Friday, September 08, 2006

that which does not completely unhappen

These asylum photos from Chris Payne are haunting me because I feel I've seen them somewhere before - a gallery? the New England of my childhood? my worst nightmares? Either way, they're beautifully eerie in their emptiness.

In the last forty years, psychiatric hospitals nationwide have closed as advances in mental health care have rendered them obsolete. Due to their size, age, and condition, rehabilitation is difficult and many are now abandoned and threatened by demolition. Because the term "insane asylum" has negative connotations, older hospitals are seen as vestiges of a less enlightened era and do not provoke the same nostalgia as other historic structures. Sadly, much of the public doesn't realize that these institutions, once considered progressive and the embodiment of high ideals, were built with good intentions by leading architects and physicians who envisioned the asylums as places of refuge, therapy, and healing.