I went to this exhibition twice over the last 3 months it was on: it was a collection of artworks that explored how society's approach to mental health services and issues have changed and remained the same over time. This was a great exhibition as an influence to my own practice and ideas - my final piece is surrounding our approach to eating disorders and how the everyday routine is affected by this. A few of the pieces here stood out for me.
Vacuum Cleaner and Hannah Hull - Madlove
'It ain’t no bad thing to need a safe place to go mad. The problem is that a lot of psychiatric hospitals are more punishment than love… they need some Madlove.’
This was a really interesting socially-engaged project where 'Madlove' workshops were conducted inviting people who have experienced mental distress in high-intensity psychiatric hospitals as activist groups. The purpose of the workshops were to explore the possibility of a utopian mental health asylum; what would it look like if we viewed mental health in a positive way? The final sculptural plan was based of the findings and thoughts from the 432 people that they worked with. I thought this was a really beautiful project because it was based on socially-engaged findings and provided a space other than a psychological/scientific environment for people to explore their experiences in institutions and treatment, providing a different insight completely!
Eva Kotátková - Asylum (2014)
Eva draws upon research visits to Bohnice Psychiatric hospital through an accumulation of sculptures to describe the relationship between the constraints within the institution experienced by the patient as well as the alternative communications developed among the patients to ease the social pressure. The fact that there were multiple different unrelated shapes occurring within the same space allowed the viewers to see it as a whole picture, which I think captured the complexity of each individual experience while simultaneously showing the abundance these cases. I thought the sculptures that were metal frames were the most effective - to me they presented a hollowness and a lack of materiality at the same time as portraying a rawness and a stripped-back quality. It made me ask cause and effect questions about how the shapes were moulded in relation to the subject - in this case being the patient.
Procession of St Dymphna (1925) (digitalized)
This was a short 5 minute film that consisted of the story of a man's experience within a psychiatric home in Belgium in the 1920s; it explores the diagnosis of 'madness' as a kind of spectacle or a performance, where people in the film go to visit to be entertained by the man who lives there. This makes us think about how social views surrounding mental health and diagnosis have changed but also makes us think about how much we know about the mental health system altogether.