Upcoming events

Hold Me in a Circle of Tender Listening


4 April 2020 14:00 - 15:00


Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Bethlem Royal Hospital
Monks Orchard Road
Kent BR3 3BX

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Artist Amanda McDowell presents her sound installation based on five women’s voices from the British Library’s Testimony archive (an archive of interviews recording the history of mental health care in the old asylums, from the point of view of those who were there) in the museum’s historic Boardroom. Launched at Bethlem Museum of the Mind in celebration of International Women’s Day in March, Amanda will discuss the process of making the sound installation in this afternoon talk.

Describing the installation, Amanda McDowell has written:

The work uses only the sound from these oral history interviews and brings women’s voices together, away from the isolation and gaze of the psychiatric institution and archive, into a circle of communal listening. The artist is driven by an ethics of entanglement – as someone with her own psychiatric experience and the daughter of a woman who has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for over forty years. This entanglement is a strategy, a way of working that blurs boundaries between the self and other; the material and immaterial; the past and present. The work is also a response to the terrible failure of psychiatry to listen, which has been repeated again and again over decades and decades. Through an extended process of listening to and reassembling women’s voices, the artist asks how historic and current silences within psychiatry and the institutions of ‘mental health’ might be opened up to create empathic encounters where trauma is allowed to speak.

Trigger warnings: This sound installation contains the oral testimonies of five women from the British Library’s ‘Mental Health Testimony Project’ archive. The women speak about very distressing experiences including suicide attempts; violence in psychiatric hospitals; Electro- Convulsive Therapy (ECT); use of modified insulin therapy; forced medication; adoption and child bereavement, and child sexual abuse.

Photo credit: Amanda McDowell

This event is a repeat of the one at 12.00 noon. To book tickets for the 12 noon event, please click here.