States of Mind: tracing the edges of consciousness

This February entering to Wellcome Collection exhibition ‘States of Mind: tracing the edges of consciousness’ invites us to stop and take a moment to think about our life, our reality and our consciousness. Featuring work by artists Carla MacKinnon, Louise K Wilson and Mary Kelly, the exhibition discuses the subject from different perspectives from scientific and spiritual side through functional and physical side to the aspect of selfhood.

Consciousness, being an inseparable part of every human life, has been a subject of countless debates throughout centuries. The first part of the exhibition entitled ‘Science and Soul’ explores the difference between the physical and mental worlds, which has once been seen as a separate realms following the philosophy of dualism defined by French philosopher, mathematician and physician Rene Descartes. Descartes theory assumed that these realms are connected in human brain.


The advancement of modern medicine helped established that human brain is indeed the initiator of consciousness but Descartes’ theory of dualism has been abandoned.

Next part of the exhibition explores the phenomenon of sleep during which our brain remains active but our consciousness becomes altered. Describing the experience of sleepwalking and sleep paralysis. We find here newspaper stories and installation, which shows these unique experiences.


Besides the question of how do we function ‘States of Mind’ explores a different yet equally important question of what makes us us. Our selfhood is defined by language and memory, which made these two factors the focus points of this part. Here we can see studies trying to answer the question what happens when one of these key factors is damaged. We see here how French psychoanalyst Fernand Deligny studied the consciousness of non-verbal children, work by artist Shona Illingworth about amnesia and A. R. Hopwood ‘False Memory Archive’.

Last part of the exhibition entitled ‘Being & Not Being’ explores the aspects of potential unconsciousness. The debate about the ethical aspect of coma care has been rising and fading but has not yet been over. Our inability to assess the experience of a person in coma caused many lawsuits and court cases. As in every debate there are couple sides. Aya Ben Ron’ film tells the story of coma from three different perspectives.


‘States of Mind’ is an extraordinary well-curated exhibition that gathers various disciplines to discus the consciousness. Each part is well thought through displaying the work in a clear, interesting and visually appealing way. Although the exhibition subject itself is more then interesting it fails to shirk to the small venue it has been put into. Each part of the exhibition seems to crave for their own venue. Because of the space limitation each aspect is shown on one to two examples of work, which only reveals the corner of it. Doing so each part of the exhibition seems more like an introduction to a section than a completed one.



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