In 1965 radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing co-founded an experimental therapeutic community at Kingsley Hall in Bow, East London. Presenting herself on the brink of a serious mental breakdown, Mary Barnes (1923-2001) was Kingsley Hall’s first resident. Under the guidance of Laing and his colleague Joseph Berke, Barnes underwent a near total behavioral regression. Refusing to eat, dress or wash, she was in her own words “going down.”
Around this time she produced her first artwork – a pair of black breasts painted on the wall of her room in her own shit.
Focusing principally on her time at Kingsley Hall (1965-70), Mary Barnes presents painting, drawing, sculpture and writing produced by Barnes alongside an extensive archive of documents, films, audio recordings and photographs relating to her work and the legacy of R.D. Laing’s thought.
Accompanying the main exhibition will be a cycle of films. These include Abraham Segal’s Coleurs Folie (1986) and Asylum (1972) Produced and Directed by Peter Robinson. (Asylum by permission of Surveillance Films).
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MARY BARNES is kindly supported by The Elephant Trust and The Mercers Foundation.