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
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.
a s y l u m