Leah Clements, Collapse, 2019 (film still), courtesy the artist

An Army of the Sick Cannot Be Defeated

How can communities be well if the institutions and infrastructures of care that are supposed to heal them are intrinsically unhealthy themselves, crippled by underfunding and neoliberal modes of productivity? What experimental practices and new knowledge can be deployed in order to tackle complex systems such as healthcare?    

 
An Army of the Sick Cannot Be Defeated is a collective inquiry that brings together scientists, academics, artists, service users and activists to re-think modes of care and healing practices in the light of the ongoing austerity climate and of the structural violence it imposes on communities and institutions.
 
As we witness the gradual fragmentation and exhaustion of public systems of care, neoliberal approaches to health and wellbeing are bringing about an increasingly individualised and privatised experience. The result is a conundrum in which, on the one hand wounded health infrastructures require communities and individuals to be in charge and in control of their own wellbeing, while on the other, spaces for communal care are disappearing from the social fabric.   
 
Inspired by practices of institutional analysis, Arts Catalyst will explore, research and test out ways of working and collaborating through a journey that traverses community-based collaborative care and reparation while simultaneously seeking to imagine ways of healing and re-inventing the institutions of care themselves. 
 
Inspired by a quote attributed to artist, activist and writer Gregg Bordowitz, An Army of the Sick aims to make visible and question how institutions operate socially and environmentally, and to explore how principles of care from clinical settings might permeate and benefit society as a whole.
 
KEY TERMS
 
Institutions of care
Here, the notion of the ‘institutions of care’ refers to something broader than the healthcare institution per se; it encompasses infrastructures, policies, individual and collective practices, as well as environments that all play a role within  the maintenance of health as a complex system.
 
Institutional analysis
We refer to 'institutional analysis' as a set of radical practices that aim to reimagine institutions as sites for social transformation. The genealogy of institutional analysis can be traced back to the post-WW2 movement of Institutional Psychotherapy, with scholars and activists like Frantz Fanon, Félix Guattari, Francesc Tosquelles, Jean Oury and Anne Querrien advocating for embedding the methodologies of mental health treatment within the institution itself, thereby effectively rendering the institution a 'patient' too. Our understanding of Institutional Analysis in this context is also informed by the work of researchers and academics Susana Caló and Godofredo Pereira with whom Arts Catalyst has an ongoing relationship.
 

Neoliberal approach
In this context, a neoliberal approach to health is one that values financial profit  and gain over one that prioritises the good health of the patient, the care-givers and the common good.