States of Mind: Tracing the Edges of Consciousness

Wellcome Collection and Library

4 February – 16 October 2016

An investigation into conscious experience, bringing together material from psychiatric studies and scans of traumatised brains with related paintings and installations.

Consciousness is a universal part of everyday life, yet it remains difficult to define exactly what it encompasses. This exhibition draws on the work of artists, psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists in order to explore the full spectrum of conscious experiences, looking particularly the areas where uncertainty exists – from anaesthesia to synaesthesia, sleepwalking to memory loss.

Thematic displays explore interesting juxtapositions; science vs the soul, sleep vs awake, being vs not being. Bringing these ideas to light are neuron drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the man credited as the founder of neuroscience; Vladimir Nabokov’s Alphabet in Color, which illustrates his synaesthetic perceptions; and archive material from the first trial where insanity of sleep was successfully used as a defence.

Artistic material includes a preparatory sketch for Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting, The Nightmare and Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document drawings, which chart her changing relationship with her son as he begins to develop speech.

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A project space has been built into the gallery in order to host a series of changing installations. The first comes from artist Imogen Stidworthy whose work contrasts the language acquisition of a young child with that of a stroke patient with aphasia.

Venue information

Opening times

Open by appointment, Mon – Fri, 9.30am – 5.30pm

For details of Bank Holiday closures, please visit Wellcome Library website

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)