Exhibition to offer rare glimpse of Art in the Asylum

A segment from Konigin Elisabeth (Queen Elizabeth) by Johann Hauser (ca.1969), Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.
19 Aug 2013 16:15:24.100

Image: Johann Hauser (ca. 1969) Königin Elisabeth [Queen Elizabeth] Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne. © Privatstiftung-Künstler aus Gugging. Photo: Claude Bornand.

The therapeutic use of art in British psychiatric institutions from as early as the 19th century will be showcased as part of a major new arts and mental health exhibition at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre.

Art in the Asylum: creativity and the evolution of psychiatry, which runs in the Djanogly Art Gallery from Saturday September 7 to Sunday November 3, will look at the key role British psychiatric institutions played in using art as part of the humane treatment of people with mental health problems.

It will offer a rare opportunity to view examples of the earliest use of art by Dr W.A.F. Browne and patients at the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries from the 1800s, which have never before been exhibited outside of Scotland.

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Other highlights will include work from the collection of the ‘grandfather of art therapy’, Edward Adamson, at the Netherne Hospital in Surrey from 1946, and the free expression of residents at Kingsley Hall in London, a therapeutic community established by Dr. R. D. Laing in the 1960s. The exhibition also includes work by Richard Dadd and Louis Wain, representing some of the most well-known patient art associated with the Bethlem Royal Hospital, or ‘Bedlam’.

"Historical shift"

Dr. Victoria Tischler, Associate Professor in the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology and Arts Co-Ordinator for the Institute of Mental Health, based at The University of Nottingham, is co-curator of the exhibition.

She said, “By highlighting the key institutions and influential figures in the history of British mental healthcare, the exhibition traces the historical shift from invasive treatments of mental disorders to a more humane regime in which creativity played a significant role.

"The exhibition also tells the story of the strong influence of continental psychiatry on British practice, and the wider recognition of patient artwork by leading modern artists. Uncovering fascinating stories, this historical overview provides insight into the diagnostic and therapeutic use of patient artwork, its influence on the development of humane psychiatric practice, and its wider recognition by artists associated with Surrealism, Art Brut and so-called Outsider Art.”

Running concurrently with Art in the Asylum is a new video installation by Canadian artist Althea Thauberger, featuring a performance of Peter Weiss’ 1963 play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital, Prague, in 2012.

Punishment to therapy

Marat/Sade imagines the infamous Marquis de Sade as author and director of a play about the bloody assassination of Jean-Paul Marat while the former was interned in the Charenton asylum in 1808. A time of great institutional reform, this period saw the beginnings of the reformation of the treatment of mental illness from punishment to therapy. In the 1963 play, the inmates of the asylum enact the drama, and are always partly themselves, as patients, and partly in historical character.

While the original play is set in the bathhouse of Charenton, Thauberger’s filmed production, MARAT SADE BOHNICE, is performed to an audience of staff and patients in another post-revolutionary institution: Bohnice, the largest psychiatric clinic in the Czech Republic. Characteristic of her collaborative projects with specific social groups or communities, Thauberger’s film includes interviews with psychiatric staff and patients at Bohnice giving the participants a voice and raising questions about institutionalisation, power and self-determination.

The exhibition will be complemented by a series of free events being held at the Djanogly Art Gallery Lecture Theatre (and at Nottingham Contemporary and Broadway Cinema), covering a range of topics including the crossover between creativity and madness; the life and work of Edward Adamson; and ancient and modern mental healthcare.

Further details are available from Lakeside Arts Centre on 0115 846 7777 or online at www.lakesidearts.org.uk

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Story credits

More information is available from Dr Victoria Tischler on +44 (0)115 823 0412, 07967 151381 or by email at victoria.tischler@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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