September 17, 2016 - Wellcome Collection - Bedlam: the asylum and beyond
September 17, 2016

Wellcome Collection

Erica Scourti, Empathy Deck, 2016. Commissioned by Wellcome Collection. 

Bedlam: the asylum and beyond
September 15, 2016–January 15, 2017

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
United Kingdom

wellcomecollection.org
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Bedlam: the asylum and beyond
September 15, 2016–January 15, 2017

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
United Kingdom

wellcomecollection.org
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Bedlam: the asylum and beyond traces the rise and fall of the mental asylum and how it has shaped the complex landscape of mental health today. The exhibition focuses on the diverse perspectives and lived experience of individuals who inhabited the asylum or created alternatives to it. Taking Bethlem Royal Hospital as a starting point, it juxtaposes historical material and medical records with individual testimonies and works by artists whose practice reflects on or reimagines the institution, as both a physical and a virtual space.

Bedlam opens with a large-scale installation, Asylum, by Eva Kotátková, inspired by conversations with psychiatric patients and featuring live performers. Debates surrounding restraint from the 1800s are illuminated by Jane Fradgley’s haunting photographs of the quilted garments worn by patients, and definitions of normality are subverted in Javier Tellez’s film installation Caligari and the Sleepwalker, based on the 1920 expressionist silent movie. Victorian painter Richard Dadd turned the patient’s gaze on the doctor with his portrait of Alexander Morison, governor of Bethlem.

Today asylums have largely been consigned to history but mental health challenges are more prevalent than ever, as our culture teems with therapeutic possibilities: from prescription medications and clinical treatment to complementary medicines, online support, and spiritual and creative practices. A new digital commission for the exhibition, Erica Scourti’s Empathy Deck is a live Twitter bot inspired by the language of divination card systems like tarot and self-therapy texts. Restless Leg Saga, a film installation by Shana Moulton, depicts a character searching through television and magazine adverts to find relief from her condition. An installation of Dora Garcia’s, Hearing Voices Café—which took place at Wellcome Collection Cafe in August—explores the significant role that voice-hearing has played in human experience throughout history, spanning arts, spirituality, philosophy, science, psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

In this ever-changing landscape, the exhibition interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented—a place of refuge, sanctuary and care—and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. The final work in the exhibition is a special commission of artists the Vacuum Cleaner and Hannah Hull's Madlove: A Designer Asylum: a collaborative project with designers Benjamin Koslowski and James Christian, illustrator Rosie Cunningham, and over 400 people with lived experience of mental health challenges, that imagines how a utopian mental health hospital could look and work.

Guest curator Mike Jay, the author and historian, says: “Preserved in popular imagination as ‘Bedlam,' the Bethlem Royal Hospital is perhaps the oldest institution of its kind in the world, and has witnessed the entire history of mental illness and psychiatry. Its story is the perfect focus for Wellcome Collection to explore how medicine, art and culture define mental illness, and the big questions it raises about the individual and society.”

Wellcome Collection co-curator Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz adds: “Our mental health has many dimensions: medical, psychological, social, spiritual and environmental. At a time when the marketplace of treatment and support options is so broad, but for many not accessible or effective, the exhibition both interrogates and reclaims the idea of the asylum as a space of sanctuary and care.”

Bedlam: the asylum and beyond is co-curated by Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz and Mike Jay, with exhibition design by MUF and graphics by Martin McGrath and Lindsay Pentelow.

Follow @empathydeck on Twitter to receive your own unique digital card.

Wellcome Collection is the free visitor destination for the incurably curious. Located at 183 Euston Road, London, it explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The newly expanded venue offers visitors contemporary and historic exhibitions and collections, lively public events, the world-renowned Wellcome Library, a café, a shop, a restaurant and conference facilities as well as publications, tours, a book prize, international and digital projects.

Media contacts:
Emily Philippou, Senior Media Officer
T +44 (0)20 7611 8726 / e.philippou [​at​] wellcome.ac.uk

Related
Share
More
Wellcome Collection
Share - Bedlam: the asylum and beyond
  • Share
Close
Next