Ship of Fools is a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, completed between 1490 and 1500.
“Navigation delivers man to the uncertainty of fate; on water, each of us is in the hands of his own destiny; every embarkation is, potentially, the last. It is for the other world that the madman sets sail in his fool’s boat; it is from the other world that he comes when he disembarks”(Michel Foucault: Madness and Civilisation).
According to Foucault confinement marked in 17th Century Europe a decisive event in the history of unreason, as “the moment when madness was perceived on the social horizon of poverty, of incapacity to work, of inability to integrate to the group” (Foucault, 1971: 64). In England it was feared that the country could be overrun by the poor, and “it was proposed that they be banished and conveyed to the New-Found Land, the East and the West Indies” (op. cit.: pp 49-50). The above epigraph illustrates the practical and symbolic effectiveness of deporting “madmen” overseas, but what effects would a transatlantic re-location of the “mentally insane” have in our contemporary post-modern world? Could the Medieval Ship of Fools be re-interpreted today through itinerant dramatic, poetic, pictorial and musical performances?