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18-08-2010 Barmy Park, Exploring Art and Madness, Bethnal Green Library, London
Barmy Park

Barmy Park

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14 days of art, performance, poetry, music and madness…?

The question is whether artists, like the insane, are blessed/cursed with heightened sensitivity and extraordinary perception enabling them to break out of conventional frameworks? The exhibition and events, on the first floor of Bethnal Green library, explore the links between madness and creativity with the aim of de-stigmatising the subject (one in four of us will experience mental health problems at some point in our lives).  Barmy Park questions the stereotype of the mad artist and asks whether we don't all need a little madness to be free or a little freedom to be mad?

The exhibition / events take their title from the name locals use to describe The Green in front of Bethnal Green Library, harking back to the site’s history as ‘Bethnal House’ or ‘The Blind Beggar’s House’, a notorious ‘private madhouse’ between 1727 and 1922. The old asylum had some distinguished inmates including Alexander Cruden, author of the best-selling Concordance to the Bible (who escaped after being incarcerated by his greedy business partner). Cruden later wrote about his vicious treatment at the hands of the sadistic keeper who was later employed to ‘cure’ the madness of King George III.

Bethanl Green Library (hidden away at the back of The Green – near to Bethnal Green tube station) was constructed in 1896 as part of the asylum and makes an excellent venue for this slightly unorthodox show.  There is certainly a good mix of sculpture, installation, video, 2D and performance art, all of which have the potential to liberate from the mundane in every day life.  The line up of artists looks good too..

Alex Ingram, Bobby Baker, Brendan Quick & Geraldine Swayne, Catherine Halpin, Dermot O’Brien, Elizabeth Manchester, Emma‐Louise Boulding, Ian Bruce, Imogen O’Rorke, Jon Purnell, Kim Noble, Lee Holden, Martin Sexton, Nicole Wassall, Olivia Reynolds, Paul Sakoilsky, Russell Higgs, Sophie Aston, Tony Lee, Valentin Hertweck.


The show starts on 11th September and runs to 25th, at Bethnal Green Library, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 0HL.


Nearest Tube Bethnal Green (Central Line), Cambridge Heath Rd (overland rail) and bus route 8, D6, 106, 254
Image from the Barmy Park series by Nicole Wassall and Imogen O'Rorke.

Words by Nicole Wassall - London

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