Reassembling the Self

Hatton Gallery and Vane
20 September – 24 November 2012

Reassembling the Self is an exhibition across both Hatton Gallery and Vane, curated by artist Susan Aldworth. Centred in a study of the condition of schizophrenia, it weaves together art, science, psychiatry and individual histories in an explanation of self, perception and the fragility of human identity.

Aldworth’s work in a variety of media including, print, film and installations has long focussed on the relationship between the physical brain and the conscious mind. As artist in residence from 2010 to 2012 at the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, she took schizophrenia as her theme, building on collaborations with neuroscientists, psychiatrists and patients to produce a series of lithographs that challenge the sense of identity through their radically dislocated imagery, emotionally charged colour and mysteriously ephemeral marks. These are works in which science, philosophy, physiology and imagination locate an essential human experience in schizophrenia. They immerse us in the fundamental human activity of reassembling our fragmented selves.

Together with her film Memoirs, based on a seminal text about schizophrenia, Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, Aldworth’s work also stands in a suggestive dialogue with other works she commissioned for the exhibition. There are paintings and drawings by Camille Ormston and Kevin Mitchinson, two skilled artists with a schizophrenia diagnosis. Artists and scientists have collaborated with Aldworth to create a giant dosage meter (The Compliance Appliance) which will deliver 192,000 pills – a lifetime’s supply of anti-psychotic medication – over the course of the exhibition. Alessandro Altavilla produced a real time sound commission broadcast from a small red radio. Sarah Blood has produced a 12 foot neon angel based on a drawing by Camille Ormston: “I see light energy – I can see guardian angels” write Camille. “Everybody has a guardian angel and sometimes I can see them. I believe it is a gift.”

Making work about schizophrenia was really difficult. I wanted the Reassembling the Self lithographs to question the relationship between the body and the mind. I decided to reconstruct or reassemble the human body to suggest through this strange dislocated imagery the impact of schizophrenia on the one’s sense of self.