Back to All Events

Dear Nise: Method, Madness and Artistic Occupation at a Psychiatric Hospital in Rio de Janeiro

  • K6.63, Strand Campus Strand London United Kingdom (map)

Professor of Drama and Performance at Queen Mary, University of London, Professor Paul Heritage is Principal Investigator for The Art Of Cultural Exchange project. For over two decades, he created arts-based prison projects in Britain and Brazil, reaching tens of thousands of prisoners, guards, and their families with projects including award-winning HIV/AIDs education and Human Rights work. As a producer he has worked with major UK arts institutions to bring leading Brazilian companies to British audiences, including Grupo Galpão at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Grupo Piolin and AfroReggae to the Barbican Centre and Nós do Morro to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. As International Associate at the Young Vic Theatre, he created Festa|Amazônia [2008]: a year-long performance project involving hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators in London and the Amazon region. From 2009-2012 he was funded by the AHRC for a three-year research investigation of the knowledge transfer between Brazilian favela-based artists and youth & community groups in the UK who use the arts to achieve individual and social change. Heritage was also Executive Producer of Rio Occupation London, a major project within the London 2012 Festival and co-curated theOlympic and Paralympic Cultural Forum and Arte sem Limites, a festival celebrating UK disability arts from the Unlimited commissions programme, in Rio as part of British Council’s Transform programme. In 2004 he was made a Knight of the Order of Rio Branco by the Brazilian government.

Presentation Abstract

In 1995 the Brazilian psychiatrist Nise da Silveira wrote seven letters to the 17th Century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. The heroine of Brazil’s anti-asylum movement and former colleague of Carl Jung used her correspondence with Spinoza to reflect on the interconnections between science, art and ethics. Professor Paul Heritage and Dr Silvia Ramos have written three letters to Nise da Silveira, contemplating the questions raised by her life and work in relation to experiments in applied performance taking place in the hospital in Rio de Janeiro which now bears her name and where she established the Museum of Images of the Unconscious. These letters share with Nisa da Silveira news about the Brazilian immunologist, cultural psychiatrist, medical doctor and theatre-maker Vitor Pordeus who has created the Hotel and Spa of Madness alongside hospital wards that still house patients with chronic psychosis. Described by Dr Pordeus as a centre for culture, health and transcultural , the Hotel hosts a wide range of artistic and cultural activities with the direct participation of acute psychiatric patients, as well as professional actors, painters, dancers, directors, poets, educators and graffiti artists. Heritage will also discuss a fourth letter written to Nise da Silveira by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (aka Dr Pordeus) which insists there is indeed a method in madness.

Reading and supplementary material:

There are are various videos of the Hotel and Spa of Madness on the internet if students want to look at images in advance. Just type Hotel e Spa da Loucura into YouTube.

There are also a number of lectures in English by Dr Pordeus available on the internet, including a recent one he gave at McGill University:

There is an article about the Hotel and Spa of Madness on the BBC site:

There is an article on cultural psychiatry by Dr Pordeus which can be downloaded at

And finally, students can look at the range of Dr Pordeus’ research publications on

This talk, part of the King's Brazil Institute Research Seminar Series, will be followed by a Q&A and wine.