Jesse Darling

Ghost Sanatorium

Live installation, mixed media

Like many institutions, the St Philips Building has been both refuge and prison for those who made use of it: paupers, patients and students, the ultimate passive subjects. The history of St Philips is very much embedded in the walls and floors of the place: you can feel it, even smell it, if you spend long enough walking the corridors – or lying on the floor, as I did for an hour or so, just gazing at the ceiling and wondering, absorbing.

When I came to look at the space, I was particularly drawn to the long abandoned North Block, sad as an unlived building is wont to be and filled with detritus: obsolete technologies, books that someone once read, whole rooms of furniture squatting like immersive brooding sculptures that nobody is meant to see. I didn’t want to contribute to the detritus, nor the excess of melancholy context and metacontext: instead I wanted to invite the viewer to experience the building in a way they may not normally choose to.

The St Philips building is not a white cube: instead the building itself sets the parameters and poses the question. Ghost Sanatorium was conceived as a response to a space to invite a response from the viewer. I have been recently influenced by dream sharing practices and the idea of carving out a space in sleep; here I wanted to offer repose, a pause in which to contemplate the history of a space and a century. Working together with a herbalist, I developed a “ghost sleep” tea – a historically [in] accurate herbal blend of relaxants and mild hypnotics – which will be served to participants during the performance.


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