Butterflies is a long term project on mental health.
In Ancient Greece, drifting souls were often represented by butterflies symbols. This was a direct link to Psyche, the soul goddess, who was similarly depicted with delicate Lepidoptera wings. When looking for a title for my work on the mental condition, I wanted a word that elevated the individuals I had met above the stale socially created traumas and stigmatizations, which had ruined their lives. The word “Butterflies” soon imposed itself as an image of a delicate but radiant state of being. A description of freedom constantly terrorized by the outside world and an unstable condition made splittable by a misplaced caress. This soul vulnerability constantly immersed in fear became my main obsession while photographing the men and women frozen in institutions or healing
Before the Kosovo war (1998-1999) the Štimlje
psychiatric institute was financed by the Serbian government and mostly inhabited by patients from Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. After the power change, the new Albanian dominated government financially abandoned the place leaving the infrastructures in decay and the patients from minority ethnic groups without care. The patients, who are for the most part severe psychotics, are left roaming in the institution’s walls and garden with limited hygienic or medical care. The building’s inside walls and sanitary conditions are dilapidated. The staff is next to invisible, underpaid and undertrained, not willing or ready to cope with the very challenging job of caring for people in such extreme states.The place’s only psychiatrist shows up for a few hours each week in order to solve administrative problems, seldom meeting patients. The only fix constantly distributed are meals and cigarettes which patients regularly fight each other for. It can be argued that the institution, the caretakers, the politics behind the place’s management are generating or increasing the patients’ symptoms. In such a domain, where time and space have uncertain values, all attempts to link are made without compromises. The mind’s interior (its anxiety, apparitions and ruminations) is telling its ordeal in the open space. The camera was inserted in between the ever vague and fluctuating border separating sanity from insanity.
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