The Mental Institution or Institute of Creative Research


YEAR: 1991



Consisting of the installations No 2 (Room 9), No 22 (Room 12), No 26 (Room 6, here titled Someone Keeps Showing Up in the Corner), No 28 (Room 2), No 38 (Room 10), and No 51 (Room 13) as well as Doctor’s Waiting Room (Room 1), Hall for Ideological and Industrial Propaganda (Room 3), I Sleep in the Orchard (Room 4), Paradise Under the Ceiling (Room 5), The Great Codex (Room 7), The Game Room (Room 8), The Energy in the World Should Be Distributed Evenly (Room 11), Doctor’s Waiting Room (Room 14)

Collection of the artist


See No 2, 22, 26, 28, 38, 51


Sprovieri Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: I Sleep in the Orchard, December 5, 2008, to February 14, 2009.

Haunch of Venison, London, United Kingdom
Glasnost: Soviet Non-Conformist Art from the 1980s, April 16 to June 26, 2010.

Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Torino (Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art Turin), Italy
Eroi (Heros), GAM – May 19 to November 6, 2011.

Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Torino, Italy
Permanent installation at GAM


The installation is an intricate labyrinth consisting of large and small rooms, three corridors, and a number of nooks and crannies. All the rooms and the corridors are filled with various objects which are arranged on shelves, tables, hanging on the walls, lying on the floor or under the very ceiling. The ‘objects’ are standing behind barriers which divide the space of the ‘spectacle’ from the space of the ‘viewer.’

The first room in the installation (and it is also, strictly speaking, the last room if you enter from the opposite side, since the installation has two entrances) is called the ‘doctor’s room’ and is covered with numerous instructions and rules hanging all over the walls. The other 12 rooms which the viewer looks into also have explanations on the walls in addition to the objects, and these explanations tell when the patient entered the institute, what is the nature of his ‘project’ and his main idea, as well as what kind of opinion the attending doctors have formed about him.

Here is a list of the main ‘idea-projects’ which the patients are realizing in their rooms:

  1. ‘I Like to Cover Boards with White Paint’

  2. ‘Hall for Ideological and Industrial Propaganda’

  3. ‘I Sleep in the Orchard’

  4. ‘Paradise Under the Ceiling’

  5. ‘Someone Keeps Showing up in the Corner’

  6. ‘The Great Codex’

  7. ‘The Game Room’

  8. ‘They are in the Closet’

  9. ‘I Escape into the Sky’

  10. ‘The Energy in the World Should be Distributed Evenly’

  11. ‘Exhibit in the Corner’

  12. ‘The Wall’

  13. Doctor’s Waiting Room

In order to understand the meaning of the installation, here is a text from the preface to it:

“There are bright buildings bathed in sunlight located far away from a big city, in the midst of green nature. Tall trees sway near the doors, shading the entrances. This is a new, recently built mental institution or an institute of creative research.

The director of this institute, Professor Ljublin approaches the problem of insanity in an entirely different way than is generally accepted in the practice of similar clinics. In mental diseases, they see the manifestation of a powerful creative impulse, suppressed or distorted by the difficult circumstances of the patient’s life. They see the means for battling insanity in removing these circumstances, in creating a pleasant atmosphere for the manifestation of creativity. There is no division in the institute between the doctor and the patient, between sick and healthy people, instead, there are ‘authors’ and ‘employees,’ ‘creators’ and their ‘assistants.’ And both the former and the latter zealously and persistently labor over the realization of the project, leading it to its successful completion.”


I was never a patient in a mental institution, but twice I visited my friends who wound up there. The first thing that astounded me was the extraordinary illumination of the dwelling at any time of the day (they say that the light isn’t turned off at night either). There were a lot of light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, the light was shining everywhere in the corridor. And there was a strange sort of feeling that I didn’t recognize at first, but when I did recognize it, it affected me very profoundly: there were no handles anywhere like the ones we always grab when we are inside a building. There were no handles on entrance doors, or on the closets or nightstands near the beds, there were no handles on the window latches or on the small vent windows. Everything was ‘under key,’ everything was locked up. But something else was also missing that usually accompanies normal human life, even in a hospital, and this immediately caught one’s eye. There were no dishes ( jars, plates) on the nightstands like in other hospitals; there were no boxes or the multitude of other similar small objects which surround a person no matter where he is … There was a terrible tidiness, sterility, vacantness in the place, only the most wretched necessities were present: beds, locked nightstands, a table. But when I started to take a closer look at these objects, there was also something ‘not quite right’ with them either. They were somehow especially solid, heavy, all the legs and fasteners were strengthened, reinforced. My God! They were all attached to the floor, special brackets were fitted to them, but without screws (possibly so that it was impossible to remove them).

The windows, covered with a screen from the inside, were painted white. And in general, everything that I saw in the ward itself and in the corridor into which opened up many doors from other wards, was somehow ‘divided’ by a color scheme that divided the entire space into two halves. The top part of the walls and the ceiling were painted a light sky-blue color, the lower part of the walls to a height of 2 meters were dark blue. A fine pale green line ran between the lower and upper colors. What did such a color scheme mean in this place, who thought it up? How did it affect the inhabitants of the building?

… Very soon I began to feel very odd in this strange place, it seemed to me that I was going out of my mind. The strangely decorated corridor started to seem to my anxious-excited imagination to be a tranquil and infinite sea in its lower half, a fine line of the green shore there, far away, near the very horizon and a clear, bright sky above everything … The bright electric light bulb above this expanse, the multitude of electric light bulbs – weren’t they a multitude of shining suns, day and night glimmering above the landscape?



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1991Megan BartonComment