I went to see the Turner Prize shortlist at the Tate Gallery when I was in London (yesterday? Was it really only yesterday) and by far and away my favourite was ‘All Divided Selves’ Luke Fowler’s documentary on RD Laing, an influential out-there psychologist born in Glasgow. It was a full length documentary, interspersed with odd images and shots of nature saturated in light, the hair of Highland Cows caught up close, pine trees against the sky, beetles drowning, that sort of thing. And a clear, high male voice singing the refrain ‘all that is hidden will be revealed’, which I’d love a recording of.
The footage of RD Laing at work and being interviewed was massively compelling. crumbly 60s London and Glasgow, everything smoke-grained and grubby and cold, but everyone, too, with fire in their eyes for these new ideas they were discussing. The Anti-university, the idea of Psychology as a pathological need to categorise. It was all a bit much, but you could see how radical they were trying to be.
One line stuck of Lang’s stuck with me (and I’m approximating it here, wrecking the nuances, but) “‘Schizophrenia’ - ‘schiz’ meaning schism, and phrenia, meaning soul or heart, and from that you can say that schizophrenics are, in fact, the broken-hearted.” His message was that they should be treated with compassion, that their rambling flights of language should be listened to, in order to provide them with relief, and there were shots of psychologists listening to and responding to the garbled speech of these people in pain. Holding their hands, sometimes. I don’t know if it helped one bit more than medication (which was from accounts pretty rough at that time) but it seemed humane in its reasoning.
I sat there the whole time engrossed, though thinking, this perhaps should be on TV. But it’s a fine line sometimes I suppose. I hope it wins. I left a comment card on the wall with a picture of RD Laing drawn on it saying ‘Luke Fowler for controller of BBC Scotland. RD Laing - of interest’.