Folie a Plusieurs, Fontane Apotheke, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin, 2014

The French philosopher Michel Foucault discussed in his book Madness and Civilization: A History of Madness in the Age of Reason (1961), the mechanisms of rejection of the other by enlightened rational societies. Foucaults thesis: madness as the other of reason is excluded from reason itself, silenced and exposed to complex procedures of rational control and discipline. The occidental modern rationality herein supports an exclusionary and repressive function. In his research Foucault found no turn for the better or an increase in rationality, but only a change marked by fractures within a framework of time-dependent, arbitrary constructs (Ingeborg Breuer, Peter Leusch, Dieter Mersch 1996: 141 f.).In contrast, todays trends outline the potential of personalities diverging from the norm by now as a market economy evolutionary advantage that generates economic capital.

Considered medically, the delusion often occurs in association with schizophrenia, which is why the group of people living with this disease is a valid starting point to explore the delusion and its neural correlates. The delusion appears, from a medical point of view, as a self-referential new / misperception of reality. This misjudgment is adhered to with absolute certainty and incorrigibility, even if it is contrary to reality, to the own life experience and the judgment of healthy fellow human beings. So the delusion is not only a disorder of thought or judgment, it is rather the expression of a changed relationship with ones environment. The paranoid schizophrenia (F20.0 according to ICD 10) is characterized among other symptoms through persistent and frequent delusions which are often accompanied by auditory hallucinations and perceptual disorders (World Health Organization, 2010). However, the delusion can be seen necessary and productive as the psychologist Giovanni Jervis describes: The delusion is a defense: It prevents from psychotic dessolution, it allows to live, to give things an order, it enables to endure an unbearable situation (Giovanni Jervis, 1975). Jervis articulates himself as a spokesperson of a movement that included David Cooper, Ronald D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, Jan Foudraine, Franco Basaglia, Félix Guattari, Gilles Deleuze and Erving Goffman and others referred to as anti-psychiatry that states a counter-position to the current prevailing assessment towards delusion in the psychiatric discourse (Franco Basaglia, Die Entscheidung des Psychiaters. Bilanz eines Lebenswerkes, Bonn, 2002).

The investigation of the delusional potential, the constructions of reality and the consequential installation Folie à plusieurs represent the third phase of the transdisciplinary delusion research project by the artist Markus Hoffmann and the psychologist Dr. Anne Pankow. The project began as a scientific, experimental study with patients suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The goal of the conjoint research was the evolution of delusional stimulus material (photographies) for this group of patients, in order to examine the neurobiologic basis of delusional treatment. In the beginning of the study experienced staff in psychiatric and psychothera- peutic fields were interviewed, recorded on audiotape, so that typical and irrelevant themes of delusions were identified. In the next step Hoffmann transformed the relevant themes in 300 images (150 delusional and 150 neutral images) and as well filtered delusion relevant and irrelevant words from the interviews. After another control the selected images and words were evaluated by a group of mentally disordered patients with a prevailing positive symptomatology and a control group, in regard of Arousal (psychological term that identifies the activation level of the human central nervous system: attention, alertness, adaptive responsiveness), valence (emotional value that is connected to an impulse) and in reference to their own lives. Within the entire group was revealed that the categories (delusion associated and neutral stimuli) were estimated significantly differently. Between the two groups, to say between ill and healthy patients, was no significant difference regarding the categories. Contrary to the expectation, thus the study supports the assumption of a intergroup continuum of delusional interpretation of reality.

Lophophora williamsii (Peyote) is a plant species in the genus Lophophora from the cactus family (Cactaceae).In the ritual context this cactus serves as a direct contact to the gods and nature spirits. Many tribes that experienced visions during the psychomimetic and hallucinogenic intoxication of Peyote saw it as a sign of the cactus divine origin. Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro) is a plant species from the cactus family (Cactaceae). Since 2000 years the San Pedro cactus is used ritually in the Andes. Through its intake the affected soul was to have a bond to the world of gods and receive visions. The cactus is also used as a restorer (herbal tonic) and as an aphrodisiac. Already in the Moche culture (northern Peru) and the Nazca culture (southern Peru) as well as in the late Inka cultures the cactus played a central figure in ritual ceremonies. Lophophora williamsii as well as Echinopsis pachanoi contain the hallucinogenically or psychomimetically active substance Mescaline.

Folie à pusieurs: Glass cabinet, Lophophora williamsii (Peyote) cactus, Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro) cactus, photo series of 40 Lambda-Prints

Folie à plusieurs was realized in collaboration with FHXB Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum and Kunstraum Bethanien in the context of the exhibition Correction Lines curated by Julia Martha Müller and Frederiek Weda.

© Markus Hoffmann