Art of Psychiatry Society

New exhibition – Art in the Asylum: creativity and the evolution of psychiatry
July 4, 2013, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Art, Exhibitions


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Art in the Asylum: creativity and the evolution of psychiatry is an upcoming exhibition at the Djanogly Art Gallery Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.  It runs Saturday 7 September – Sunday 3 November.  Also running alongside is the video installation MARAT SADE BOHNICE: Althea Thauberger.

From the exhibition’s organisers:

Art in the Asylum presents the first examination of the evolution of artistic activity in British psychiatric institutions from the early 1800s to the 1970s. With over 100 loans from national and international archives, the exhibition traces the historical shift from invasive treatments of mental disorders to a more humane regime in which creativity played a significant role.

Highlighting key institutions and influential figures in the history of British mental healthcare, the exhibition includes the earliest use of creativity in the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries under the direction of Dr. W. A. F. Browne; the pioneering work of Edward Adamson at the Netherne Hospital in Surrey; and the free expression of residents at Kingsley Hall in London, a therapeutic community run by Dr. R. D. Laing. Works by Richard Dadd and Louis Wain represent some of the most well-known patient art associated with the Bethlem Royal Hospital, or ‘Bedlam’.

The exhibition also acknowledges the strong influence of continental psychiatry on British practice with the inclusion of artworks by patients under the care of notable psychiatrists such as Walter Morgenthaler, Hans Prinzhorn and Leo Navratil; they include Adolf Wölfli, Johann Hauser and August Walla represented in the exhibition by important loans from the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne established by Jean Dubuffet.

Uncovering fascinating stories, this historical overview provides insight to 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 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 filmed performance of Peter Weiss’ 1963 play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital, Prague, in 2012.

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 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 institutionalization, power and self-determination.


Accompany the exhibition and are free!

Friday 6 September 6.30-7.30pm

Dr. Esra Plumer and Dr. Victoria Tischler on the historic use of art in mental health institutions and the interplay between creativity and madness, introducing some of the spaces, places and key figures in the fascinating history of crossover between visual art and mental health care.

Saturday 7 September

Creativity and the evolution of psychiatry

Wednesday 11 September 6-8pm

Edward Adamson’s life and work: creativity and the evolution of art as therapy
Dr. Susan Hogan (University of Derby, author of Healing Arts: The History of Art Therapy 2001) with contributions from John Timlin (Adamson Collection) and Dr. David O’Flynn  (Consultant Psychiatrist & Chair of the Adamson Collection). The groundbreaking work of the ‘grandfather of art therapy’ Edward Adamson is considered alongside associations between therapy and Surrealism.

Wednesday 18 September 6.30-7.30pm

A hidden gem: Dr. W. A. F. Browne’s collection of patient art at Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries
Dr. Maureen Park (University of Glasgow, author of Art in Madness 2011) discusses the pioneering work of Dr. Browne and his collection of patient art, the oldest surviving collection of asylum art in the world.

Wednesday 2 October 6-8pm

Ancient and modern mental healthcare
Jules Evans (author of the bestselling Philosophy for Life: and other Dangerous Situations 2012) with Dr. Ben Di Mambro (Consultant Psychiatrist) and Dr. Arun Chopra (Consultant Psychiatrist) From ancient philosophy to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), recent controversies in psychiatric diagnostics and the launch of the DSM-V, the speakers discuss how old and new approaches might interact in the provision of mental health care today.

Wednesday 16 October 6.30-8.30pm

Looking into art from the asylum: Prof. Roger Cardinal (author of the seminal text Outsider Art 1972); and Richard Dadd and Asylum Art of the 19th century: Dr. Nick Tromans, Curator, Watts Gallery, Surrey.

Artists whose approaches diverge radically from average expectation and from officially sanctioned approaches and styles are discussed alongside Richard Dadd, one of the best- known British asylum artists

Wednesday 30 October 6.30pm-7.30pm

Marat/Sade and the ‘theatre of cruelty’
Dr. Gordon Ramsay and Dr. James Moran (English Dept. University of Nottingham) consider Peter Brook’s 1964 production of Peter Weiss’s play Marat/Sade in the context of Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty’

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