.... every mental facility has its first patient: an Adam, an Eve, or an Adameve, stepping or pushed singular into the void of a space still unmarked—without vibration, without community.2 There were instances in which there was no singular first; in nineteenth-century Canada, inmates from one mental institution were borrowed to provide the necessary labor required to build another.
Once the building had been completed, these same patients were secured in a structure of their own making but not their own design.
When an empire is lurching to a halt at its very end, it might be the moment when it begins, or is forced, to re-imagine its relationship to a national insanity. “The institution is ill,” said Dr. Jean Oury, mentor of Félix Guattari and founder and director of La Borde—an experimental psychiatric hospital in France that opened in 1951, just before the Algerian War, while France’s colonies were dispatching their “Gauls” during the Indochina War. If the institution is ill, the logic is that it can be repaired; but does Oury refer to one or to all—to the prison, to the mental ward, to the school, to government at large? If these forms couple, the recombinant hybrids can both reinforce and undo the former instrumentalizations of its wards in unpredictable ways.4 But the real, unanswered question here concerns whether, in forms singular or doubled, formal institutions can operate outside of state structures?
La Borde comprised an attempt. Oury and his doctors dismantled the architectural separation between patients and administrators by placing the offices within the wards and inviting patients to be administrators (but not doctors?). Finally, the rhythm of La Borde did away with the capital economy of speed; Oury waited for fifteen years for one female patient to smile—and that fifteen-year smile was reportedly satisfying. Does the smile occur long after France has lost its colonies? He does not tell us.