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Marco Decorpeliada’s Art: Mental Disorder and Frozen Food

June 19, 2017

Have you heard of the exposition, ‘Marco Decorpeliada, Schizometre’, which took place in 2010, at the Maison Rouge of Paris? If you had visited this unique exposition, you could have discovered the works of this regular of psychiatric hospitals, diagnosed not only with 20.8, which means schizophrenic troubles, but also with 40.1, social anxiety disorder. His works, of outsider art, went against the idea of classification itself. There was a little scandal involved in his exhibition: Marco was himself an artwork, a construction, a fiction. Yann Diener, in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, recounts the extraordinary story of Marco.

Whole exhibition was the idea of a group of psychiatrists and writers who wanted to mock the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — at first American, but today used internationally—, a manual that transforms all our gestures and thoughts into a pathological problem. This joyous group, inspired as much by Perec as by Freud and Lacan, has put together an exhibition of works attributed to an adept of psychiatry, a personage of their invention, Marco Decorpeliada. We could have never known more about this exhibition and the author of the works exhibited if some collectors and psychologists had not become astonishingly interested in it. They were so moved by the exhibition that they wanted to buy some of the artworks and meet the artist.

Overall, Marco had a nice story; in his journal, published as Petit manuel de survie en milieu psychiatrique, we can discover his family origins, how many mental hospitals he visited, and how many diagnostics he got. Nowadays, the group that gave birth to Marco organises conferences that are well-studied, funny, and interesting. The group members are invited to everywhere in France for telling the story of Marco and for showing his creations at mental hospitals and theatres. On April 24, they were at the hospital of Sainte-Anne. The large hall of the hospital was peopled with as many psychologists as with ordinary people who wanted to learn about the interesting life of Marco. At the beginning of the conference, the audience learned that Marco was first diagnosed 14.5, ‘psychotic trouble’. He had this number in mind when he entered his home and ordered a frozen meal on phone.

It was during this phone call that the incredible correspondence of two catalogues, the DSM and the menu of the restaurant, stroke him. On phone, he learnt that 14.5, at the menu of the restaurant, corresponds to a plate of ‘12 meatballs’. Marco remembered that he was diagnosed 20.0 at the psychiatric hospital of Marseille, ‘schizophrenia, type paranoid.’ At the restaurant, this number gave ‘Cod fish, from Norway’. Then, Marco started his meticulous work and constructed a systematical chart of correspondences between the DSM and the catalogue of frozen meals. And after that, he created his acclaimed schizometre from a carpenter ruler where he mentioned, at each graduation, a category of DSM and a frozen meal. When Marco realised that some frozen meals at the menu of the restaurant did not have a corresponding mental disorder in the DSM, he felt anguished. He concluded, however, that psychiatric maladies are social constructs.

At the end of the conference, a psychologist affirms that he will see the DSM with a different eye. Marco, although fictive, seems to accomplish his mission.

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