Psychopolis  2008-2009

The great institutional complexes built in Australia and throughout the western world for the mentally ill reflect a "moment" in the life of our culture. They are physical traces of our concept of the "deviant" and out attempt at treatment. The interrelationship between the social institution and the artifact, which supports the institution, became the focus of my photographic studies.

I titled this project Psychopolis, as it was the term used as a reference to the collection of psychiatric institutions within the northern metropolitan area of Melbourne, the focus of this project. Since their closure in the late twentieth century, I explored the current physical conditions of former Mont Park and Larundel Psychiatric Hospitals. Reasons for abandonment are complex and inherent in our changing societal benefits and practices, Furthermore many important issues emerge when there is no longer a fit between the social purpose and the building designed to house that purpose. However, their abandonment may have more to do with the memory and rejection of the past institutions they represent than the actual physical limitations of the structures themselves. The continued debate about what to do with historic structures in general reflects a culture ambivalent about the relationship to the past, and uncertain of how to position itself in relation to the remnants of change. In the case of Larundel, this change has just recently begun. A decade following its closure, this formal mental asylum is currently in the process of redevelopment.

A conclusion to the present study of ‘madness’ is complex, as the representation and perception of the insane continues and will continue as long as society must deal with those it has designated as mentally ill. However, my intention was not to find one definitive answer, but rather affiliate myself with these psychiatric buildings and grounds in order to understand the context of their current abandonment in our collective history, psyche and culture. Through these photographs, I hope to have captured the existing conditions of these institutions, reflecting a tension between past and present, and the impermanence of memory and the artifact.