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« La Déconniatrie » in Toulouse, when surrealism meets psychiatry

It is under a very enigmatic title – The Deconniatry – that the exhibition be held at the Abattoirs de Toulouse. To understand it, you have to go through the subtitle Art, exile and psychiatry around François Tosquelles. And continue with the biography of the doctor, around whom are deployed works and documents of different natures and subjects, very instructive, sometimes difficult to link. A journey that narrates the meeting of surrealism and psychiatry under the Nazi threat.

François Tosquelles (1912-1994) was born Francesc Tosquelles Llaurado in Reus, Catalonia. More readily than Castilian, he learns German and French. He was introduced to psychiatry at the Pere Mata Institute, Reus hospital, through the teaching of its director, Emili Mira, and the meeting in Barcelona of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts from Central Europe who took refuge there in as anti-Semitism and Nazism progress. He was then close to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Bloc created by anti-Stalinist communists, then in 1935 took part in the creation of the Marxist Unification Workers’ Party – better known by its acronym POUM – in which the British writer George Orwell, in particular, fought.

Tosquelles proposes a reform of repressive psychiatric practices. His influence is then considerable

Graduated in 1935, a year before the start of the Spanish Civil War, Tosquelles fought the Francoists in Aragon, then treated combatants suffering from mental trauma. After the fall of Barcelona, ​​he crossed the Franco-Spanish border like five hundred thousand other exiled Republicans and was placed in one of the internment camps that the IIIe Republic created to lock up « unwanted foreigners ».

He arrived in September 1939 at the Judes camp, near Septfonds (Tarn-et-Garonne) where he founded a psychiatric service for his fellow prisoners. In January 1940, he left the camp to reinforce the team of the psychiatric hospital of Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole (Lozère) at the request of its director, Paul Blavet. Naturalized French in 1948, he became head doctor of the establishment and remained there until 1962.

« Institutional psychotherapy »

Its influence is then considerable, attached to the notion of “institutional psychotherapy” which proposes a reform of repressive psychiatric practices. He opposes the creation of workshops where collective activities, from gardening to masonry, make it possible to re-establish social links between patients and caregivers and between patients themselves. They are no longer treated like cumbersome incompetents but as individuals to whom a share of initiative and responsibility must be given.

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