picture courtesy of Samuel Guitton, 2 Koc,
the company that made the frames
the company that made the frames
Three panels mark the entrance of the (psychiatric) Hôpital Sainte Anne in Paris. They once formed together a wooden floor of about fifteen m², engraved with a message of eighty lines by a young man named Jeannot. Because the story has so many tragic aspects, his family-name is not made public and he is generally referred to as Jeannot le Béarnois.
Jeannot was born in 1939 in a small community in the former Béarn department, in the south of France, where his parents owned a (farm)house on a terrain of some 40 hectares. As a young man, Jeannot may have been a nice, sociable person, but problems arose when in 1959 he had to deal with his fathers suicide.
His mother, Jeannot and one of his sisters continued to live in the house, and the small family gradually became more and more isolated.
Jeannot showed paranoid behavior. Admission in a psychiatric hospital was imposed, but he resisted so violently that authorities did not further intervene. When the mother died in 1971, permission was granted to bury her in the house, "under the staircase", as is reported in all texts I have read.
The next months Jeannot wrote down a text on the wooden floor of the living room. With a hand drill he made small holes which he connected with lines cut out with a gouge or a knife, in this way giving shape to the text in capital. Carving eighty lines of text must have entailed many months of intensive labor.
Soon after completing this job, Jeannot died and maybe he had starved himself to death (1972). Together with his mother he was buried in the local cemetery
The sister continued living in the house, alone, isolated, hardly coming outside. She was found dead in 1993.
The house was sold. The brocanteur who dealt with the furniture, noticed the inscriptions on the floor and informed someone of his family, named dr Guy Roux, a psychiatrist interested in art brut. Dr Roux became the owner of the floor in exchange for a brand new floor he paid the new owner of the house. Later he sold it to the pharmaceutical company Bristol Meyer Squib.
Expositions of the floor
The plancher for the first time was exposed in 2000 during an international psychiatric congress in Paris, as part of an exposition entitled 50 ans d´expression en milieu psychiatrique (50 years of expression in the psychiatric setting). Some years later the plancher was exposed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, which gave rise to a heated public debate (is it acceptable to present as a work of art what someone in great psychic need gave expression to?)
Due also to the cooperation of Dr Jean Pierre Olié, professor of psychiatry and chief psychiatrist of Ste Anne Hospital, it was arranged that the floor, cut in three parts, from 2007 on is on display at the entrance of a department of the hospital in the rue Cabanis.
rue Cabanis (streetview)
The present installation of the plancher on the Cabanis street might be temporary, because as I understand there are plans to make the hospital more open by renovating the main entrance. The carved floor by 2010 could get there its ultimate location, hopefully in a less caged and more respectful way of presentation ¹.
The text as written on the floor can be found in french on the website Tryangle. When in may 2009 I wrote this post, I had not yet found an english translation, so I made one myself (see my collection of texts on outsider environments).
It says in general that religion is the cause of evil in society, and the church uses electronic devices to influence the minds of men.
* Dr Guy Roux, Françoise Stijepovic (photo's), Histoire du plancher de Jeannot, drame de la terre ou puzzle de la tragédie, Éditions Encre et Lumière, 2005.
* Photo´s of the wooden floor by photographer Martin d'Orgeval have been collected in a book entitled Requisitoire, Paris (ed. du Regard), 2007 and have been exposed in the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris and the Maison de la Photographie, Lille (spring 2008).
* Perrine le Querrec, Le plancher, Le Mans (Ed Les doigts dans la prose), 2013 (a literary account of Jeannot and his family)
¹ it is not clear if this plan has been realized
Le plancher de Jeannot
originally in an unknown community in the Béarn dept, currently dept Pyrénées-Atlantique, region Nouvelle Aquitaine, France
(currently exposed outside:)
Hôpital Sainte Anne
5014 Paris, France