by Dominik Lejman
in collaboration with
Bianca O’Brien,
Mario Caeiro,
Richard Hallward
Peter Morris

CURATORIAL BOARD: Hubertus Von Amelunxen, Mario Caeiro, Raffaele Gavarro, Richard Hallward
PROJECT COLLABORATORS: Johnny Acton, Jedrzej Borkiewicz, Krzysztof Leon Dziemaszkiewicz, Kasia Gruszczynska, Mat Fahrenholz, Ola Lojowska, Piotr Macha, Ben McPherson, Peter Morris, Jimi Ogden, Claudio Valente, Agata Wiorko, Flow2Code, New Goose’s, SmartVerum, Zubr

Polish artist Dominik Lejman is the first guest artist and also a co-founder of the new MADNCIITY PAVIION together with Richard Hallward, Bianca O’Brien and Mario Caeiro. His research on the haptic qualities of aphorisms fits a paradigm shift in the framing of discursive currents driving casual labelling within a dominant social narrative through language, signs, symbols and image through the lens of the artist.

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The theme of this year’s Biennale – Leonora Carrington’s Milk and Dreams – makes clear the cultural notion of madness is infused with apparent contradictions.

Through a network of 11 installations and related performative interventions, Lejman and his collaborators invite the viewer to survey this history of repression. Then the exhibition turns its lens back on society beyond the asylum, questioning its fundamental assumptions about madness. Who exactly is the madman here, the guy in the straitjacket or the man in the suit, the guy marching us along the path to extinction?

We used to think it came from the moon, or was this just another obsessive-compulsive fairy story?

As Europe emerges from the madness of enforced isolation into the madness of war, the 2022 MADNICITY PAVILLION asks two fundamental questions: Have we simply replaced the asylum walls with something less visible? And have we been crushing the magic of mental diversity with a social narrative woven by the needs of capital creation and growth?

On the one hand, it is a problem to be controlled or expunged – narrative disruption as negative, as disassociative threat, a gremlin in the machine. Its associations of fear, discomfiture and suffering being counter to the preferred norm; a norm that demands economic productivity, marginal efficiency gains of a healthy and fit-for-purpose population to execute soft and hard power goals of resource ownership and quality of life.

On the other hand, it is culturally connected with ideas of the truth seer; the Renaissance fool, the disconnected visionary, the mad genius. Art and artists have long attempted to mobilise the aesthetic of rebellion against a dominant, compressive social narrative of profit, power, war and conformity – Surrealism, Dada, Jazz, Flower Power, Punk and Hip Hop being among more recent examples of the counter-narrative, does magic have something to tell us, are we listening? It is this impetus that binds madness, dreams and magic with art. But society has for the most part ruthlessly sought to suppress it, especially in the case of the ‘mad’.

Walk on through to the other side

2022 MADNICITY PAVILION holds up an arresting mirror to this inherent contradiction at the heart of society. It subversively addresses a universal theme that cannot be divided on national lines. The subject in question is madness; who or what is mad, and who or what is sane? These are questions so urgent that our very survival may depend on our answers. And appropriately enough, they are being asked from within a former psychiatric hospital.


The island of San Servolo is inscribed with stories of exclusion. Where could one more forcefully encounter madness, not as a disease but as a history of boundaries? Michel Foucault’s observation that what a „culture” rejects is that which „lies outside for it” takes tangible form.

Some of the works are infused with or in conversation with the Madnicity viewpoint, some solo and collaborative, some site-specific and some planted, combine to make this powerful activist statement. The mediums of paint and light, sound and space, plus actual physical tools of entrapment and enforcement, both illuminate and disturb as the viewer stumbles across them in sometimes poignant, sometimes unexpected places among the labyrinthine walls, corridors and rooms of the asylum. A treasure hunt, in which the treasure is a mirror of our own preconceptions and beliefs, their source and their consequences.

Collateral performative installations, experience the magic of madness

One of the performative installations is KIDS ASYLUM (21-24 April), a creative sanctuary where innocence and magical thinking is a positive, fostered not compressed and controlled, all kids welcome. Another is a full one-day symposium MADNCITY SYMPOSIUM: The Magic of Madness (23 April, 10am-5pm), a hybrid exhibition/activist intervention where some of the most influential voices and minds, psychiatric and critical-theoretical, from around the world will gather to discuss the nature of madness in society and in art (see below).

Come inside and be transformed.

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