Posts Tagged 'exhibitions'

Women and the Mind Doctors: Upcoming exhibitions

Two exciting exhibitions open early next month, one of which features a number of items from the Bethlem Collection. The Freud Museum’s Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors, runs from 10 October until 2 February 2014. A mix of historical objects and contemporary art  highlights the experience of women and their relationships to those who confined, cared for and listened to them.  The exhibition also shows how women today conduct their own explorations of mind and imagination in challenging works of art. Items from Bethlem include ECT machines, strong clothing and restraints and Richard Dadd’s A Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane. Bethlem Gallery artist Jane Fradgley will also have several artworks on display, from her recent show at the Institute of Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, a major retrospective exhibition devoted to another creative woman opens this weekend: Madge Gill: Medium & Visionary runs from 5 October 2013 until 26 January 2014 at Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham. With no training and no aspirations to fame, Madge Gill produced thousands of ink drawings during her lifetime. Her work remains an enigma: is it true she was inspired by an ethereal spirit guide? Was she genuinely in touch with ‘the beyond’, or was art-making a form of self therapy?

Featuring over 100 original artworks – including the ten metre calico The Crucifixion of the Soul, which has not been on display in the UK since 1979, and contextual photographs and documents, this exhibition is the first of its kind. Madge Gill was championed and collected by Jean Dubuffet, who coined the term ‘art brut’ (raw art), the precursor to the term ‘Outsider Art’. Those interested in Outsider Art might also want to visit an exhibition at St Pancras Hospital, which is on until 28 November. Epiphanies! Secrets of Outsider Art showcases up to twenty artists, from London, Australia and the USA.

Richard Dadd - Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane

Richard Dadd – Sketch for an Idea of Crazy Jane


held: Jane Fradgley’s photographic exhibition returns to London

Selected images from Jane Fradgley’s held return to London in an exhibition opening today at the Institute of Psychiatry. The opening runs from 5 – 7pm this evening (Wednesday 10 July), and all Bethlem Blog readers are welcome!

The exhibition showcases some of the artist’s photographic series of historical restraining garments and strong clothing from the Bethlem Archives and Museum. These haunting photographs offer a unique perspective; a poetic documentation for contemplation with the added intention of contributing to a dialogue and debate around protection, restraint and chemical intervention in mental health care today. The research, development and production of held was funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity.

The exhibition continues from 10 July to 27 September, and is open Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 4.30pm. Accompanying the exhibition, there will be a public symposium on the evening of 31 July, inviting clinicians, support workers, service users, historians and artists to respond to the topics raised in the exhibition. The event is now fully booked, but we will be reporting the full details on this blog afterwards, and hope that it is only the start of debate on this important topic.

What’s more, with funding from Maudsley Charity and support from Plymouth Arts Centre, the artist will be launching a book about the project later this year. Watch this space for details…

Exhibition runs: 10 July – 27 September

Times: 9.30am – 4.30pm

Location: MRC SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Memory Lane, De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF (link to map).

Station: Denmark Hill

 photo JFHELDBHBWsmall_zpsbd5f3250.jpg
(Image © Jane Fradgley)

Foreign Bodies: New Exhibition at UCL

In 1942, G. O. Chambers (visiting surgeon to the English prison system) attempted to outline the “psychology of the intentional swallower”. Chambers was fascinated by the way in which foreign objects might end up in the alimentary tract, and what swallowing such items might say about a person: chiefly, he claimed, it indicated “an underlying psychological framework of egoism, vanity and self-attention”.1

Chambers’ understanding of intentional swallowing was framed through two (seemingly very different) categories of swallower: circus performers and incarcerated prisoners. Yet Chambers linked the two, despite their differences, by claiming that the latter exhibited an intensified version of the psychology of the former. Prisoners, he thought, were “stubborn, defiant and antisocial”, and their desire to gain attention and material gain mirrored the habits of circus performers.

While Chambers’ understanding of the intentional swallowing of non-food items seems simplistic and unduly pejorative, his interest in objects that had travelled through the human body was not unusual for this era. A few years earlier, Irish doctor Ian Fraser had declared that “a paper on foreign bodies is really a story of the human body.”2 Meanwhile, American surgeon Chevalier Jackson had amassed a collection of more than two thousand foreign bodies in the first few decades of the twentieth century.3

A new exhibition, which opened at UCL this week, takes the concept of the foreign body well beyond the medical realm. UCL Researchers in Museums (a group of PhD students in various disciplines) use foreign bodies as a starting point to look at the ways in which we define ourselves – biologically, psychologically socially and politically – through concepts of “otherness”. How and why do non-human items end up inside the human body? Where do we draw the line between human and animal, living being and inorganic “thing”, self and other? Through seven very different research projects, this exhibition addresses the idea of what is alien to us and how this concept has shifted across history, culture and even species.

The Foreign Bodies exhibition runs from 18 March to 14 July, in the North Cloisters (Wilkins Building), with a trail leading visitors to other foreign bodies in UCL Museums. Every Friday at 2pm (from April), there will be a curator-led tour taking visitors through some of the trail.

1 G. O. Chambers, “Foreign Bodies in the Alimentary Tract”, British Medical Journal, Sept 26 1942, 362-6

2 Ian Fraser, “Foreign Bodies”, British Medical Journal, 13 May 1939, p. 967. For more on this topic see Sarah Chaney, “Curious Appetites: Surgery and the Foreign Body”, The Lancet, Vol. 380 No. 9847, pp 1050-1051.

3 Mary Cappello, Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration and the Curious Doctor who Extracted Them, New York, London: The New Press (2011).

Foreign Bodies exhibition poster

Holding Your Nerve 3

Bethlem’s collection of photographs of Victorian-era patients taken by Henry Hering (currently on display at Museum Dr Guislain in Belgium, as we reported last month) have again been the subject of artistic interest. Earlier this year a brief but evocative filmic response to the photographs of Eliza C. and Thomas W. was made and uploaded to YouTube by Nathalie Joffre. Now a three-screen installation by Joffre, entitled He told me that his garden…, is about to be exhibited this month in the galleries of the London College of Communication, as part of a display of the College’s MA photography student work called A Forming State. The installation showcases her further response to the Hering collection. “For me”, she writes, “exploring Hering’s archives has involved the experience of a double inability: the inability to look at them as a simple collection of portraits and also my inability to appropriate them entirely. However, these inabilities have not meant failure, but an endless process of exploring, feeling, imagining, and remembering.” Eagle-eyed viewers of He told me that his garden… may care to weigh our Archivist’s merits as a ‘hand actor’!

A Forming State runs from 14 to 24 November 2012 at London College of Communication, SE1 6SB (nearest tube Elephant and Castle). Hours are 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday from 14 to 23 November inclusive, and additionally 10am to 4pm on Saturday 17 and Saturday 24 November.

Arthur Bispo do Rosário: Exhibition at the V&A

Among the seemingly limitless corridors of the Victoria and Albert Museum, one small exhibition is well worth negotiating the maze. Two small rooms (17a and 18a – it’s not publicised on any of the in-house maps) house an incredible array of handmade textiles and objects. The collection was created by Arthur Bispo do Rosário (1909 – 1989), and shows the results of his aim to record and remake the world through art. Bispo aimed to represent symbolically everything that could be saved on the Day of Judgment, and the exhibition well reflects his awe-inspiring intention.

Arthur Bispo do Rosário was born in Japaratuba in North-East Brazil, a region well-known for its folk arts and vivid religious culture, something clearly represented in his work. In 1938, he had a vision of angels, which resulted in a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Bispo spent the rest of his life in hospital at the Colônia Juliano Moreira, which now houses a contemporary art museum named after him: the Museu Bispo do Rosário Arte Contemporânea. In his art, Bispo made use of discarded hospital items: the exhibition incorporates banners made from discarded bedding, and sporting equipment bound in blue thread from old uniforms.

In 1982, psychoanalyst Hugo Denizart visited the hospital. He had been asked by the Brazilian Ministry of Health to make a documentary on the conditions endured by patients, but became so fascinated by Arthur Bispo do Rosário that he instead concentrated on the artist. There is a clip from the resulting film, The Prisoner of Passage (1982), on the exhibition website. The full film can be seen in the exhibition, which runs until 28 October.

21 sailboats - Arthur Bispo do Rosario

Bispo do Rosário Vinte e um veleiros © Rodrigo Lopes

Reproduced by permission of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Yayoi Kusama – Outsider Artist? 3

( continued from previous post )

Our volunteer continues:

The retrospective reinterpretation of Kusama’s work by critics was fuelled by an interest at the time in psychiatric art in Japan and Kusama became a poster child for ‘Outsider Art’. However, whilst she fits into this category if you consider her ‘untrained’ due to only 18 months studying nihonga (Japanese-style painting) in her early twenties, Kusama has never been excluded from influential artistic circles, but was in fact an extremely active participant in the artistic infrastructure dominating both New York and Tokyo at the times she lived there. A morbid fascination with pathology along with the simplified idea that madness is a direct source of creativity often leads to individuals being too enthusiastically labelled as ‘outsider artists’. Art critic Abe Nobuo has made the telling point that although hallucinations may provide rich sensory experiences for artists to draw from, it is not enough for the artist to merely reproduce the hallucinatory experience: the artist needs to connect their own personal experience of the hallucination with specific artistic intent, for that painting to become a work of art. ‘The greatest appeal in Kusama’s work is that she seizes the devilish malice which comes sprouting up from the unconscious darkness, and turns it into art.’1

Some of the more revealing interpretations of Kusama’s work come from looking at her artistic intentions in relation to the current artistic climate. The current exhibition of her work at Tate Modern doesn’t focus on her mental health as much as does the publicity surrounding it. In fact the only reference to her as an outsider within the exhibition is in Walking Piece, a series of colour slides of Kusama from 1966 dressed in Kimono and flowers wandering the streets of New York, which explores her position as a female, Asian artist in a predominantly white, male New York art world, exemplifying a theme of patriarchal defiance which runs throughout her work.

The Yayoi Kusama exhibition continues at Tate Modern until 5 June 2012.

1 Cited in G. Borggreen, “The Myth of the Mad Artist: Works and Writings by Kusama Yayoi” in Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies vol 15 (2001), pp. 39-40.

Collections on Tour

In the small space of the present Bethlem Museum, we can only display around five per cent of our nearly 1,000 artworks at any one time. Luckily, art from the Bethlem Collection is often requested by exhibitions elsewhere. The Richard Dadd and Louis Wain collections make frequent journeys en masse: this summer, our collection of Wain cats will be travelling to the Nicholson Museum and Gallery in Leek, Staffordshire. The exhibition runs from 26 June until 8 October 2012.

Meanwhile, Elise Warriner’s The Anger Within has travelled back across the Channel, this year to be displayed at the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden (Netherlands), in an exhibition opening next week (Friday 13 April) and running until September 9th. The striking image was painted as part of Elise’s degree show, “Welcome to my World”, which focused on her struggles with anorexia nervosa, an illness from which she later recovered. The painting forms part of the exhibition The Weighty Body, shown last year at the Museum Dr Guislain in Ghent. Themed around the history of fasting, the exhibition explores the multiple religious, medical, aesthetic and political meanings of the refusal of food throughout the centuries. The exhibition catalogue is written in Dutch, French and English and explores a variety of artworks and images relating to body size. Many of these can be found on the Museum Boerhaave website.

Finally, one of our paintings appears in central London, in the Wellcome Collection‘s new exhibition, Brains: The Mind as Matter (29 March – 17 June). Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see Allan Beveridge’s Me, Myself, I. The exhibition “follows the long quest to manipulate and decipher the most unique and mysterious of human organs, whose secrets continue to confound and inspire”, asking us “not what brains do to us, but what we have done to brains.” It will explore ways in which we have measured and classified, mapped and modeled, treated and displayed this complex organ within anatomy, science and art. On Saturday April 14, visitors can come to our Richard Dadd exhibition at the Archives and Museum from 11am, before heading over to the Brain Jar special event at Wellcome from 2 – 6pm. This afternoon of events for adults includes a chance to practise brain surgery skills, witness trepanning and graduate from the school of phrenology!