MYSTERY SCHOOL

Karen, Copake, New York, 1999.
Nico, Copake, New York, 1999.
Susan, Copake, New York, 1999.
Jessica, Pennsylvania, 2000.
Christina, Copake, New York, 2000.
Bobby, Copake, New York, 2000.
Danny, Pennsylvania, 2000.
Tyrone, Pennsylvania, 2000.
Untitled, Pennsylvania, 2000.
Robert, Copake, New York, 2000.
Chris, Copake, New York, 2000.
Chris' Letter, Copake, New York, 2000.
Lissy, Copake, New York, 2000.
Lissy's Painting, Copake, New York, 2000.
Bill, Copake, New York, 1999.
Patty, Copake, New York, 1999.
Jessica, Pennsylvania, 1999.
Christina, Copake, New York, 1999.

“I came to Camphill Village when I was 20. Now I’m 58. Not everybody in our village is mentally ill, but we all have disabilities, and sometimes we get on each other’s nerves. Usually I smile, but in that photograph I was just waking up from my rest hour. I read, and I listen to my radio, and I sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep.

“May I tell you one thing? I don’t like taking medicine. It gets me too dopey and too sleepy and too tired, not enough energy. I need to have it, but I wish I didn’t. Some people don’t take anything. Some people can go and live in the city on their own and nothing happens to them. I’m pretty weak to live on my own and get around on my own because I don’t know what will happen. I just don’t know why some people can do better than other people. Why is that?” .

Karen Edna Wallstein, as interviewed by Catherine St. Louis for The New York Times Magazine.

Monologue from matthew swarts on Vimeo.

Mystery School uses photographs, sounds, looped video clips, drawings, and writings to present a collaborative portrait of people who live and work with autism, epilepsy, down’s syndrome, and other cognitive and perceptual disabilities. Depicting “problematic,” “unbeautiful,” and “easily objectifiable” populations, the images and artifacts present an atmosphere often beyond language and rationality, and ask audiences to come face to face with the limits of their perceptions. As with earlier work involving children with cancer, I am most deeply interested in creating spaces where we might see and accept things not as horror, but as part of a greater wholeness.