There are dark places in all of us. The human body much is like a building – its supporting structure of blood, flesh and bone a home for the psyche. As with all buildings, it is prone to damage and bears the scars of wear and tear. In Yvonne de Rosa’s series ‘Crazy God’ she depicts the architecture of the mind through the near empty shell of a closed down hospital for the treatment of the mentally ill.
We are presented with little context. We are aware that the building is located somewhere in Italy, however the exact geography is un-important. De Rosa’s concerns are not focused on the story of the specific building, but instead on presenting a portrait of many institutions that were built and operated in similar ways all over Europe. The resulting photographs are akin to the findings of an arc eological dig where we are left with clues and artefacts to piece together the psychogeography of the place.
Dark corridors illuminated by pools of light from doors and windows serve as a stark reminder of the bright world beyond its walls, a teasing glow of freedom. Lenticular arches of sunlight lead the eye towards a window marking a dead end. Doors with small eye-level slots used to observe the person inside now gape open, but never loose their oppressive nature. That is not to say this is work that revels in grimness; De Rosa finds a textural beauty in her subject, decay from years of neglect during which the building has seemingly reclaimed its soul and character, obscuring the institutionalised nature of it’s earlier life and creating an aesthetic which is strangely seductive. The dilapidation has a softening effect on the hard walls and sharp angles of the rooms. We find cots and tiled floors littered with debris and chipped paint dusting the surfaces, the nature of the ruins only becoming apparent with closer inspection leaving the harsher reality of the tableaux depicted to reveal itself gradually.
De Rosa’s haunting and often moving images are more powerful through the absence of the people who were once patients within its walls. They have left personal and physical traces now held by the building itself – the keeper of memories – remnants of lives we will never witness. De Rosa herself unearthed reminders of her time there, returning to the hospital she had worked in for three years as a volunteer. Her difficulty in gaining access to the building after its closure resulted in De Rosa breaking in to wander the now dark wards in order to uncover something of its past – an action which create almost tangible sense of new discovery as we follow her illicit steps.
The hospital becomes an empty theatre in which the props left from the last performance are left to gather dust for the next company to re-adapt and use to tell another tale. In this case De Rosa is the playwright whose photographs weave the story utilising the objects left on floors in cupboards, cabinets, leaning against walls scratched with names and messages painting a sorrowful series of scenes.