Oana Lohan - Gătaia, une parenthèse enchantée

Oana Lohan – Gătaia, une parenthèse enchantée

“Gătaia is a psychiatric hospital situated in an acacia forest, near the border with former Yugoslavia. That is where I spent the first part of my childhood, until 1974, when I was five, with my parents, who were both psychiatrists.

Gătaia Psychiatric Hospital was founded in 1966, after a being in development for three years, on the site of a former tank barracks, which had been built in the early ‘50s and intended as a deterrent against a possible Yugoslav armed attack. The medical team that resided there had previously worked at Săvârşin Sanatorium, before Ceauşescu reclaimed the royal castle, where they had been located, on the bank of the Mureş River.

The Săvârşin team, which my parents were part of, was under the leadership of psychiatrist Dan Arthur, an unusual sort of man, who promoted Jungian psychotherapy, Moreno’s humanist psychodrama, and Schultz’s autogenic training. At Săvârşin, the doctors in residence translated specialized texts from German and French, which were later read, commented, and reviewed with Arthur. As day-to-day activities, they held literary debates, listened to classical music, and traipsed around the castle’s arboretum—a strange sight, which had to be organized discreetly in those days. It is often said about him and the psychiatrists he trained that they are part of the “cultural mythologies” of the 1950s.

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Stories are told about his addiction to morphine and the way in which he integrated it in his psychiatric practice. There is talk of how complex the Săvârşin mise-en-scène that he designed was: the estate’s every pathway had a story to tell and to every stroll a deeper significance was ascribed.

When I first opened The Anti-Oedipus (L’Anti Œdipe ) and A Thousand Plateaus (Mille plateaux) written by French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, and came across the model of the rhizome, I had the feeling, for the first time in my life, that I was starting to understand what had gone on at Săvârşin and later at Gătaia. The Rhizome doesn’t imitate or reproduce, it constructs a map. The map is wide open; you can connect to it, detach it, or modify it. It is a living cartography, free of any kind of constraint—a form of freedom based on complementarity.

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I should also draw attention to the social and political situation in Romania at the time.  It was an extremely closed-off communist state, where massive reprisals were the norm, and dissidents had a “transparent” existence: they were harassed, locked up, and forced to live an impossible life.

According to legend some of them found temporary shelter at Săvârşin and then at Gătaia, alongside artists and intellectuals, who isolated themselves from time to time to work in peace. It is said that Petru Creţia, Gabriel Liiceanu, and members of the rock band Phoenix were at Gătaia to work and profit from the off-the-map nature of the place. It seems that Phoenix left the country, departing from Gătaia and that Liiceanu started his translations of Heidegger there. The tank barracks turned psychiatric hospital seems to have been, during communism, a state within a state; a charmed parenthesis in a space defined by violent limitations and absurdities.”

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This above written by Oana Lohan and translated by Dragoş Manea is an excerpt from an article published in DoR Magazine, number 14/december 2013. Oana Lohan is a Romanian “visual artist and urban wonderer”. Her works can be found on oanalohan.ultra-book.com and also in Love Issue #8.