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Bedlam: there's an exhibition about London's most infamous mental asylum

Isabelle Aron

Not many London institutions have inspired a completely new word, but the capital’s most notorious asylum, the Bethlem Royal Hospital, gave us ‘bedlam’: madness or chaos. In the eighteenth century it was a real-life London Dungeon where the so-called sane could visit and ogle the ‘lunatics’. Now that such places are thankfully a thing of the past in the UK, the Wellcome Collection is taking a look back at the history of asylums and how experiences of mental illness have changed over the years. Its latest exhibition, ‘Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond’, opens today and spans the centuries from the founding of Bethlem in the thirteenth century to how we approach mental illness today.

The show features over 150 objects including photos, film, illustrations and art: Shana Moulton’s film installation ‘Restless Leg Saga’, pictured, shows her alter-ego flicking through self-help magazines to alleviate her condition. Mental illness is still a huge problem in London, but this should be a reminder that things could be a whole lot worse.

Find out more about Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond

Or check out these ace art exhibitions coming to London this autumn

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