Free Quirk No.19 ~ "This Way Madness Lies..."


"This Way Madness Lies"

"Religion has invented machines to control the brains of people and animals and with an invention to see our view from the retina of the eye image is abusing us healthy family ideas for material goods make us sleep all the villainy Church after the Jews to kill Hitler wanted to invent a test case and the devil to take over the world and bring peace to the war the church has done crimes and abusing us by making us believe electronic stories and rigging this abuse of our innocent ideas..."

Thus reads the first of three massive wooden panels, carved out painstakingly with a hand drill and some sort of carving or gouging instrument, by a mentally disturbed individual, known today as 'Jeannot'.

Actually, I have to admit that at first I started translating the French as best I could myself. Then I wanted to check the meaning of a word (crapulerie) and then thought I might as well put a whole chunk of text in to see what Google could come up with.

Strangely enough, the automatic translator produced something that wasn't actually less-sensical than Jeannot's own words, so I thought I'd stick with it. The occasionally disjointed jumping from one meaning to another with incongruous words or phrases is very much how the text reads in its original French, as a direct mirror of the author's own tortured thought processes.

"c'est la religion qui a fait tous les crimes
et dégâts et crapulerie nous en a inventé
un programme inconnu et par machine à
commander cerveau et voir notre vue
image rétine oeil......"
   ~ from 'Le Planchet de Jeannot' (Jeannot's floor)

The story is that Jeannot, born into a farming community in 1939, was unable to cope with the news of his father's suicide when he returned from military service in Algeria at the age of 20.

The family, comprised Jeannot, his mother and his sister, carried on living in their farmhouse but became increasingly alienated from the local community as Jeannot's behaviour got more and more erratic. He became highly aggressive and violently resisted being placed in a psychiatric hospital, instead spending nights driving around the farm on his tractor, armed with a gun to see off potential intruders.

When his mother died in 1971, her children were given permission to bury her in the house, which ended up being 'under the stairs'.

Jeannot sank into full-blown delusional and paranoid behaviour from then on, eventually spending all his time in his bedroom slowly starving himself to death.

During these last few months, however, he used some sort of drilling instrument and a carving device to gouge out 80 lines of wandering delerium in the 15m2 wooden floor of his actual bedroom.

Most of his tormented wrath is directed at the church, religion and various popes who apparently wanted to create sinister electronic machines to control our thoughts and stuff. The Jews and Hitler also get a couple of honorable mentions, although it's not entirely clear who is being forced to do what to whom by these dastardly devices. I have to say that some of it makes pretty good sense and a few 'sane' people could probably learn quite a bit from it...

The panels are now displayed in a little recess in the perimeter of the Centre Hospitalier Sainte-Anne in the 14th arrondissement, as a striking testament to just how off the rails the human mind can go, as well as symbolically reminding us that if identified and treated early enough, the majority of these problems can be helped, at least to an extent.

Standing in front of this breath-taking work, a million thoughts and sensations flood the body, and I urge you to go and look and experience it for yourself if you can.

In the end, it's not the madness (or some more politically correct expression for it) which overwhelms. Well it does, but I can't help imagining the months he must have taken to produce this result, now even recognised as a magnum opus of 'art brut', of all things. But there is little chance he was there on his flesh-bare knees, starving to death, working day and night, thinking 'One day they'll remember me for this'.

It also amazes me how he was able to satisfy himself and stay concentrated on certain phrases long enough (weeks or months) to actually get them, literally, down in wood. He even repeats himself several times, but in real life how many times did he obsessionally utter these rambling phrases about religion and conspiracy and machinations to himself, alone in that room, dying, perhaps symbolically trying to cut out some invisible demons sown in him by a violent father he was never to say goodbye to or know why he killed himself.

And that, my friends, we will never find out, unless it's written between these lines somewhere.

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