Posts Tagged 'Jane Fradgley'

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: Restraint Symposium at the Institute of Psychiatry

This week, as part of Jane Fradgley’s held exhibition at the MRC SGDP Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, a public symposium focused on the difficult topic of restraint in mental health care. This was inspired, in part, by a focus group held last year at the Bethlem Gallery, in which service users, artists and doctors discussed the different ways in which restraint might be understood and experienced. Indeed, as one participant in the earlier discussion reflected, the very visible historical garments offered a useful focus to reach into less tangible modern encounters: rapid tranquilisation or physical holding, for example. A sedated person is less obviously restrained to those around them than someone in a canvas dress, although the person constrained might well not see this distinction.

Speakers ranged across the spectrum, looking at clinical practices, historical debates and personal experiences to reflect on the topic, questioning the very use of restraint, as well as the way it is managed. Particularly striking was the suggestion of one psychiatrist that, prior to being invited to speak, restraint had not been something he had really reflected on, although aware that it occurred in the unit in which he practiced. The way in which restraint was reported and understood was noted to be a shaky area: often being seen as a response to an event, rather than an episode that, in itself, requires to be understood, in particular allowing patients an opportunity to respond and explain their feelings. Acknowledging that restraint – even where it seems to be the only course of action – may nonetheless have important consequences for vulnerable people was agreed to be an important step forward. Guidelines, in particular, were shown to be inadequate: something highlighted in the recent Mind campaign on physical restraint in crisis care.

Today, The Lancet published an online editorial reflecting on some of the issues raised by the panel, who had a variety of different perspectives and experiences of mental health care. Some felt that restraint was entirely avoidable, and the ‘No Force First’ movement in North America was raised as a possible model for removing restraint from mental health care. Others insisted that restraint was inevitable in a system in which confinement occurs, and that other aspects of psychiatry might be more unpleasant for patients than physical restraint. All agreed, however, that it was an important discussion to have, and that the views and suggestions of patients on their experiences of constraint and how it might be avoided as well as best regulated – the impetus for the exhibition and symposium in the first place – was vital.

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)

held by Jane Fradgley: A Symposium on Restraint

On the evening of 31 July, the MRC SGDP Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry and the Damaging the Body seminar series will co-host a public symposium on the topic of restraint and strong clothing in mental health care. This event accompanies artist Jane Fradgley’s held exhibition, on display in the foyer from 10th July to 27th September. This series of striking photographs of garments from the Bethlem collection was funded by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and, as previously noted on this blog, the artist has captured these late nineteenth and early twentieth-century garments in a very different manner from the usual methods of displaying such objects (previously explored in Curatorial Conversations IV).

The exhibition is currently on display at Plymouth Arts Centre (until 16 June). However, Jane’s photographs have already opened up debate around the topic in London. Last year, the Bethlem Gallery hosted a focus group on “strong clothing”, bringing together a variety of people within the mental health field: service users, clinical and curatorial staff, therapists and art practitioners. The garments and their history were exhibited, and a lively debate explored the various forms of coercion adopted within contemporary health care and the relation of the historical garments (and their display) to this context.

The term “strong clothing” was used by late nineteenth-century psychiatrists to refer to garments used in English asylums to restrict movement. These doctors wished to distinguish the clothing they used from the “revolting instruments of mechanical coercion” rejected by the “non-restraint” movement of the 1840s and ‘50s. While English asylum superintendents at this time claimed to have abandoned all methods of mechanical restraint, physicians of the 1880s and 1890s re-introduced restraining garments by claiming them to be something else entirely. Strait-jackets (generally known as strait-waistcoats) and handcuffs were replaced with “strong dresses” and “padded gloves”, placed on a relatively small number of patients to prevent self-inflicted injury or the destruction of clothing and other items. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, strait-jackets appear to have returned to some institutions.

Today, it is often assumed that the exhibition of restraining garments will be distressing to viewers: a stark reminder of past cruelties. Participants in the focus group, however, exposed a much more nuanced view of these items. The forthcoming symposium will invite a wider audience – including clinicians, historians, artists and service users – to explore what restraint is, and how (and if) we can ever draw a line between care, cure and control. Following short presentations from a variety of practitioners, the debate will be opened up to the audience.

Tickets are free, but places are limited and must be booked in advance at:

Doors will open at 5pm, with a reception and chance to view the exhibition. The symposium will begin at 6pm, ending by 8pm. The artist will be releasing a book associated with the exhibition later in 2013, funded by the Maudsley Charity.

Location: MRC SGDP Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, 16 De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, SE5 8AF (within the Maudsley Hospital site).

held exhibition photograph

held: Guy’s Hospital Exhibition by Jane Fradgley

This week, a special exhibition by artist Jane Fradgley opens at Guy’s Hospital. held is funded by the Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity, and is informed by the historical collection of restraining garments housed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archive & Museum, and investigates a largely unexplored area of mental health history.

During the “non-restraint movement” of the 1840s, the vast majority of asylums in England and Wales abandoned all forms of mechanical restraint. “Strong clothing” was a term used in the late 1800s to describe certain forms of protection or restraint which were reintroduced to asylums, and claimed not to be “strait-waistcoats, handcuffs, or what may be called true instruments of restraint”. The terms, descriptions and types of garment used were fraught with meaning for contemporaries, many of whom saw themselves as enlightened humanitarians.

With a background as a fashion designer, and a passionate interest in functional and tailored garments, Fradgley was inspired to delve into the archive after seeing Victorian portrait photographs of patients at Bethlem wearing unusual quilted dresses. By exploring this powerful and poignant subject, the artist’s intention is to open new dialogue and debate around restraint and protection, by setting a historical perspective alongside today’s treatments of chemical intervention and sedation.

She recalls:

“I was fascinated by the seemingly comforting strong dresses, and related this form of protective care to my own experiences in hospital and encounters with modern day psychiatric care.

“For me, the purpose of the strong clothing was not to invoke or exacerbate fear or anxiety in the patient; rather, the attention to detail in creating such well-constructed garments was to bring some dignity, serenity, peace and tranquillity to the wearer as an antidote to their anguish.”

It is easy for us to assume that such garments are relics of a brutal past, but in making such judgments we may miss many concerns that remain very relevant today. As Fradgley’s haunting images indicate, the line between freedom and constraint, care and control, safety and coercion remain hard to draw.

held runs until 8 March 2012, in Atrium 2, Guy’s Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT.

Readers who are interested in discussing the topic of strong clothing and restraint further are invited to respond to this blog in the comments section.

Bedlam in the Old Vic Tunnels

Two artists associated with the Archives and Museum are currently exhibiting in a new show at the Old Vic Tunnels. Bedlam is described as the third and final meeting of minds between Lazarides Gallery and the Old Vic Tunnels, creatively exploring the history of the institution. Like Nell Leyshon’s play at the Globe Theatre two years ago (and as we blogged at that time), the event seeks to explore the parallels between the hospital itself and a “world gone mad”, using the institution’s history as part of a more general critique of society, art, madness and genius.

Much of the work included reflects the interests of Lazarides Ltd, who pride themselves on their popularisation of urban and non-traditional art. The dark, cavernous space of the Old Vic Tunnels suits the material well, lending a haunting quality to the spray-painted canvases and muted video installations. From the near-total darkness of the entry-way, the artworks slowly emerge from the space, the lighting and context lending an uneasy fragility to some of the material, such as Tessa Farmer’s glass and taxidermy sculptures or the ominous presence of Doug Foster and Nachev’s Lidless – a huge weather balloon on which footage of an eye, staring and blinking, is projected.

We were particularly excited, however, by the opportunity to see work by Jane Fradgley and War Boutique. Jane’s striking photographs of the museum’s collection of strong clothing will soon be on display at Guy’s Hospital. Here, however, the large-scale projections emerge with slow beauty on the dark brick walls: ghostly, exquisite and unsettling all at once. These haunting images of late nineteenth and early twentieth century garments of restraint offer a much more complex perspective on mental health care and experiences past and present than the usual stereotypes that fall under the “Bedlam” tag. Jane’s own exhibition, Held, will open in Atrium 2, Guy’s Hospital, on 9 November.

War Boutique’s practice examines forms of conflict – whether physical, psychological or emotional. For Bedlam, he has produced The Noosphere (literally meaning “sphere of the mind”). The sculpture combines Victorian crinoline construction with modern military fabrics, and is based on ideas of rotational therapy for mental illness, which date back to Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia of 1801. The Archives and Museum collection contains a model centrifuge, seemingly made in Bethlem’s workshop at a later date and for unknown reasons. The Noosphere even offers visitors a chance to experience the spinning chair, perhaps providing a new visual perspective on the world beyond it.

Bedlam runs until 21 October at the Old Vic Tunnels, Station Approach Road, London SE1 8SW. Book your free tickets online here.

Art from Ephemera: new Exhibition at Bethlem Gallery

In this joint exhibition, between the Bethlem Art Studio and Bethlem Archives and Museum, artists combine use of the everyday and ‘throwaway’. Their art uses items selected from the Museum’s collection of ephemera.

Ephemera are the bits and pieces of everyday life – postcards, stamps, tickets, receipts and doodles – that normally wouldn’t merit a second glance. Artists, however, have used the ephemeral to explore themes of memory, loss and the beauty of the overlooked.

The gallery is an extension of Bethlem Arts Studios, which provide weekly creative sessions for patients within Bethlem Royal Hospital’s Occupational Therapy programme. Michaela Ross, Art Coordinator at the Bethlem explains “The exhibition grew out of the desire to pay attention to objects that might often be overlooked or undervalued. In a world where people and things are put into boxes and categories, the artists have chosen to make objects and images that are not so easily labeled or contained.”

Artists include Phil Baird, Jane Fradgley, Sue, Terence Wilde, Katy Phillips, Peter, James Tanner, Sebastian Jones and Sue Morgan.

Exhibition opens 22 June, 3-6pm, all welcome.

Exhibition continues: 23 June – 22 July, Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm and Satuday 2 July, 12-5pm.

Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 3BX

Nearest British Rail Station: Eden Park

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