Argentina is known for being the country with the world’s highest number of psychologists per capita. Almost half of these are concentrated in the capital city of Buenos Aires, especially in the upper class neighborhood of Recoleta, . That’s why people call this neighborhood Villa Freud, Freudville. In Argentina, however, the word Villa can also be synonyms with slum, so Villa Freud could also mean “Freud’s Slum”.
When you enter Borda Psychiatric Hospital you have precisely this feeling. It seems as if you have stepped into the middle of a shanty town, a Freudian ghetto. Yet, Borda is the most important psychiatric hospital of Buenos Aires. Located between the marginalized barrios of Barracas and Constitución, Borda Hospital looks like a small town and reflects some of the conflicting characteristics of Argentinian society: avant garde political organizing in the face of political repression and a lack of resources.
The structure of the hospital is in ruins because of the government’s neglect and every year the hospital is able to help fewer and fewer patients. The residents, dressed in dirty clothes, roam around the little town inside Borda asking for cigarettes and yerba mate. The treatments to which they are subjected are often antiquated and inhumane. Cases of HIV, hepatitis, rape, abuse or mysterious deaths are common. And, in 2013, Argentina’s ex-president Mauricio Macri, who at that time was Mayor of Buenos Aires, sent the police to forcefully suppress a protest of patients, nurses and psychologists with tear gas and rubber bullets. At the same time, it was in Borda Hospital that the first psychiatric patient – managed radio was born. It has long been an important hub for the anti-psychiatry movement, and mental health professionals come from all over the world to learn the most advanced anti-psychiatric practices.
Most of these pictures have been taken during workshops organized by the Frente de Artistas, one of the oldest and most radical groups of activists operating inside the hospital. The Frente, which is composed by patients, psychologists and artists, was founded in 1984 and for more than 30 years has struggled to destroy the (mental and physical) walls of the asylum.