Critical Living | Stopmotion

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The Philadelphia Association community houses attempt to offer the true meaning of asylum. These therapeutic communities are aligned with the Critical Psychiatry movement, questioning the medical understanding of personal distress.

Critical Living draws upon the experiences of people involved in the Philadelphia Association therapeutic communities while also addressing some of the major discussion points in the Critical Psychiatry movement.

Critical Psychiatry, formally known as Anti-Psychiatry, has been scrutinising the dominant medical understanding of distress for over 50 years. It’s leading members were a disparate bunch that included R. D. Laing and David Cooper, both disillusioned psychiatrists and co-founders of the Philadelphia Association, as well as the renowned philosopher Michel Foucault, the libertarian Thomas Szasz, and Erving Goffman a sociologist.

Since creating a therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall in 1965, the Philadelphia Association has run more than twenty community houses which have offered asylum and hospitality to people in distress. This work continues at two houses in North London.

The experience of fifty years has shown that personal crises and seemingly inescapable unhappiness may for many people be transformed in households like these. They are places where people can come together to address their difficulties in a situation of shared everyday living.

Animated, directed and produced by Alex Widdowson
Made in partnership with the Royal College of Art, the Wellcome Library & the Philadelphia Association

Testimony from a former P.A. house resident, a current P.A. house therapist & Mike Jay, the author of This Way Madness Lies
Sound design and recording engineer Vicky Freund
Cello score written and performed by Derck Littel

Alex Widdowson © 2017
Royal College of Art © 2017