I was intrigued by the unique, enigmatic atmosphere of the park surrounding the Babinski psychiatric centre in Kobierzyn, Cracow. The green area around this nearly 100 year-old, self-contained hospital was intended to play a therapeutic role for the patients, giving them a much-needed reprieve from hospital routines and setting. The place offered them opportunities to get involved in gardening work, sports and other outdoor activities, thus getting a break from the institutional life and gathering strength to fight mental distress.
Delving into the topic of the hospital garden brought me closer to understanding the problem of mental illness. I met patients and their visitors, learning about them and their lives, gradually entering their enclosed world, still often stigmatized by shame and exclusion.
A principle that I followed while carrying out my project was not to enter the hospital buildings, instead focusing solely on the park. Being an answer to mental patients’ need for “the normal and the natural”, the park reflects the intentions and beliefs of its founders who trusted in the healing power of nature. However, this multifaceted place encompasses more than just a therapeutic garden space. Apart from being an oasis of peace, it also functions as a kind of a “border zone” between the reality of a psychiatric institution and the outside world. Furthermore, the park is where the patients interact with each other, building relationships and sharing experiences. Last but not least, the park is also – and perhaps most importantly – a battlefield where people struggle to overcome their inner suffering. My work is an attempt to show the different facets of the park, thus creating an indirect portrait of the people whose presence make it into what it is.
Anyone can fall victim to mental health problems, which is why my project is addressed to all people who are sensitive to others' suffering and seek a deeper understanding of mental illness