Middle Gate Geel ‘13, Belgium, September 29- December 22, 2013.
Middle Gate Geel ’13 is an international art event, curated by a renowned curator Jan Hoet and exhibited at numerous historical locations throughout the city of Geel. The exhibition, displaying the work of more than fifty artists from around the world, tries to come to grips with the complex and multi-layered interaction between myths, psychiatry and the arts. Rather than pinpointing the differences, the exhibition undertakes to reveal the connections and links, commonplaces and parallels of these phenomena. The historic and present-day context of the city of Geel, world-famous for its unique psychiatric care system based on home nursing, adds an extra dimension to this exhibition, so much so that the interaction between Geel and this exhibition will be palpable and visible in every aspect.
Middle Gate Geel ‘13 concentrates on three main categories: myth, psychiatry, and art. More specifically, it sets out to analyse the mutual interaction between mythical or magic-religious art, outsider art and art-as-art, ignoring differences and focussing instead on connections and links, affinities and parallels with respect to these three phenomena. This exhibition wants to do more than just “compile” a number of works that somehow refer to the three main phenomena. It has no intention of providing clear-cut answers—it merely wants to disorder and disturb what we thought we knew. Through the combination of myths with psychiatry and art, this exhibition seeks to create a mental space capable of yielding insights about the assumption of what art is—or could be.
Middle Gate Geel ‘13 is obviously not the first exhibition that zooms in on the relationship between psychiatry, myths and art, yet through its intrinsic link with the city of Geel, it acquires a uniquely rich dimension. Geel’s “foster homes” have been welcoming psychiatric patients of the Public Psychiatric Nursing Centre (OPZ) ever since the 13th century. This integration has contributed to the inclusion of patients in families’ daily lives and in the city’s activities. Geel’s home nursing system still enjoys a special status in the field of caring for the mentally disturbed. The integration of psychiatric patients in families used to be frowned upon. Today, home nursing is considered a monument (so much so that the official psychiatric term is now “rehabilitation”). This approach has aroused interest the world over—even Michel Foucault wrote about it. Geel’s home nursing system is considered a valuable model with a special ethical value. Dialogues and shared experiences of patients and non-patients abound in Geel. Middle Gate Geel ‘13 capitalises on this context and attempts to continue and intensify this dialogue.