The San Sebastiano hospital in Correggio is located on the outskirts of the town center. The buildings are of recent construction or renovation. There are small but efficient rehabilitation gyms. A swimming pool, hydrotherapy. The bathrooms are functional and clean like those at an outlet. The hospital specializes in rehabilitation patients with neurological, respiratory, and orthopedic disorders. Men and women living on wheelchairs in the age of reason after a stroke, a car accident, or an accident on the job; their presence – docile and unreachable bodies – is so distant “it speaks of itself in the desert.”
Being inside this hospital is like being inside those places in wich languages transit one into another, moods taper into something else, faces slide from familiar to unknown. The difference between illness and health is tangible here. The artist Francesco Clemente once said that “being able to see means not being able to share the experiences of those deprived of this faculty.”
In this work my attention was focused on the idea of a delicate equilibrium, a being without being. Anyone in precarious balance feels all of the strain pushin one way or the other. But there are also those who find themselves in that state to discover what can be seen in unstable balance. The title: Un orlo, un punto, un bordo [A brik, a point, an edge] is a reflection on Ingeborg Bachmann’s Der Tod wird kommen. Time spent in the desert is “motionless”, it’s time we don’t perceive; time spent in the hospital needs object, curtains, light, a point, a brink , an edge to make it real.
The 18-year-old Thomas Bernhard wakes up one day, as though in a hallucination, in “a long corridor” with “an endless series of rooms, open and closed, populated by hundreds if not thousands of patients.” It is the hospital in wich he will fight to survive a seriuos lung ailment. Here in a bath where a nun comes by every hour to lift the patient’s arm and see if there’s still a pulse, Bernhard decides not to let the men of the prosectorium come and take him away in their zinc coffins with the rest of dead, as though they were “clearing out a warehouse of marionettes.”
I spent 2004 and 2005 in this state of consciousness. The perspective of a long-term patient, like that of a doctor or an artist looking on from the window sill, is a watershed; you don’t become better, but – in some cases – you never regain the ability to pretend to be saved.
Translated by Marlene Klein
Linea di Confine. Catalog Welfare/ Space Emilia. Edited by William Guerrieri e Stefano Munarin. Texts by Antonello Frongia, William Guerrieri, Stefano Munarin