The cultural centre of the Borda
(Image: “El Interno” by Alredo Segatori)
The Borda is a public psychiatric hospital sited in an unwelcoming building in Barracas. The hospital is home to over a thousand patients, and provides services to thousands more. It is Argentina’s leading psychiatric institution, but the buildings are dilapidated and have been without gas for over a year. Were it not for the staff who pay for electric heaters out of their own pockets, the building would have no heating.
The cultural centre of the Borda has developed rapidly during the last few years. A long abandoned building within the hospital’s grounds has been converted into a multi purpose space with a theatre and exhibition hall filled with the art brut (outsider art) of the patients, together with paintings and murals from the staff and local artists. Visitors are welcome, and a number of artists and art collectives work with the centre and the patients. I visited with Joss from foto-ruta who has been working with the centre for a couple of years, and has recorded its slow transformation from a derelict building into a colourful and active cultural centre.
Last year facebook lit up with rumours that Banksy would be visiting the centre to exhibit his work. Thousands of people from across the country announced their intention to make a pilgrimage to the Borda to see Banksy’s work in person. The hype surrounding the event spiralled out of control until Banksy’s representatives quashed the rumours that he would be attending. Irrespective of how the rumours started, the intense interest surrounding the fictitious show helped highlight the fact that the Borda has an active cultural centre which they are rightly proud of, and which deserves more attention and support.
A local artist once told me that nearly all of the most important artistic activities in Argentina had invariably happened through the solidarity and motivation of the public. Since the state and institutions can not be relied upon for support, people simply do things themselves. A lack of budget is countered with resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
The physical condition of the Borda is shameful testament to institutional neglect. What is undeniably impressive is the commitment of the staff and volunteers. They make the work being done in cultural centre, conducted in the shell of an abandoned building, all the more inspiring.
For more info on the cultural centre visit espacioculturalborda.blogspot.co.uk