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A drop in the ocean: Jonny Benjamin

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum.

This post is from Jonny Benjamin, a mental health campaigner and vlogger attempting to break the stigma of mental health.

I find it difficult to look into someone’s eyes and talk. As soon as I do, a hundred thoughts start flooding through my mind: what do they think of me? Am I blinking too much? Why did I just say that?!

The biggest consequence of my self-doubt was hiding my struggle with mental illness throughout my teenage years, until I eventually had a breakdown and became psychotic at the age of 20. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and admitted into a psychiatric unit. Continue reading

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A drop in the ocean: Internal reality

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum.

The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous, but was involved in producing work alongside the Our Voices, an audio co-production project.

I got the idea for this piece from my own experience of psychosis, which was terrifying, but also strangely intriguing. I wanted to make something that would give listeners greater understanding of what happened to me, which I still can’t explain in words; they’re not enough and I can’t find the right ones anyway. Listen to Internal Reality below. Continue reading

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A drop in the ocean: Beth Hopkins

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum. 

This post comes from Beth Hopkins, an artist showing work in Bethlem Gallery’s ‘Reclaiming Asylum’ exhibition.

I was honoured to be asked to create a piece for ‘Reclaiming Asylum‘. It’s been quite a journey to arrive at my piece, an embroidered pillow case from Bethlem Hospital.

The brief was to create a piece exploring the notion of asylum: what might constitute refuge, sanctuary and protection today? Before my piece grew into what it is now, I had several other ideas; all of them intensely personal. For some time I considered revisiting the room I was sectioned in on the intensive care ward. I had very clear, strange memories of how ill I was there. Continue reading

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Hamlet, the melancholic Prince of Denmark

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. We previously celebrated this anniversary by exploring the four bodily humours and their effect on some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Nelly Ekström now discusses Hamlet, arguably the most famous literary melancholic. 

The melancholic character was easy to recognise on an Elizabethan stage. Lean and pale; moving slowly; sad and brooding; perhaps suspiciously looking around for enemies. Black bile, the humour that dominated this temperament, was connected to the cold and dry element earth; to old age and all things dying and rotting. Having too much of this dark and dull substance in your body would make you as dark and dull in body and mind as the humour itself.

In Shakespeare’s comedies, like The Tempest and As You Like It, there is often a melancholic figure that acts as foil to the more optimistic leading characters. But in the tragedies they are more often the leading characters, generally elderly men. Ageing was in itself seen as a process of gradual drying of the flesh and cooling of bodily humours. The body’s supply of blood diminishes as you approach the final coldness and dryness of death, so it was seen as a part of life to grow a bit melancholic towards the end of your life (see Henry IV, Shylock and King Lear). Continue reading

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Oops!…I wrote a Britney blog post

How does a record breaking pop icon relate to a medical, art and science museum like Wellcome Collection? The link may (quite rightly) be tenuous, but as the singer’s ninth album is released today, our Web Editor Russell Dornan has trawled the collections in celebration, looking for any connections he could find (no matter how questionable!).

Ever since Britney Spears erupted on the pop scene in the late ’90s, she smashed records and captured the public’s imagination. I still remember her first appearance on TOTP when I was 15 and how my mind was blown. Crowned the Princess of Pop, her debut single “…Baby One More Time” reached number 1 in every country it charted and is still one of the best selling singles of all time. Continue reading

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The art of medicine

Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future as a way to understand what it means to be human. In this post, Muriel Bailly explores the connections between medicine and art, discussing how their relationship can lead to a richer understanding of both. 

“Wherever the art of Medicine is loved,
there is also a love of Humanity.”
– Hippocrates

All too often, we hear that medicine is the stuff of science while art belongs to the humanities; that the two are different, if not opposite. Only a few months ago, the then-Secretary of Education Nicky Morgan encouraged young students to focus on science, as art subjects lead to unemployment. But would scientists and artists themselves agree with this common distinction between their disciplines? Continue reading

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The multiple lives of States of Mind

On until 16 October, ‘States of Mind‘ explores our understanding of the conscious experience from different perspectives. The book supporting the exhibition is a collection of literature, science and art delving into the mysteries of human consciousness. The book’s editor Anna Faherty reflects on the brief and varied lives one’s creations may lead upon being released it to the world. 

Museums and galleries are curious places to work, for many reasons. One is that they provide an opportunity to observe how the target audience for something you helped create behave and what they say in the exhibition space. Surreptitious spying, or eavesdropping, on museum visitors has practical value in terms of gathering information and insight that may help improve future exhibitions, but it can also be a deeply personal experience.

It’s hard not to be emotionally affected when you observe strangers interacting with, enjoying, being confused or affronted by something you developed. Seeing that thing take on a new life, often in unexpected ways, as the experiences of visitors shape their own interaction with the exhibition, and the interactions of others, can be even more affecting. Continue reading