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When art therapy went chemical: Alfred Bader, pharmacology, and art brut, c.1950-1970s

Cuando la terapia del arte se volvió química: Alfred Bader, farmacología y art brut, c.1950-1970


This article analyzes how psychopharmacology transformed the relationship between art and psychiatry. It outlines a novel genealogy of art therapy, repositioning its origins in the context of evolving clinical practices and discourses on mind-altering drugs. Evaluating the use of psychotropic drugs in connection with psychopathology of art in the first half of the twentieth century, the article then focuses on two post-Second World War experiments involving psilocybin conducted by psychiatrist Alfred Bader and pharmacologist Roland Fischer. Illustrating how consciousness was foregrounded in discussions about mental health and illness, the examples showcase how psychotherapists increasingly sought to articulate art brut and modernist aesthetics in a neurobiological fashion to define madness as a social disease.

art brut; psychotherapy; psychopharmacology; creativity; psychosis

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