Archive for the 'Culture Vulture' Category

Last few weeks: Wellcome Collection’s Art and Mental Illness

Guest post from our resident art expert, M! Enjoy:

The Wellcome Collection exhibition – art and mental illness


Nothing helps put your neurosis in perspective quite as successfully as considering those of others.  The Wellcome Collection currently offers two exhibitions to this end – Madness and Modernity, which explores the development of artistic and medical interest in psychoanalysis at the turn of the 19th Century, and Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings, a series of notebook sketches tracing the artist’s slow recovery from an almost complete mental breakdown.  These shows juxtapose the treatment of nervous disorders in terms of both time-period and perspective.  The former demonstrates the 19th century’s growing interest in introspection and the attraction of turning to sanatoria to cure nervous disorders brought on by the stresses of modern life, whilst the latter offers a most personal account of a patient being turfed between doctors and day centres in the hope of regaining her sanity.

Neither show is extensive, so a visit will not be a whole afternoon event.  In its limited space, however, Madness and Modernity manages to explore both the medical world’s almost cataloguing approach to mental illness, in which they saw afflictions of the body as indicative of the physiological condition, and the ways in which artists interpreted this new awareness of the psyche.  This is best demonstrated here by a focus on portraiture, a genre which previously relied on the artist’s adherence to aesthetic precision and the demonstration of wealth, fame or position.  Now, in this “nervous age”, artists such as Egon Schiele and Max Oppenheim were turning recognisable sitters into monstrous personifications of inner turmoil with twisted hands and staring, vacant eyes.  The only shame here is that none of the Schiele self portraits are originals, as this slightly diminishes the impact of the works.  Nonetheless, they still convey the unique contradiction of Schiele’s art; the low internal worth needed to convey the self as emaciated and contorted, and the incredible narcissism that led the artist to show the public over and over again just how low he was.

In contrast, Bobby Baker is open and articulate about the ways in which her illness manifested itself.  She has divided the exhibition into stages, so helping the viewer to understand how different treatments and events led to her recovery.  The majority of the sketches are self-portraits in different scenarios, but there is none of Schiele’s self-importance here.  Nor is there a sense of performance from this usually performance-based artist, save for a short video clip at the show’s entrance in which Baker welcomes her visitors.  This is mirrored just a short distance away in Madness and Modernity by a video of someone pacing the corridors of Vienna’s Purkersdorf Sanatorium, passing cabinets of human and animal skeletons that were as much a curiosity as the living patients behind the closed doors.  Whereas this highlights the claustrophobic nature and aesthetic control imposed upon these complexes, Bobby Baker’s welcome adds to the sense of the viewer being invited and encouraged to explore the very corners of an unhinged mind.  At times both moving and shocking, Baker provides a view into a world few of us will enter, and in doing so campaigns for a better understanding and acceptance of mental illness in public life.

For anyone with an interest in the age of Freud and in the changing nature of the medical and public view of the human condition, and especially for anyone who has ever contemplated their own sanity, these exhibitions will both eliminate the sense of being alone in neurosis and raise any number of questions.  Leave your preconceptions at the door, for some of this madness is in all of us.

Madness and Modernity runs until June 28, and Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings is on until August 2nd. It’s FREE. The Wellcome Collection can be found just across the street from Euston station off Euston Road.


Open Garden Squares Weekend

Don’t miss open garden squares weekend – it’s on now! A ticket is 8pounds but that gets you entry to all of the gardens Saturday and Sunday. Most of the gardens open are ‘private’ gardens not normally open to the public, which of course makes them well worth checking out! With over 190 gardens open, this one takes some planning, but the best strategy is probably to pick an area or two and just garden hop for a few hours. I think my strategy will be to go out to Kensington and Notting Hill tomorrow, where there are a slew of private gardens open for display (and of course they are all quite nice, given that area!). On the website, click on ‘the gardens’ to peruse by area what’s open, with each area having a helpful little map. See the map for Kensington and the map for Notting Hill area. Be sure to start your journey at a garden with a pound sign – that means you can buy your tickets there. Most gardens appear to be places you can do this.

And the garden I’m definitely going to? Lloyd Square, (click on list of gardens – islington – lloyd square WC1) a private key entry only garden for residents around the square that I walk by every single morning on my way to work and wish I had access to every single morning. And though I the residents take great care of it to be honest I never or hardly ever see anyone in there enjoying themselves. Unlike me, who would be in there reading a paper or some such every morning. So there. No bitterness here, no…


Story of London

Have slacked a bit on the two week challenge as A is now on holiday and C is ill, but will post a few extra today and tomorrow to get back up to 7 posts for this week!

In case you haven’t heard of it, there is a massive month-long collection of events happening all over London in June call the Story of London. Each area is holding a slew of local events, most of them free. Check out the website ( and type in your postcode or area for a look – the problem is it’s almost overwhelming how much is happening.

For example, it’s film weekend at the moment and the amount of things to check out is rather making my head hurt. That could also be the flu I have at the moment, but you get the idea.

If you’re into costume dramas and people dressing up and re-enacting things, then don’t miss next weekend – living history weekend!

Or check out other weird and wonderful or cultural things – such as tomorrow night (June 14) the Wellcome Collection is leading a free walk around the West End called Pox and Pleasure about medicine, disease, and sex in Victorian London. Most boroughs are hosting walks around their borough that cover history and architecture – I’m thinking of attending Islington’s changing architecture walk in a few weeks, so see if your borough is doing it as well. Or snap up one of the free evening event gems, like this reading in Bethnal Green – London on London: London writers read their favourite London scenes.

Best London blog there is: Londonist

Enjoy TimeOut but get a bit bored of their endless listings? Enjoy reading London blogs but always looking for one that covers it all? The answer: Londonist

My friend and fellow London-phile, let’s call her ‘E’, recommended me to this group blog 3 years ago just after I had left London after my study abroad program. I visited it frequently, and I must say it was actually a huge factor in getting me to come back to London. is simply wonderful – a constant stream of news, lists, reviews, cheap stuff, ephemeral things to do, major festivals, minor festivals, random lunch spots – it’s all there, and it’s all delightful. It’s a blog that is alive with passion for London and the amazing variety and sheer volume of stuff this city has going on all the time.

Whenever I’m looking for something to do, whether it’s that night or over the next week, or whenever I want to ‘connect’ back to the sense that this city I live in is not just the busy road outside my flat and my commute to work but a thriving, incredible place full of wonderful, interesting things, I always find myself going to Londonist and browsing their frequent postings.

So, thank you Londonist. You make this world a better place, and I would say bookmark it, RSS it, go there frequently – it’s pretty impossible not to fall in love with London all over again after reading just a few posts.

Oh If I was a Music Photographer, I would be Lawrence Watson

This past weekend I went to a free exhibit I saw publicised in TFL’s the Loop newsletter which gives things to do in London while updating you on all the many many tube closures for the weekend.  The gallery, located in Shoreditch on 28 Redchurch Street, showcased the work of Lawrence Watson.  I say his name like everyone should know who he is but truthfully I never know the name before I stepped into the gallery space and became instantly jealous of this photographer’s career.  You have probably encountered his work since he has taken some of the most iconic photos of British rock and NY Hip-hop.  One of my favourites  is of one of the Gallagher brothers playing their guitar in the Abbey Road Studios and the shot is framed through out of focused headphones but there are portraits of Beck, David Bowie, the Jam and more.  My favourite out of the entire exhibit and which was already sold as well (not that I would have been able to afford it) was this silhouette of Paul Weller playing the guitar with a little bit of outdoor light coming through the window which was used for his Wild Wood album.  

WildWoodDeluxeHowever, my favourite part of the gallery which just happened out of pure luck and timing was that I showed up the morning after the big opening party and they were still cleaning up after the night before.  They guys there let me in anyways to wander around (never have I had the chance to be in a gallery with no one around) and even better they still had some warm beer left over.  So Cheers to that!  Definitely check this out if you’re into music or photography at all.  If only I could be Lawrence Watson…oh how I wish.

Gallery details:

The World is Yours Exhibition

30 May-7 June 2009

London NewCastle Project Space

28 Redchurch Street

London E2 7DP

Mon-Fri 12pm-8pm and Sat-Sun 12pm-4pm

Go before it closes!!!!

More from Lawrence Watson:


London iPod Playlist

So there are hundreds, thousands even, songs about London and places in London, but have you ever actually been to all or any of the spots mentioned?  Well, here is a short guide to get your groove on in those classic music references.  Lyrics that are bold are the places you should go…and extra points for visiting while listening to the songs.  I may even get fancy one day and highlight the songs just about the london underground…that could be epic.  Anyways, here you go to get you started on your musical tour:

Song:  Werewolves of London, by Warren Zevon

“I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand

Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain

He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s”

So everyone knows about Soho–go to Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square tube station and follow the crowd of people.  However, very few people know about the chinese restaurant in Chinatown mentioned in the song.  Le Ho Fook’s did exist and I still hear the rumor that there is a picture of Warren Zevon on the wall–please someone confirm this!  Lee Ho Fook’s is now called Golden Harvest and located on 15-16 Gerrard Street, Mayfair, London, W1D 6JE.

Song:  Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks

“Terry meets Julie

Waterloo Station”

Fairly obvious but Waterloo Station, Waterloo Underground and to watch the sunset go to Waterloo Bridge.  It is paradise!

Song:  London Still,  The Waifs

“I took the tube over to  Camden

Take the Northern Line to Camden Town then wander about through the markets.  Also, see our post, Camden Insider.

Song:  Cemeteries of London, Coldplay

*There is no specific place referred to in this song but London does have its fair share of really cool cemeteries.  Our picks:  Highgate Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, Postman’s Park, Hyde Park Dog’s Cemetery and Bunhill Fields Cemetery.  For more cemeteries click here or here.

Song:  Chelsea Walk, Ocean Colour Scene

“I went down to Chelsea Walk…”

The Chelsea Walk is 1.6 miles starting in the King’s Road and along the river.  For a map of the walk, go here.

Song:  For Tomorrow, Blur

“then Susan comes into the room, she’s a naughty girl with a lovely smile, says, “Let’s take a drive to Primrose Hill, it’s windy there and the view is so nice.”

Take the Norther line to Chalk Farm, walk cross the bridge and follow Regent’s Park Road to the park, then climb the hill to get those great views of central London.  On nice days like today though, it will be very crowded.  It is also a great spot to people watch and laugh at the kids rolling down the massive hill with dogs running about.  Oh and the be sure to check out the Blur video because Primrose Hill is featured about half way in and the video starts on a routemaster and Trafalgar Square.


View from Primrose HIll

View from Primrose HIll



Song:  London, The Smiths


Heave on-to Euston”

Here is another underground/train themed song:  Euston Station is on the Northern, Victoria and Overground lines. Euston Square Station is on the Hammersmith and City, Circle and Metropolitan line.  I would highly discourage any of the later routes because they never seem to be working when you want them to be.

Song:  London Bridge, Fergie

“How come everything you come around

My london bridge wanna go down”

Yeah so not so much about London or the bridges but anyways I just had to point out the obvious when Fergie dances by Tower Bridge but sings about London Bridge.  See differences below:


Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge


London Bridge

London Bridge

Song:  London School of Economics, Acid House Kings

“Don’t forget that summer dress

You know, the one you work

When you returned from 

London School of Economics

Yep, this is just a pure shout out to C and I’s post grad uni in Holborn.  You can find the campus enclosed from Lincoln Inn Fields to the north, the Kingsway to the West, Fleet street to the  South and the Royal Courts of Justice to the East.  






Song:  Mayfair, Nick Drake

Mayfair strange in the morning light

Mayfair strange in the summer night

Mayfair strangest in the afternoon

Mayfair stretching far above

full of fame but lacking love

Could it be we see the Mayfair moon?”

Mayfair is the very posh and privileged bit of London enclosed by Hyde Park to the West, Piccadilly to the South, Oxford Street to the North and Soho to the East.  Wander through it sometime and you’ll find amazing flats, tucked away cafes, boutique hotels and shops and even a bentley car dealership.  Also, it is the most expensive property on the British Monopoly board.

Song:  Portobello Road

“Portobello Road, Portobello Road

Street where the riches of ages are stowed”

Everyone remembers this classic disney song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks with David Tomlinson as the ever magical and musical Professor Emelius Browne.  Classic market road in Notting Hill with the iconic colorful townhouses and find anything antiques.  Be sure to check out Hummingbird cupcakes and find the blue (now black ) door to Hugh Grant’s flat from the movie Notting Hill.

portobello road

Portobello Road Houses


Song:  Warwick Avenue, Duffy

“When I get to Warwick Avenue

Meet me by the entrance of the tube”

Warwick Avenue is in Maida Vale by Little Venice and the canals on the Bakerloo Line.  Great for a Sunday stroll.  For our post about Little Venice, read here.


Well, that’s a good start to your first installment of the London Ipod Playlist.  For the next round, I might add in iconic music locations and maybe a few more about the London underground.  

Even though this is just a taste of the many songs about London, did I miss any of your favourites that I should include next time?  Let me know.

A Challenge to Ourselves

Following our last post about how much we’ve been slacking in the blog department, I pose a challenge to C and myself.  We will post one blog entry a day for the next two weeks–that’s right 14 new posts starting from tomorrow 31 May to 13 June.  In an ideal world/my fantasy world of having abundant amount of time I would like to post everyday, let’s be realistic shall we, that isn’t going to happen and I know I will be on holiday starting 10 June for 2 and 1/2 weeks so I doubt I will update much during that time too.  But Challenge On!  Hopefully this will make up for the lack of posts in May (I know the last actually one was on 3 May).  Bad sunshine…bad.  Post 1 of Challenge–see you tomorrow!


A & C

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