We call disposophobia a man’s incapacity to trash things.
I just read a weird story about this person who uses to engage in compulsive hoarding, and I discovered it is not such a rare case. The Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley had a similar incapacity to get rid of possessions, even if the items were worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary, and the physical impossibility to move within tons of trash led them to their subsequent death. Their life is narrated in the novel “Homer and Langley“, whose author Cory Doctorow decided to write when he discovered a park was named after these two “legendary” men.
“On March 30, false rumors circulated that Langley had been seen aboard a bus heading for Atlantic City. A manhunt along the New Jersey shore turned up nothing. Reports of Langley sighting led police to a total of nine states. The police continued searching the house two days later, removing 3,000 books, several outdated phone books, a horse’s jawbone, a Steinway piano, an early X-ray machine, and more bundles of newspapers. More than 19 tons of junk were removed from the ground floor of the three-story brownstone. The police continued to clear away the brothers’ stockpile for another week, removing another 84 tons of rubbish from the house. Although a good deal of the junk came from their father’s medical practice, a considerable portion was discarded items collected by Langley over the years.”
Following are some images of houses owned by disposophobia affected people. B/W photographs relate to the Collyer brothers. See more images here.
Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping, says Wikipedia. But who knows if it is just a way to recreate a whole handy micro-world, filled by culture, hazard, nostalgia and memorabilia and whose existence is always in struggle with one’s mere living? Right into preventing you from escaping? Or maybe the incapacity of Platonic ideas, of generalities, of abstractions in these persons leads directly to a sort of Borgesian world in which the absence of Funes‘ extraordinary memory is replaced by the subconscius act of accumulation of physical objects. Details and slivers replace ideas and thought.
Who knows if Disposophobia is in fact driven by a latent or inhibited artistic pulsion?
Don’t wanna mix dramatic psychological illness with vaporous speculation, but I remember an interesting story about how early artist Damien Hirst said he’s been influenced by his next door neighbor Mr.Barnes, a man who used to wander all day around his neighborhood, returning home in the evening with a collection of all sort of ordinary objects. After he passed out, Hirst decided to cross the fence and found out an incredible installation of rooms packed up to the ceilings. Age, state, materials and the arrangements of the objects became a legacy document of Mr Barnes’ existence: such was the influence on Hirst, that his early works reflected on the symbolic power of the juxtaposition of ordinary objects. (Vessel series, for example).
I cannot help wondering if later (and much more famous) works such as “The Acquired Inability to Escape” or “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” make an obscure reference to Mr. Barnes’ bizarre sort of Disposophobia, evolved into an art-work.