Filed under: Art
Upcoming Art of Psychiatry meeting
Tuesday 7th April, 6pm Seminar room 1, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience Denmark Hill London
“Blake as prophet” with Professor David Bindman
After a quiet patch we have a number of Art of Psychiatry meetings planned and details of these will follow shortly.
Please join us on April 7 for our first meeting of this year. (Apologies for only one week’s notice)
William Blake (1757-1827) is a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts. Blake claimed that he has seen an angel in a tree at Peckham Rye, leading to speculation that his imagination is more vivid than reality and some of his contemporaries doubted his sanity. Viewing his works can provide insight into mental states that may be otherwise elusive to psychiatrists.
In this talk entitled “Blake as prophet”, Prof David Bindman will explore the intentions behind Blake’s prophetic works, and his apocalyptic ambitions. It will focus particularly on Jerusalem and its illustrations, and talk about the short poem of the same name, that was not part of the larger work.
David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at University College London. He was educated at Oxford, Harvard and the Courtauld Institute. Professor Bindman has taught and lectured extensively, and has held fellowships at international institutes, such as the Getty Institute and the Du Bois Institute at Harvard. He is a noted scholar on Blake, writing the introductory text to William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books. His recent interest has turned to the representation of non-Europeans in Western art, culminating in the book Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the Eighteenth Century.
All are welcome (general public, medical and non-medical). Wine and snacks provided.
Filed under: Art
The Nunnery Gallery at Bow is currently showing paintings and drawings by Mary Barnes. Barnes took an unusual route to becoming an artist: most of the works on show were created whilst Barnes was a resident at Kingsley Hall, an experimental therapeutic community founded by counter-cultural psychiatrist R.D. Laing. On her death, Barnes bequeathed much of her collection to her therapist and friend, Dr Joseph Berke, and her nickname for him: “Boo-Bah” is the title of the show. This is the first major show of her works since the 2010 retrospective at SPACE Studios.
Born in 1923, Barnes joined the British Army during World War II and subsequently worked as a nurse in Frankfurt and London. She suffered her first breakdown in 1952 and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. She contacted Laing in 1963, after reading his seminal book “The Divided Self”. She felt that Laing could help her and her brother Peter who was also diagnosed with the same disorder. Initially, she saw Laing for regular session. Then between 1965 and 1970, she became a patient of Berke and joined Kingsley Hall, a patient-centred, non-institutional and non-interventionist therapeutic community. In Kingsley Hall, she was encouraged to regress to an infantile like state; she squealed, refused to dress or wash, was fed from a bottle and slept naked in a wooden chest.
Around the same time, Mary started to paint the walls with her own faeces. “My first paintings were black breasts over the walls of the Hall”, recalled Mary in 1969. Then one day, “Joe gave me a tin of grease crayons. ‘Here, just scribble’. I did, on and on. Suddenly, a picture emerged, a woman kneeling with a baby to her breast”. From the crayon scribbles, she developed finger-painting and vivid oil paintings. It is these paintings that are now on view at the Nunnery Gallery.
The works on display range from composed, figurative painting to large-scale psychedelic works, with nature and religious symbols as a constant motif. A rusty trunk stands in the middle of the gallery, with drawings sprawling out. This creates a sense of urgency, epitomising the importance of the creative process in Mary’s journey through madness. Because so much is known about Mary’s life, it can be difficult at times to consider her paintings without imaging her state of mind. The curator has chosen not to label or date her works, allowing us to form our own conclusions. We are free to respond emotionally to the raw energy of her works. Texts from Mary’s writings are often intersected with her paintings, creating a sense of an on going dialogue between the viewers and Mary. Laing once wrote, “Rilke [early 20th century poet] wrote of “ the other side of nature”. Mary gives us the “other side of the flesh”.”
”Boo-Bah” also contains contextual items, such as photos of Barnes visiting doctors and patients in Sweden. You can listen to an audio extract of a BBC radio play Barnes co-wrote by David Edgar. Berke quotes David Edgar in his epilogue on Mary’s website, “When Mary died, several people asked, as if in an afterthought, if she was cured. Certainly, Mary was able to undertake those practical life tasks that were beyond her in madness. But she was never and could never, be cured in the sense of returned to normal. Still passionate, intense, demanding, and self-obsessed, she was also generous, funny and kind. It was a privilege to tell her story.”
This exhibition is a wonderful exhibition of Mary Barnes’ creative outputs at Kingsley Hall.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Screening of film The Arbor (2010) followed by Q&A with director Clio Barnard.
Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 6pm in The Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience
Please join us for a film screening and Q&A of The Arbor (2010) on Tuesday 17th February 2015 at 6pm in The Wolfson Lecture Theatre, IoPPN.
Filed under: Theatre
Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Society meeting
Tuesday 25 November 2014 6pm Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience Seminar room 6
Dr Trevor Turner
“Psychiatry in Shakespeare: Ministering to diseased minds”
Psychiatry and Shakespeare have had a tortuous relationship, ever since ‘Alienists’ established themselves as a specialty in the early 19th century. Henry Maudsley, John Bucknill and Cesare Lombroso (of criminal head shape fame) all had their say, and psycho-analysts went to town on Hamlet. This ‘diagnosing’ of characters in Shakespeare is more than unreliable (silly even), but within the canon there is a rich range of behaviours and personalities deemed “mad”, as well as outlines of causes, symptoms and even treatments. There is even a hero pretending to be “mad Tom”. Dr Turner will discuss the similarities between the ‘mad’ about which Shakespeare writes and the work of psychiatrists today. Shakespeare can help us understand the social matrix that so often is missed; it’s also beautifully written, so reading/watching Shakespeare can really make you a better psychiatrist!
About Trevor Turner:
Dr Trevor Turner completed a Classics degree before switching to medicine and studying at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, then training in psychiatry at the Maudsley. He was a consultant in general adult psychiatry in Hackney until 2013. During his career he has had a keen interest in the arts. He has published numerous articles on the history of psychiatry, psychiatric practice in inner city areas, and the treatment of schizophrenia.
Please join us for our last meeting of the year.
All welcome (including psychiatry trainees, service users, consultants, IoPPN staff and the general public) – wine and snacks provided.
Filed under: Film
Upcoming AoP meeting: film screening of “All Divided Selves” followed by Q&A with artist and filmmaker Luke Fowler, Prof Antony David and Dr Vaughan Bell
Date: Thursday 16 October
Time: 6-8:15pm (screening approx 6-7.30pm)
Venue: Wolfson lecture theatre Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
How to find the IoPPN: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/about/findus/index.aspx
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with artist and filmmakerLuke Fowler, in discussion with Professor Tony David and Dr Vaughan Bell from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.
All Divided Selves explores the life and legacy of the controversial Scottish psychiatrist, R D Laing (1927-1989). Laing famously argued that normality entailed adjusting to an alienating and depersonalizing world. Thus, those society labels as ‘mentally ill’ are in fact ‘hyper-sane’ travelers. The film concentrates on Laing and his colleagues as they tried to acknowledge the importance of social environment and disturbed interactions within institutions in the aetiology of human distress and suffering. Using a collage of archival material the film portrays the vacillating responses to Laing’s radical views and the less forgiving responses to his latter career shift; from eminent psychiatrist to enterprising celebrity.
This is an open meeting – all are welcome (including psychiatry trainees, service users, IoP staff, and members of public). No need to book – just turn up.
Wine and snacks provided. Look forward to seeing you there!
All Divided Selves: http://www.lux.org.uk/whats-on/events/all-divided-selves-luke-fowler
Image credit: Luke Fowler, All Divided Selves, (2011, 93′, 16mm film, UK, 2011, B&W/colour, sound) Courtesy: Luke Fowler and LUX
Upcoming Art of Psychiatry Speaker meeting meeting:
Professor Roger Cardinal – “Responding to Outsider Art”
Institute of Psychiatry Tuesday 23 September 6pm Seminar room 1
Outsider art is a term used to describe art created outside the mainstream art establishment, and is often applied to work created by psychiatric patients.
Roger Cardinal is widely known for his publications on self-taught art, in particular his pioneeing book Outsider Art of 1972. He has also written on French Surrealism and the early avant-garde, and is currently preparing a monograph on the mediumistic artist Madge Gill.
This talk will offer specimen works of Outsider Art originating in a variety of material contexts and involving a range of belief systems and mental perspectives. It will provide a general map of the field and will use illustrations from the work of some classic creators, as well as little-known recent artmakers. Professor Cardinal will seek to clarify what is at stake when we encounter such productions. What do we need to know about the author of a given work? Is a purely technical perspective adequate? Is there beauty to be savoured, or a whole new aesthetic to be established? Can we dwell within enigma? Outsider Art is rather special, and the viewer needs to adopt a sensitive stance toward the work and its maker.
Talk followed by questions and discussion.
This is an open meeting – all are welcome. Wine and snacks provided. Look forward to seeing you there!
Mug up beforehand:
Filed under: Uncategorized
Speaker meeting: Dr James Whitehead “Creativity and madness – debunking the myth?”
Tuesday 8th April 2014 6pm Institute of Psychiatry Robin Murray lecture theatre A
The idea that creativity is linked to mental illness has long been ‘one of the characteristic notions of our culture’, as the American literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote in 1945. It has informed, among many other things, popular representations and stereotypes of artistic or literary ‘genius’, whether as personality or as practice, a range of polemics about modern art, decadence, and the avant-garde, the formation of the idea of outsider art, and psychoanalytic readings of culture.
But when, how, and why did this idea become so popular and widespread? In this talk Dr Whitehead will discuss the ways in which it was popularized or stereotyped in the nineteenth century, with particular reference to the image of the ‘mad poet’, and examine the extent to which we might think of it as a romantic (or Romantic) myth.
James Whitehead is currently Wellcome Research Fellow in the English department at King’s College London, attached to the interdisciplinary Centre for the Humanities and Health. His first book examines nineteenth-century writing (including poetry, journalism, criticism, biographical writing, medical and psychiatric literature) which linked poetry and poets to madness. It is under review for publication with Oxford University Press as Madness and the Romantic Poet. Whitehead’s current research project moves from literary mythologies surrounding madness to the realities (and unrealities) of its experience, and examines the history of autobiographical writing about mental illness
We look forward to seeing you there!
This is an open meeting and all are welcome. As usual there will be snacks and wine
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Man Whose Mind Exploded documentary film by Toby Amies
Review by Greg Neate
With a handheld camera and sometimes haphazard footage, this part gonzo documentary, part affectionate tribute sees first-time director, Toby Amies, investigate the final years of a determinedly individualistic yet vulnerable man, living alone on a Brighton council estate.
While Drako Oho Zarhazar’s colourful past contains enough source material for its own feature length film, it’s his cognitive impairment and declining health that draws the detective filmmaker into acting beyond being his champion. Breathlessness and neglected leg sores seduce Amies into becoming a carer for his friend, in as much as friendship’s possible with someone whose amnesia means he can’t recall who this frequent, camera-toting visitor is.
That’s not to say that ‘Drak’ lacks for an identity, as is evident from his tattooed and pierced physique that fills the screen. For this septuagenarian, “the world is my stage, so appearance is very important”; a personal assertion that would be widely endorsed by all who ever shared a bus journey with this Daliesque moustachioed, caped and croc wearing pensioner.
Still even his appearance only hints at what’s inside his cluttered, one bedroom flat where self-penned notes, old letters and eye-catching, male pornography dangle on countless strings creating a hectic, projected installation of his mind. With these hanging threads, Drak remains connected to his past, whilst Amies tries to see through them to understand how his film’s ‘star’ can live independently amongst increasing disorder but without apparent doubt.
“Trust. Absolute. Unconditional.” declares Drak, a motto which is permanently inked on his arm and which he adopted whilst recovering from his second life-threatening brain injury. It’s one of many repeated phrases and recollections that prevent him from becoming a stranger to his past, despite insisting that he lives “completely in the now”.
Interviews with his sister and nephew demonstrate that the former dancer and interior designer can relate meaningfully with those from his pre-injury past. His sister observes that despite being changed in character after his last coma, the ‘damaged’ Drak is more likeable, if still as irresponsible and hedonistic in spirit as ever.
As interesting as The Man Whose Mind Exploded makes as a case study, the film goes further by revealing the relationship between the two men, which tests each other’s tolerance. The ever stubborn subject faces down further do-gooder interference, the observer struggles with how far to intervene whilst faced with sheer bloody mindedness. This demonstration of exasperated but respectful caring for an individual’s autonomy and well-being is an unexpected outcome and it’s likely that no one would have been more surprised than this lifelong pleasure seeker.
However, with regards to whether either party is being exploited, the honours are often hilariously shared. “Do you think its fair for me to film stuff” asks Amies “when I know you’ve got brain damage?” “Yes” Drak replies instantly while plucking at his own nipples pleasurably, “because I enjoy being used!”
On the nearby pebbled, naturist beach, their mutual trust is most movingly displayed when filmmaker leaves his camera to appear cheekily in frame and assist his elder, disrobed friend with rising to his feet.
The Man Whose Mind Exploded is being screened at the British Film Institute, London as part of BFI Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival. Tickets are now on sale. Mar 26 6:20 PM, Mar 29 6:40 PM, Mar 30 8:40 PM
Filed under: Radio
‘Secure’ by Audrey Gillan
Radio 4 – Afternoon Drama
Lightning fast dialogue and inspired by recent events, this Radio 4 drama delivers an imaginative and believable back story that engages right up to its gut wrenching end.
Unmistakably set in playwright Audrey Gillan’s native Glasgow, the troubles of two teenage girls in care maybe at the extreme end of experience, yet their concerns are common to many coming of age within a climate of individualism and instant interaction. What could be a voyeuristic re-enactment has universal themes, where those who are vulnerable and disenfranchised carry unquenchable feelings of hopelessness and loss.
“I want you to lock me up! I need to be safe!” shouts the middle class and bullied Siobhain though an intercom as she seeks entry from ‘the Open’ side of the care home into ‘Secure’; a place where “you’re locked up, but you feel protected”. All too quickly, her continual longing leads her and troubled roommate, Kerry, on a fateful journey to view the city lights.
Filed under: Uncategorized
By Nicole Leistikow
Discussion of Rachel Cooper’s Psychiatry and Philosophy of Science made for a cozy chat on a wintry December 5th evening, accompanied by pasta and pinot noir. Cooper’s straightforward prose and promptly terminated sentences came as a relief after the group had grappled with Thomas Szasz a few months before. It didn’t hurt that she takes on Szasz with refreshing clarity: “Szasz claims that mental illness is a myth, but he is wrong about this.” She goes on to explain that when the best explanation for a behavior is “sub-personal,” meaning biological and physiological in origin, then that behavior can be thought of as a symptom of a mental illness rather than a purposeful action. She was rather preaching to the choir in this setting, as all around the table, from attending to intern, had spent recent time on the inpatient wards and had difficulty viewing acute exacerbations of psychosis as anything intentional.
On the topic of psychosis, the discussion leader tried to interest the group in the question of whether psychiatrists should take LSD to better understand this phenomenon from the inside, an actual 1956 experiment that Cooper describes, but the chocolate truffles must have been too satisfying, because no one would make the argument that further chemical stimulation was needed. This did spur conversation on the role of empathy in treatment, and whether doctors who are simple prescribers need any warmth at all to do their job. The point was made that whether writing scripts for anti-psychotics or anti-hypertensives, physician’s acting with empathy can impact patient buy-in and adherence.
From there, the question turned to dualism and reductionism, and whether practitioners of the latter are less empathic, as people. Cooper seems to be trying to make peace between the various factions, concluding that “dualism is compatible with all neuroscientific findings” and that most reductionists can still agree that mental states are something more than brain states. The Churchlands’ views on eliminative materialism were discussed and a 2007 New Yorker was produced along with a delightful imagined conversation of Paul and Patricia Churchland after a long day of work attributing their mental states purely to neurotransmitter flux. The evening ended early with the call of toddlers for some and “tea” for others, as the group sallied forth into the snowy chill to take up their various domestic and social responsibilities, encouraged by the conclusion that if psychiatry is not purely a science, it is a practical discipline with enough rigor to be analyzed and made clearer by the likes of Rachel Cooper.