2012 – Emerging – Tomas Barsalis

Tomaso Barsalis “Hulk’s Toys”

Hulk’s Toys” is the story of a man and his self-made toys.

Franco Bellucci lived for four decades, since his childhood in the early ’60s, detained in an asylum in Volterra, Italy, due to his compulsive destructivity towards objects. For fifteen years, he was constantly tied to his bed, as a mean of containing his great force.

In 1998, twenty years after asylums had become illegal in Italy, thanks to a law inspired by psychiatrist Basaglia, he was accepted in an open facility in Livorno, for people that like him, after so many years of institutionalization in asylums, could not take care of themselves anymore. There, at first, they called him Hulk, but his condition was respected, and his creativity encouraged. Instead of destroying, he started re-creating, making strange objects by tying together all kind of materials in powerful works of art, that he considers his toys.

The closing picture is a photograph of the ex-asylum in Trieste, where Franco Basaglia, as the director of the mental institution, together with his staff, first started the long haul for the recognition of rights of the patients as persons, by opening the gates and letting the patients make their peaceful demonstration in the streets. That was the first public act that eventually lead to the promulgation of the reform bearing his name, in 1978.

Quotes from Franco Basaglia writings on psychiatry and the situation of the asylums in Italy constitute the theoretical and cultural background for this project. Indeed, without a revolutionary law like the one inspired by Basaglia, Franco’s story would not have been possible, as he would still be tied to his bed in an asylum, dreaming of his toys.

One can survive his own and others’ madness, and taste a better life, only when finally receiving a little humanity, a chance to express freely, and to be considered someone altogether different from the mental sufferings endured, a person before a patient, a human being before his disease.

I think that Franco does what he can to change the world as he sees it, he has done it all his life, destroying or creating, always courageously.

This project has been awarded the Lucie Foundation Emerging Scholarship in 2012.

A working preview of the multimedia documentary “Hulk’s Toys” (in progress) is here: