Thoughts and Updates

States of Mind at the Wellcome Collection

I recently visited a fascinating exhibition ‘States of Mind – Tracing the Edges of Consciousness‘.  It is free of charge and is situated at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road, London. It’s a fairly short collection, I think you would probably need one hour maximum to see and read everything on display. The presentation on consciousness is well worth a visit before it ends on 16th October 2016.

States of Mind bookletThe first section ‘Science & Soul’ looks at the nature of consciousness. The age old debate of the mind-body problem and the differences between the physical and mental worlds are apparent. This dualism has been embraced by most religions around the world. Rene Descartes outlined the philosophical theory of dualism in the 17th century, he believed the physical and mental worlds were made of different substances and connected by the pineal gland in the brain. Advances in neuroscience have established the brain as our source of consciousness. The early 20th century saw the Spanish scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal identified the significance of neurons in the nervous system. The exhibition displays some of the original ink drawings by Ramón y Cajal.

‘Sleep & Awake’ is the second part and explores the different states of our altered consciousness through the examination of sleep disorders; these include sleepwalkers and sleep paralysis. There is a great piece of art named ‘Somnambulist’ by Goshka Macula (2006) along with prints and film and media.

The third section is about ‘Language and Memory’. The use of both facilitate our relationship between our inner and outer worlds. Language allows us to share our subjective experiences, while memory allows us to relive past experiences and anticipate our future. This part of the exhibition uses examples by the artist Shona Illingworth to explore the realities of living with amnesia. AR Hopwood archive of images explores false memories and how our minds fill in the gaps of remembered experience of the world.

Somnambulist by Goshka Macuga, 2006

Finally, the last part is ‘Being & Not Being’, here the exhibition looks at brain injury either from disease or injury which can result in severely altered or in some cases completely destroying ‘normal’ consciousness. Examples include locked down syndrome, where consciousness is intact but the ability to communicate or move is limited to eye movements. While being in a coma, is a state which lacks both consciousness and wakefulness. Aya Ben Ron documents the lives of clinically unaware patients, their families and carers. The collection explores studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and the use of general anaesthesia.

I really liked the way the exhibition brings together science, art and mixed media to explore consciousness. The Wellcome Collection also holds various regular events and talks through out the year, there is also a cafe, restaurant and a great book shop. On the second floor is the reading room which is a fantastic space to find some peace and quiet.




Comments disabled.