First came the world of the living, then life and death, after the dead, after the bichos and the animals, you make yourself comfortable as a bichos and as an animal.
Stella do Patrocínio
From the late 1960s onwards, Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920–1988) developed a series of unstable and manipulable sculptures that she named bichos — ‘beast’, ‘animal’, or ‘critter’. These unconventional objects constituted a turning point in Clark’s artistic trajectory as she progressively moved away from the Neo-Concrete Movement, shifting her focus towards the frontier between artistic and clinical practice. Already with the bichos, Clark thought about how spectators could transform and de-subjectivate themselves, perhaps becoming more than human by interacting with these abstract but nevertheless organic objects. Later, convinced that she could revitalize the field of art through psychotherapeutic techniques, Clark claimed that her work was ‘a state of art, without art’, where both art and the clinic could retrieve their critical potential vis-à-vis dominant modes of subjectivation.
A few years later, and in a radically different context, Black Brazilian poet Stella do Patrocínio (1941–1992) created bichos as some of the main and disruptive figures of her unclassifiable falatório, a sort of poetic, violent, performative, prophetic, and delirious speech. Do Patrocínio produced her incessant chatter or even diatribe in the psychiatric asylum Colônia Juliano Moreira in Rio de Janeiro, where she spent most of her life. In the midst of a racist, patriarchal, and extremely unequal society, where psychiatry functioned as a powerful social regulation tool, do Patrocínio’s poetic metamorphosing into a bichos could be read as an act of invention and resistance.
This symposium takes the model and motif of the bichos as a starting point to explore intersections between art, gender, and the field of mental health. What is the relationship between madness and racist, gender-based, and social forms of oppression? How have racialized and queer subjects been constrained by exclusionary forms of psychiatry? What strategies have they created to overturn, criticize, or simply survive within such forms? What connections are possible between the bichos produced by Clark and do Patrocínio? And what can one learn from these disruptive animal figures about resistance and artistic invention?