Hulk's Toys - Visitors to the first international exhibition of
Hulk's Toys - Franco's bed in his room, in the open facility whe
Rooms are made for two in the mental health facility. For people that like Franco, have lived all their lives in mental institutions, subject to violence, physical restrictions during years, it would be impossible to take care of themselves alone. Self-care and social exchange is encouraged as a progress.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci seen in his room, in the open faci
His toys come from all possible kind of wires, cords and objects. One of the main reasons for his 40 years long detention was his destructivenes towards things combined with his great force. Today, this impulse has transformed almost completely in a creative one.
Hulk's toys - Franco spends all day with his toys.
In 1978, when a law abolished asylums in Italy, Franco went to stay for a short period in his childhood house with his family. The very first thing he did when entering his house, after almost twenty years of detention, was to go look in the room they shared with his brother Mario, in the box where he used to keep his toys as a child.
Franco behind an artwork in the park surrounding the facility.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci seen in Livorno, Italy.
His only family left is his brother Mario, who took care of him during all his life. Due to his age and health problems, it would be almost impossible for him to adequately take care of Franco. He visits frequently, and they go out for the day during weekends, a moment that Franco expects with great anticipation.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci seen in Livorno with Riccardo Barg
Riccardo Bargellini, artist, facilitates visual expression workshops for patients of the mental health district in Livorno. He was one of the first to notice and encourage Franco's creativity, bringing him recycled material and dismissed toys. He is periodically asked to organize exhibits with Franco's toys.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci seen during his daily shower at th
People working in the facility play a major role in taking care of Franco and the others. There is always a word of simpathy for each one.
Hulk's Toys - Rainy day, bad mood.
Franco never separates from his toys.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci seen with other residents in the p
Hulk's Toys - Franco with his brother Mario while preparing to g
Franco's brother Mario is his only family left. He takes care of him as he did all his life.
Hulk's Toys - A sunday by the sea, in Livorno.
Although his height and force has certainly contributed to create a sense of insecurity in people who did not know him, Franco's destructiveness has always been directed only towards things and objects, and never, in no occasion, to people.
Hulk's Toys - A visit to the aquarium in Livorno.
When he goes out with his brother, Franco's curiosity is almost neverending, always walking, looking, examining.
Hulk's Toys - Franco while listening to the sound check of a fre
When, in 1998, the asylum where he lived was finally closed down, 20 years after the 1978 law abolishing it, Franco did not speak and was absolutely not capable of taking care of himself. Franco was received in a public open mental health facility in Livorno, where an innovative approach towards mental health is oriented towards encouraging creativity and opening the facility to the general public as much as possible, through small concerts, art exhibitions and workshops.
Hulk's Toys - Franco Bellucci, seen by the terrace of his childh
Franco has deeply suffered from the 40 years he was force to spend in the asylum, tied to his bed, exposed to violence and often inhuman treatments. Today, he lives a life made of his toys in a facility which is his home and where he is treated with respect and humanity. Although he sometimes cries, he seems to hold no anger towards the world.
Hulk's Toys. Franco Bellucci, sleeping with his toys.
His toys are a constant thought to Franco. He only sometimes accepts to exchange them for new material, to make again others.
“Hulk’s Toys” is the story of a man and his self-made toys.
It’s a project on the life and art of Franco Bellucci, a poetic tale of his past and present, an examination of his creations in their ambiguity of works of art, toys and creative expressions, documenting a humane alternative to institutionalization of mental problems.
Franco Bellucci lived for four decades, since his childhood, detained in an asylum in Volterra, Italy, due to his compulsive destructivity towards objects. For fifteen years, he was constantly tied to his bed, as a mean of containing his great force, until, in 1978, a reform inspired by psychiatrist Franco Basaglia closed down all asylums.
Franco had to live in the limbo of a decaying asylum, before an alternative to confinement was found: in 1998, he was finally accepted in an open facility in Livorno, for institutionalized people that, like him, could not take care of themselves anymore. At first, they called him Hulk, but there, finally, his condition was respected, and his creativity encouraged.
Instead of destroying, he started re-creating, making strange objects by tying together all kind of materials in powerful works of art, that he considers his toys. Since then, his compulsive destructivity has almost ended.
The project is ideally divided in three parts: the first one, in b/w, is about Franco everyday life in the health facility, his brother, his toys. The second one is a collection of colour still life photographs where I examined his toys in their ambiguity of works of art, toys and creative personal expressions. The third part, in b/w, is a short collection of pictures taken in the ex-asylum of Volterra where he lived for fourty years, now abandoned.
The closing picture is a photograph of the ex-asylum in Trieste, where Franco Basaglia, as the director of the mental institution, together with his staff, first started the long haul for the recognition of rights of the patients as persons, by opening the gates and letting the patients make their peaceful demonstration in the streets. That was the first public act that eventually lead to the promulgation of the reform bearing his name, in 1978.
The question that came after this law was “outside, but where?”. Once freed from the tragedy of asylums, new forms of care have to be re-invented for the people affected by mental problems. The question has been only partially resolved, more than thirty years after, and still has to find appropriate answers. My personal opinion is that taking the exceptional story of Franco Bellucci as a positive example, the solution may start only from the fundamentals of humanity, in being humans among humans.
Quotes from Franco Basaglia writings on psychiatry and the situation of the asylums in Italy constitute the theoretical and cultural background for this project. Indeed, without a revolutionary law like the one inspired by Basaglia, Franco’s story would not have been possible, as he would still be tied to his bed in an asylum, dreaming of his toys.
One can survive his own and others’ madness, and taste a better life, only when finally receiving a little humanity, a chance to express freely, and to be considered someone altogether different from the mental sufferings endured, a person before a patient, a human being before his disease.
I think that Franco does what he can to change the world as he sees it, he has done it all his life, destroying or creating, always courageously.