A Possible Strength: Towards a Poietics of Living Together

Round table, performance, conference, and film screening series

28 June – 6 July 2018 (check programme)
Carlos Osorio, Psiquátrico de Oviedo. La Cadellada (Psychiatric Hospital of Oviedo - Spain), 1975. Courtesy of María Dolores Santalla
Carlos Osorio, Psiquátrico de Oviedo. La Cadellada (Psychiatric Hospital of Oviedo - Spain), 1975. Courtesy of María Dolores Santalla
Related activity:

A Possible Strength: Towards a Poietics of Living Together Reading group

Europa Creativa ENG

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía as part of the Midstream. New ways of audience development in contemporary art project
Program organizer:
Alfredo Aracil  

This program emerges out of the need to bring together ideas on the illnesses we suffer from, at a time when the welfare state has given way to a type of governance centered on the proliferation of new disorders, diseases, and medications. A possible strength: towards a “poietics” of living together brings together artists, theorists, and activists, in order to share experiences on a number of care networks, non-governmental and communal forms of organization, situated knowledge and ways of life that, after the anti-psychiatric movements of the 1970s, operate as an alternative to medical devices against unwellness, inasmuch as techniques for the repression of subjectivity, desires, and pleasures that do not adhere to what is considered normal. The known conditions of anxiety, stress, depression, panic, or attention deficit disorder, as well as the emergence of new illnesses such as fibromyalgia, or other forms of chronic exhaustion, are related, without a doubt, to phenomena such as the precariousness or absence of salaried work, in both psychological and physical aspects. As such, the success of drug treatments is measured by its coercive efficacy and by the empiric skill with which they transform the smallest somatization into a stable diagnosis table.

 The growing critical attitude and a new way of understanding clinical practice make up two complementary forces that allow us to envision a therapeutic outlook from which to work on fears and challenges that stem from the need to live together, and that does not end at the medical model, nor at rehabilitating behavior, nor at integrating those who are different into the mode of existence that neo-liberalism considers desirable.  It is not about breaking down personal suffering into mere biology, as part of neuroscience does, but rather about investigating political and social conditions that make torture, seclusion, and emotional isolation possible, more secret and commonplace everyday, almost trivial, and justified by medical reasons. In that sense, A possible strength: towards a “poietics” of living together seeks to free unwellness from being appropriated by medical science, and at the same time releasing the power of language and knowledge of the living body. In other words, it is so unwellness to not be the heartbreaking individual experience of the alienated, eccentric, and marginalized. Beginning with activities of varied formats (round table discussions, conferences, screenings, performances, and reading sessions), the program also wants the truth from every damaged body, its suffering, and the vulnerability it causes, to become visible to the public eye, as a personal and collective euphoria, to affect the largest number of people possible, until it becomes an experience that imagines new ways of living and negotiating, where every emotional crisis or catastrophe is always met with the creation of a new possible world, as suggested by Peter Pál Pelbart, with conditions conducive to subjective change.

This program is complemented by the A Possible Strength Reading group, that during June and July will work with texts related to the group’s principal theses.


Alfredo Aracil. Curator, arts manager, and researcher. He has collaborated with magazines such as Experimenta, LUMIÈRE and Nosotros. His research concentrates on the transformation of psychiatry in Spain at the end of the 1970s (doctoral thesis).

Franco Castignani.Political expert and independent researcher. His principal areas of interest analyze mutations in contemporary labor, new sensibilities, and the politicization of illness.

Valentina DesideriArtist, researcher, and writer residing in Amsterdam, where she has launched the performative practices Fake Therapy and Political Therapy, as well as co-organizing the Performing Arts Forum.

Manuel Desviat. Mental health professional, he has worked in clinics, organization and services management, teaching, and research. Author of books such as Cohabitar la diferencia: de la reforma psiquiátrica a la salud mental colectiva (Traficantes de sueños, Madrid, 2016).

FLIPAS/GAM. Mutual support group from Madrid that works for the understanding of mental health from a socio-political activism standpoint. They fight against label, social discrimination, manipulation, and violence.

Ainhoa Hernández Escudero and Andrea Rodrigo. Together they think about complicity devices and ways to produce knowledge and sensibility, taking an interest in artistic investigation, curation, and contemporary choreography. They are involved in contexts such as Performing Arts Forum (St. Erme, France). They have collaborated with Valentina Desideri on a piece undertaken along with Corazón del Sol for the exhibition Cale, cale, cale! Caale!!!, curated by Juan Canela in Tabakalera (Donostia).

Hierbabuena. Organization from Asturias made up of and for people who understand mental suffering. Since 2000 it works to spread and improve knowledge society has about these types of problems and experiences, free from discrimination and prejudice.

InsPiradas. Collective from Madrid with a relationship to exclusively feminist mental health. Based on first-person experiences to denounce a hetero-patriarchal capitalist system that harms mental health.

La Rara Troupe. Thought, reflection, and creation collective on mental health that emerged in 2012 out of the Department for Education and Cultural Action at the Museum of Contemporary Art in León (MUSAC). Composed of people diagnosed and undiagnosed, its action is based on using audiovisual creation from self-representation to first-person narration.

La Revolución Delirante. Critical movement made up of mental health professionals started in 2011 in Valladolid. It is principally directed at the new generations of professionals with three objectives: promote a broad, independent, and rigorous education of these professionals; understand the aid and position of these professionals in the context of the abandonment of the position of power and social control with which the “psi” disciplines were born; take these ideas to society to neutralize the social stigma associated with so-called mental illness. Communicate that mental illness is a way of being in the world that should be respected and as such, give the mentally ill back their status of citizen.

Santiago López-Petit. Chemist and philosopher, he is a follower of Foucault and Deleuze's French post-structuralism, and Toni Negri's Italian Marxism, among others. He has spurred on collective initiatives such as Dinero gratis and Espai en blanc, that bring together radical criticism with experimentaion. He has recently published Acaba de publicar El gesto absoluto. El caso pablo Molano. Una muerte política (Pepitas de Calabaza, Logroño, 2018).

Peter Pál Pelbart. Philosopher, essayist, and professor at the PUC-SP (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo). He is the author of Filosofía de la deserción (Tinta Limón, 2009), the notebook “Carta aberta aos secundaristas” in Caixa Pandemia de Cordéis (n-1 Edicões, São Paulo, 2016), and Cartography of Exhaustion: Nihilism inside out (Univocal, Minneapolis, 2015).

Florencia Rodríguez Giles. Artist specializing in painting and performance. Her research has for many years examined the different states of matter and of the psyche. María Ruido. Visual artist, researcher, and cultural producer. She develops interdisciplinary projects on stereotypes in labor in post-Fordist capitalism and on the construction of memory and its relation with narrative forms of history.

Liv Schulman. Artist and writer. She has coordinated and directed performative practice series related to writing, such as Triple Frontera, and the publication of the art and poetry fanzine Pobre, Feo, and Elegant. She writes in different platforms such as Emargé, Allotrope, and Artists talking.


Actividad pasada Thursday, 28 June - Nouvel Building, Protocol Room, (Floor 3, enter through terrace)
Session 1

Situated Unwellness or How Mental Diseases Have Been Privatized
Round table discussion. Participants: Manuel Desviat, Flipas GAM, Hierbabuena y La Revolución Delirante.

Many of our regrets and suffering, that move from the physical to the psychological, have their beginnings in the social realm, free from the influence of biology. This is an intuition that the anti-psychiatric movement put into practice during the 60s and 70s, turning the fight against involuntary commitment and violence of the clinic into a battlefield. From the activism of mutual support groups to the care of new professional collectives that reject medicalization as the lone answer to the illnesses we suffer, this round table seeks to situate a series of reflections on a concrete form of governance that represses the right to be different.

Fake Therapy
A practice proposed by Valentina Desideri with Ainhoa Hernández y Andrea Rodrigo.

Actividad pasada Sunday, 1 July - Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Session 2

San Clemente, Raymond Depardon and Sophie Ristelhueber, France, 1981, B / W, VOSE, 100 '
Presented by Alfredo Aracil

The year 1980, in which this film was filmed, marks the end of a decade of anti-asylum struggles and the beginning of what has been called control societies, with their surveillance and molecular regulation spaces. Raymond Depardon and Sophie Ristelhueber film corridors and common spaces of the last days of a psychiatric hospital on the island of San Clemente, near Venice. This hospital appears as the emblem of an era where therapy inevitably involves confinement, violence and marginalization. The documentary, shot during the carnival period, portrays the daily environment of patients and relatives, as well as its links with medical personnel in the labyrinth of the Venetian hospital.

Actividad pasada Monday 2 July - Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Session 3

Screening and debate on the unedited documentary in progress Estado de malestar (Unwellness State) by María Ruido and the InsPiradas collective.

María Ruido defends film as a space to reflect on the intersection between neo-liberal capitalism and mental health. Her new film, Estado de malestar ((In)adaptación, sintomatología social y enfermedad en tiempos del realismo capitalista), still in progress, uses texts by Franco Berardi Bifo, Mark Fisher, Santiago López Petit, and Marta Plaza, among others, as its foundation, as well as conversations with people diagnosed and undiagnosed with mental illnesses and psychological suffering, to which the artist includes her own experience. In this session, Ruido will share with the audience some of the images from her project, to be finished in November 2018. The feminist collective InsPiradas, which works with mutual support and care as focal points, will participate in the debate.

Actividad pasada Wednesday 4 July - Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Session 4

One Unyielding Force: to Politize Unwellness
Lecture by Santiago López-Petit. Presented by Franco Castignani

Work means, within the framework of neo-liberalism, a form of political control that demands an obligation, sometimes painful, to “have a life” to manage. In a conversation open to debate with the audience, Santiago López-Petit presents his latest book, El gesto absoluto. El caso Pablo Molano: una muerte política (Pepitas de Calabaza, Logroño, 2018), about the intersection between politics and illness, and on the political nature of suicide.

Our own homeless
Lecture-performance by Liv Schulmann

Actividad pasada Thursday 5 July - Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Session 5

Film screening Animación en la sala de espera, (Lively Waiting Room) Carlos Rodríguez Sanz and Manuel Coronado. Spain, 1981, color, In Spanish, 78 min.
Presented by Manuel Desviat and Alfredo Aracil.

This documentary was filmed in the former mental hospital in Leganés, today the Psychiatric Institute, between 1977 and 1979, during the transformation process of mental health assistance, which, during the first years of democratic transition post-Franco, resulted in a collegiate direction and of assembly. In line with other films that have entered in the daily lives of mental health patients and users of mental health, Animación en la sala de espera installs a camera in the institution's day-to-day life, also going outside its walls in search of forms of affection and bonds found in minimal gestures and repetition.

Actividad pasada Friday 6 July - Nouvel Building, Protocol Room, (Floor 3, enter through terrace) - 5pm
Session 6

Round table discussion
With the participation of: to be confirmed, possibly Franco Castignani, Belén Solá (La Rara Troupe), participants of the program’s reading group, Amador Fernández-Savater.

How to live by our won – how to live together
Lecture by Peter Pál Pelbart

Beginning with a meeting with Gilles Deleuze in the early 1980s, Peter Pál Pelbart reflects on how to how to combine the desire to be together when we are not left sufficiently alone, in a crossroads of references and tones that span from Roland Barthes' text this program takes its title from to Jean Oury's experiences, director along with Félix Guattari of La Borde clinic. How does one sustain a collective that maintains a dimension of individuality? How does one create heterogeneous spaces, with its own tonalities and different atmospheres, in which each one is connected in its own way? How does one maintain an availability capable of promoting encounters without imposing them, or attention that permits contact and preserves otherness? How does one make room for chance, without planning for it? How does one sustain a “gentleness” that allows for the emergency of speaking there, where the affective void prospers. These are some of the questions that emerge from this philosopher's research, his conception of health beyond diagnoses and the medical paradigm.

Schizo pic-nic
Performance, Florencia Rodríguez Giles. Museum tour, beginning at Nouvel Building, Protocol Room