Conceptual artists provide their take on the word Bedlam, which is, of course, derived from Bethlem Hospital, a mental asylum founded in 1247. Its notoriety for cruelty and inhumane treatment paired with the public viewing of patients as “freaks” during the 18th century, should surely induce some unhinged art.
The Old Vic Tunnels comprise a series of dark passageways and alcoves that will lend themselves perfectly to such an exhibition. Headphones with an audiobook are provided for a fully immersive experience, and onsite catering is provided by members-only hub Apartment 58.
In the words of Lazarides: “Bedlam over the years has become synonymous with madness, chaos and pandemonium, it seemed like the perfect theme for a world gone mad. Be afraid”.
The concept strikes another chord, as many former inmates themselves created art. Some can be viewed in The Bethlem Royal Hospital Museum along with other poignant artifacts, the eerie fractures of history that inspire this exhibition. Famous patients include Moll Cutpurse who chose to wear men's attire (then considered a sign of sexual promiscuity) and Edward Oxford, tried for high treason for the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria. Colourful characters such as these are surely a gift for artistic creativity.
The exhibition coincides with Frieze Art Fair, and the long list of contributors can be found on the Old Vic Tunnels website.
Bedlam runs 9-21 October in The Old Vic Tunnels. Tickets are released on Friday 5 October, and you can get an alert by signing up to the mailing list.
By Ezelle Alblas