BLOOM - a project for MMHC by Anna Schuleit
In response to seeing, exploring, and photographing the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, I developed Bloom as a site-specific installation to commemorate the life and history of the building and its people, as well as to mark the transition of MMHC into a new place and architecture. Bloom was an idea for creating a tribute to the historic building of Mass Mental -- that is, an entity of a creative work, guided by the fact that Mass Mental itself is a whole with connected limbs, busy centers, quiet ends, wings, nooks, and crannies, and nonetheless a living, moving whole.
In November of 2003 thousands of flowers were placed in the old hallways, rooms, and staircases to mark the worn traffic-ways and memories of the site. Each hallway had a different type of flower. Each was a different stretch of color. The axes of the building, its dizzying historic layout, were recognized individually.
All of the flowers were in bloom at the same time, creating a continuous, unbroken composition of color and scent throughout the building:
...so that for four days
Before everyone had moved out, a recording of the ambient soundscape of the building was made, which was played during the installation by using the old announcement (PA) system of Mass Mental. Steps in the corridors, doors closing and opening, and passing fragments of conversation were heard at a low volume, bridging the life and commotion of the site with its impending abandonment.
What led me to the idea for Bloom was a consideration of the two courtyards of MMHC and their thick blankets of ivy, the notion of growth: the reversal - inside/out - of nature into the urban setting of MMHC, when all other psychiatric institutions in Massachusetts are situated in more rural settings with abundant nature at their feet. Another aspect of the architecture of Mass Mental that I find fascinating are the color-less, seemingly endless hallways that run through the building like arteries, guiding our bodies through the space. These hallways are an inspiration for bringing color to their function and their directions of traffic, where no color has been before.
Bloom is a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers being given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings, with the astounding, persistent exception of long-term psychiatric patients, who receive few, if any flowers during their hospital stays. Walking through the hallways of an institution, still to this day, one cannot find any flowers in the rooms. Bloom is created in the spirit of offering and transition.
Bloom encompassed thousands of square feet of historic indoor space that was being left to abandonment.
Bloom existed only for four days. Afterwards all the flowers were donated to surrounding hospitals, state institutions, half-way houses, and shelters.