Archive for the 'Get off your ass' 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

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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.

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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…

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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 (http://www.london.gov.uk/storyoflondon/) 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.

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:

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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!

Best,

A & C

Go go go: Little Venice festival

Tomorrow is the last day of the Canalway Cavalcade at the best part of Regent’s Canal – in North London in the section of it known as Little Venice because, you guessed it, it’s an adorable canal area with picturesque bridges, colorful canal boats, and grand flats lining the canal. Take the tube to Warwick Avenue and follow the signs – this festival is a yearly gathering of a large number of the host of eccentric canal boats (and canal boat owners…) that roam London’s waterways year round. Come see them decorated in their finery and enjoy this little-known yet tightly-knit subculture.

We went last year and it was amazing, a real treat: canal1

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Even if you can’t make it tomorrow, Little Venice is always recommended as a place to visit – it’s one of those wonderful parts of London that feels like a magical other place entirely, when you emerge from the tube and have been transported to an entire other place than from whence you came. If it’s a sunny day and you’re looking to get outside of central London, have a stroll, and maybe a nice cup of tea overlooking some water, Little Venice is the place for you.

Days Out Guide 2-for-1 Offers: Fancy a Friend?

If you haven’t heard the economy is pretty much dragging everyone down, but if you’re in or around London (and have a friend) you’re in luck!  Days Out Guide promotes hundreds of 2-for-1 offers on many London attractions.  I’ve used it for Kew Gardens and should have used it for Hampton Court Palace.  All what you need to do is travel by train.  Go to their website www.daysoutguide.co.uk and find which attractions you’re looking for and sign up to get the 2-for-1 voucher for the attraction you’re interested in and then bring the voucher with proof of your train ticket and voila:  bring a friend for free or split the cost 1/2 price.  The only trick is if you live in central london like we do some of the attractions listed might be hard to get the 2-for-1 since you can’t really travel by train.  However, places like Kew Gardens are accessible either by train or tube so the vouchers work!  Go see those sights!!!


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