Sunday, 1 August 2010

Madness within the architecture

This week my supervisor asked me a question that got my brain churning so much I had a massive head spin. I was telling her about my fascination with abandoned lunatic asylums and she said, do you think the madness stays within the walls of the building, and that it affects the brains and behaviours of those who later inhabit the buildings. In other words, does madness linger within the architecture?


I think most buildings have a certain feel to them. The last time I went house hunting I looked at a place that I quite liked and so went back for another look. But on my second visit the downstairs section of the house gave me the absolute creeps. Perhaps it was because I was there with just my kids and the agent (the first visit had been during a crowded open house); perhaps it was because the downstairs area was partly excavated into the earth so that only the very top of the window was above the ground. Or perhaps it was the presence of the owners and their mean-looking dog in the back yard. But whatever it was, the house got crossed off my list of potential future homes. In contrast, the house I ended up buying had a really nice feel to it, despite the revolting, vivid green feature wall in the main bedroom and the smallest bedroom being roped off to house the owner's extensive Barbie and Ken collection (complete with Babie and Ken having a swim in the pool).

So I think that, over time, a building aborbs the energy of the humans living and working in it, both good and bad, and that this energy can remain present long after the occupants have gone. So abandonded lunatic asylums, with the madness of their inmates and the horrors they often endured within its walls, are perfect settings for bizarre events to unfold within fiction. What type of people would choose to make their home within an abandoned asylum? Are they there because they have nowhere else to go or because flaws in their psychological make-up mean that the place has a particular appeal to them? Does the madness embedded within the walls give them freedom to express their own brand of insanity, or even normalise it?

These are a few of the questions I'll be exploring during the process of writing my manuscript. 

Also this week I began reading volume 1 of Neuronstructivism by Mareschal et al. I've only read the introduction and chapter 1 but here are a couple of the ideas that appeal to me so far:

"The implication is that with regard to psychological traits, each individual defines their own unique environment, despite any attempt by the environment to treat individuals in the same way."

"...even very early development is not merely due to the unfolding of a genetically defined programme, but instead, involves complex interactive processes."

What I take from that (in my fiction-writer's mind) is that each individual reacts and responds to an environment in their own way, and that their reaction/response is a complex interplay of actions and reactions.

And in terms of an environment, the abandoned asylum offers a lot of scope for complexity.