The Asylum Grounds

Asylum by E.Von Bark. October 2001

"They put us here because: we don't buy things!" -The character portrayed by Brad Pitt in Gillam's '12 Monkeys' describes the Mental Health System.

Things change. Land used for the service of the public is intended to be sold off to private enterprise. Why? Because somebody figured they could make a buck off of it. It is only about money; That is what the concept of Real Estate is all about: Land which somebody makes a buck off of.
             The interesting part is the vocabulary used to justify these changes. The Queen Street Mental Health Centre is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a modern urban network of crosseets and shopping malls. This is to be done in the name of a nebulous battle against 'Stigma', the blunt metaphor wielded about as symbolic of the mortal enemy of the 'clients' re-integration into society. The planners claim that if we were able to bring the city (and it's traffic) over to the current site that the existential alienation would magically disappear. I'm not convinced.
             I have my own favourite metaphors: like 'cars' and 'shopping'; for me they symbolize the consumer culture we live in, and they tend to symbolize negative aspects of our culture. What options do we have if we want to hide from these metaphors? Unfortunately, evading these overriding elements of urban existence is only possible if we have the economic potency to escape for a nice weekend out in the country. Were those stigmatic stone walls really intended to lock the madmen away, or possibly to keep the mad world out?
             I keep thinking that the bizarre paradox of 'Gentrification' should be a metaphor for something, but I dunno what? Our inherent mortality? The bitter irony is that as always the self-generated sweat of the artist feeds the evil spectre of urban 'renewal'. I found myself by chance placed geographically at the soul of Toronto's millennial artistic renaissance, with the QSMHC as its crossroads. Where did all these sweet little art galleries come from? From this dreaded 'stigma' which suppressed rents just enough to allow this sensitive little plant of urban creative expression to blossom, of course. Now that the end is in sight, the Tao reminds me that the beginning is always the end, and that change is inevitable... but allowed free will, I don't always have to like it, and I can say so.


next essay

a s y l u m