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anna schuleit’s “bloom”

Anna Schuleit’s Bloom is one of my long-held favorite installation works, and it’s a perfect Abler project. So why haven’t I featured it before now?

a view down an institutional hallway, whose floor is full from end to end and side to side with blooming bright orange tulips.

It was staged at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in 2003, in the days before the center shut down, after nine decades of patient care. Schuleit covered the entire four floors with 5,600 square feet of sod and 28,000 blooming flowers.

Schuleit says the work addresses, in part, the strange lack of flowers in psychiatric settings, while they appear everywhere in other clinical environments. That distinction packs so many assumptions about who is sick, and why, and how.

an institutional basement, with peeling paint, whose floor is covered with soft green grass

And it’s impossible not to consider the modes of care, such as it was—restraint, or nurturance, or abuse—that would have transpired in a many-decades-old institution. These settings are always an index of the wider culture, revealing how we care for those whose maladies often can’t be seen.

a hallway, lit by a big window at the end, floor full of white tulips a cinder block institutional hallway, with floors carpeted in purple African violets

Schuleit also piped in sounds through an old PA system, the snippets of conversation and ambient sounds of the building in its last days. And then the entire structure was open to the public for four days, to explore and remember.

an office at the center, with a single wooden desk buried knee-deep in bright pink mums, in mounds and bunches all over the floor.

a four-grid shot of various rooms and hallways, spilling over with flowers.

After those days and the building’s closing, all the flowers were donated to shelters, psychiatric wards, and halfway houses around Boston: a big extended gift to many invisible people.

There’s a great interview and more photos here. More on Anna Schuleit.

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