basement". Needless to say, the concept of "house" has an important role in the tradition of Western philosophy. In this "house of disability," the house which is the fundamental to human beings is disabled and broken. Takuya Matsumoto commented by using tautology, "if Heidegger states that language is the house of being, then house is the house of being in the house of disability". In the "house of disability", a romantic dark space where unconsciousness and dreams reside is visualized and externalized. What is that house like?

I t is said that the paternal figure is denied in autism and developmental disorders. This means that a "house" with their family may have a different meaning to them than to those with typical development. The "house of disability" is to build houses individually from such a viewpoint and aims to be an alternative house for people with disabilities. In the "house of disability", everyone can be disabled and deepen their mutual understanding. When such an environment as a psychic apparatus is realized, the concepts of "home" and "family" may be changed drastically.

In a newspaper article, our "house of disability" was introduced under the heading "Barrier-free thinking in an unoccupied house" and was caught in the social sense of thinking about barrier-free by experiencing a broken house itself. In fact, it functions as a children's house, and has a welfare function.


The following year, in 2018, we renovated the Japanese-style tenement house (Nagaya) of Kyojima (in Tokyo) to create another "house of disability." The tenement house was on the verge of being demolished in order to prepare the Tokyo Olympic Games. The tenement house was an old building, but it was located where the shining Tokyo Sky Tree could be seen. Indeed, old poor landscapes were being replaced by new rich ones and being demolished in the name of rationality. As such, the "house of disability" served as a monument to address the issue of how to resist the fluidization of society. Here, the artistic side was stronger than the welfare side, and the issue was how to protect private fiction and whereabouts.

The first venue is a space called "slope floor" for climbing. There are no stairs and you will have to climb up holes and beams. The holes are drilled randomly, but some have holes that penetrate each other. At that time, the Japanese contemporary art collective "Chim¢¬Pom" was also creating a space with a hole in the building, and Gordon Matta-Clark also made a hole in the house some time ago. In an article entitled "The Tokyo Revolution by Artistic Imagination", architectural historian Taro Igarashi introduced the "house of disability" project in a lineage of Japanese avant-garde artists and architects. However, the penetration of the hole in the slope here was not intended, it was just a coincidence, and it appeared like a ghostly blank pillar.

In another venue, we broke the common wall between two adjacent houses and used two symmetrical rooms as one. Then, the floor on the second floor was removed, leaving only the beams, and the floor was newly inserted. We created a space in the darkness of the "ceiling" on the first floor and the "floor" on the second floor, which were usually hidden. This means that we have created a space where people can enter into the fictitious gap. This gap is called the "middle layer". This is divided into three levels by expanding the layout. Because the first floor has a low ceiling, you cannot stand and must crawl. Toilets and stairs are symmetrically located next to each other. Close-ups and dressing tables are also diverted to passages to the next room by breaking the walls. However, only the height of the floor itself has moved, and the rest of the wall remains intact. Therefore, the ordinary room is defamiliarized (this term was first coined in 1917 by Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky), and the doors and ventilation fans there are transformed into foreign objects. On the second floor, when you stand, the lights are in front of your eyes. On the second floor, the roof tiles are lowered, laid down on the floor, and the house has a roof as if it were inside the house. The sky can be seen from where the roof was originally there. Buckets are placed on the roof to prevent rain leaks. This was a very surreal sight.

The "middle layer" between the first and second floors is a bit dark. Also, in order to enter the "middle layer", you have to go up to the second floor and go down, which causes confusion. There is also an insidious image like a prison. However, a resident who had lived there said, "I feel for the first time that I have touched the house itself, which was not visible in everyday life." Due to the effects of defamiliarization, the "house of disability" allows you to experience a living space that was previously unconscious and sublimates the pain of the house itself. In other words, it can be said that the "house of disability" took care of the trauma that an old house where people lived for many years was demolished for land readjustment.

There were also impressions from the audience that they recalled Edogawa Ranpo's novels, "The Caterpillar" and "The Walker (Stalker) in the Attic." It is interesting that this house was experienced in connection with fiction. By living in non-standard homes, people aware of their non-standard bodies. By doing so, they access their body as fiction. Isn't this a drama and creation that takes place on a daily basis? This is not a common broken house, but a house re-built through the body. In the words of Arakawa Shusaku and Madeline Gins, it can be said that the house was a "building body".

Let's use the terms of Lacan, the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real. It may be said that the "house of disability" has "touched" the real by defamiliarization. Rather than settling in a dreamy scenario of the imaginary, by restructuring the structure of the environment itself, a new way of withdrawal (hikikomori) to fantasy is created. This house allows you to create a barrier to the outside world by withdrawing into the house in an alternative way. In a sense, it is possible to create a self-made psychic apparatus and create an environment on a different basis. I think modern art and architecture are trying to create works that function as such places (also known as "Asyl" in the German literature). The title of "house of disability" created in Kyoshima (in Tokyo) was "Hyper-concreteness" (a coined word I created). The subtitle was "Fiction and Life." Originally from Timothy Morton's "Hyper Object", it incorporates the nuance of plastically creating hyper-concrete reality. The concept of "concrete" is reminiscent of avant-garde expressions that approach specific bodies and materials, such as "music concrete" and "neo-concretism." This house treats them as a relationship between the everyday environment and the body.


The philosopher Catherine Malabou uses the term "destructive plasticity" to highlight the importance of a deconstructive perspective that affirms the destruction of plasticity. Affirming the values that promote such disabilities and illnesses could be questioned from an ethical point of view, which also applies to "houses with disabilities". These can be reduced to the idea of "plasticity for cure" or converged to the inclusive perspective of "destruction to create another positive ability". Psychoanalytically, the destructive nature of life's work, the death drive, is very important. But trying to open up these concepts to the public could be criticized for promoting discrimination. So, generalization may be difficult. As Claire Bishop states, creativity and art are inseparable today, and unlike the former avant-garde movement, being creative in our society requires ethical considerations. How can we think of contemporary art without voluntary slavery to our inclusive society? This is a crucial issue. Our "house of disability" is nothing but ambiguous in this regard.

In socially engaged art, theatrical play has the meaning of a political action. I would like to say by presenting "house of disability" that the appearance of such utopian places will change people's consciousness, but literally we want to encourage residents to change in the environment. The clinique de La Borde is sometimes considered anti-psychiatric, but I think it is a rare example of the fusion of avant-garde art with psychiatry. Our "house of disability" promotes physical change not merely based on social constructionism, but through the interaction of the physical environment with the body. The challenge in the future is to verify the effects of the "house of disability" while living in it. We aim to unite life and art. In the past, the madness of dissident and outsider arts created by avant-garde artists were important. But now, art as alternative for people with disabilities, minorities, or artists themselves is important. Especially in Japan, where Art Brut is confused with the art of the disabled, welfare administration is so close to culture. Apart from that, I think it is important to set the space in an alternative way.

My two projects, introduced here, attempt to re-think humans as objects by reconstructing the environment at the material level, and from there to create a model that considers psychical and mental problems of our times. We consider this projects all-out battle in collaboration with a variety of expertise. Art must not be confused with welfare in the age of social inclusion. To build a prototype of the future Homo-Sapiens environment as a model is the problem that humanities must solve in today's art.

translated by Takuya Matsumoto

February 21-22, 2020
Venue: Institut francais, Kyoto, salle Inabata
Sponsor: Kyoto University International Mental Health Seminar 2020
PANDORA (Association francaise de recherche sur les processus de creation)