Two Generations in the Asylum

by Timothy

Moccasin Bend

In the 1960’s my mother was a patient in Moccasin Bend, a state mental institution in Tennessee. In the 1990’s, I became a patient there.

In 2008 I created this video as part of a larger project. The project was a place-based exploration of Moccasin Bend, both in terms of these experiences, but also in terms of land use.

The site houses the mental institution, a wastewater treatment plant, and a golf course. It is also the only site in the national park system that memorializes the systematic ‘removal’ of indigenous peoples from this area, known as the ‘trail of tears.’ There is a small wooden sign and an ill kept trail.

The visuals are composed of: my writing from the handmaid book that was part of the project; digital photographs I took of archival material I found in the Chattanooga Public Library, dating from the late 1950’s and on; and a few silkscreen reproductions of some of these images.

The audio is composed of three tracks: a field recording my sister and I made out on Moccasin Bend in which we talk to an institution guard, and a wastewater treatment plant guard; excerpts from an interview with my mom about her experience at the hospital; and two songs I wrote and performed, part of a larger album of the same name, and drawing on the text from my book.

Nev from Ruminations on Madness convinced me to post this here. Check out a striking and parallel post over there.

The video is best watched full screen and with headphones if possible.

The Silkscreen images in this video were created by Sean Anderson based on archival photos. Lisa Wells assisted with visual editing.