Seeing Things

An Art Exhibition inspired by the hallucinations of Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Visual Hallucinations

It was a pleasure to attend the first day of the Seeing Things interactive art exhibition, which is taking place at the lovely Forum in Norwich over the next two weeks.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome is a type of visual hallucination which people can experience after sight loss. In comparison with other types of hallucination, those who experience these know that they are just a creation of the brain as a reaction to visual loss.

 Fascinating paintings depicting some of these hallucinations. Source: Own photo

 

The Art of Charles Bonnet

This art exhibition, set up by the NNAB, features art from people who suffer from the syndrome, as well as other visual artists who have been inspired from speaking to those who experience these vivid hallucinations, which have their own unique attributes in comparison with other types of hallucinations.

To the left – a bear statue in front of some upside-down cupcakes. Strange faces can also be a feature of the condition. Source: Own photo

Experiences

Dominic Ffytche, a world expert in the condition, gave a fantastic lecture about the Syndrome, and it was indeed fascinating to listen to the experienced of sufferers from the condition. The audience comprised of people who suffered from the condition, people who had not previously heard of the syndrome and clinicians, such as myself, who are aware about the condition but want to understand more and gain perspective.

I was particularly intrigued by the number of people who experience hallucinations of old period clothing from different eras, which seems to be a consistent feature of the syndrome. Interestingly, even when the syndrome was first described 250 years ago — the literature describes sufferers talking about people wearing period dress of the time. Perhaps 18th century formal-wear has a hallucinatory quality to it?

 Dr Dominic Ffytche, an expert in the condition, shows images of certain visual hallucinations that people experience. Source: own photo

Gaps

Even though Charles Bonnet Syndrome was first described 250 years ago, by a Swiss philosopher who was writing about his grandfather’s experiences having lost his sight to cataracts, we still do not know why exactly it happens. Certainly, we suspect that the brain fills in the gaps generated from visual loss by producing new fantastic pictures or old images which it might have stored. For many people, these hallucinations are not a problem but for some they can, understandably, be distressing. Certainly, it helps to understand these hallucinations and it is useful for both sufferers, the public and clinicians (such as yours truly) to be aware and understand this fascinating condition.

 An interesting hallucination — bear and inverse cupcakes. Source: own photo

To this end, it is fantastic to have an art exhibition which both raises awareness and bewitches us, humbling us as clinicians into realising there is still so much about the eyes and the brain that we don’t yet understand. Do you have any experience of this condition? Please feel free to comment below.

Links:
Royal National Institute of Blind People
Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind
NHS Charles Bonnet Syndrome Information

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Super Mario Remix – The Video

Super Mario Remix Video from New Bevel, featuring  Björk, Frida Kahlo, Mickey Mouse, Piet Mondrian, Paul Rand, and Edward Scissorhands. Music by Tom Goss

Check out his “Many Marvellous Marios” work  here: http://doctoryak.com/ephemera/many-marvellous-marios/

His Tumblr: http://newbevel.tumblr.com/ and Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/newbevel

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Seven of the UK’s healing hospital gardens — in pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/gallery/2017/sep/12/seven-uks-healing-hospital-gardens-pictures

Article from The Guardian 12th September 2017:

Horatio’s Garden at Salisbury district hospital, Salisbury

Horatio’s Garden is a charity which creates gardens of sanctuary in centres for spinal injury. The gardens are named after Horatio Chapple who came up with the idea with his father while volunteering in Salisbury. Various events for patients with spinal injuries are held in the garden, such as painting classes with artist-in-residence Miranda Creswell.

 

The Chapel Garden, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

This chapel garden features a central wish tree and a number of water features, such as a vertical fountain and a rill, which give the impression of water moving continually throughout the garden. The calming flow of water and the illusion of space have transformed this small and previously unused area of the hospital.

 
The Morgan Stanley garden, Great Ormond Street hospital, London

This woodland-themed garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw, was transplanted from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (where it won a Gold medal) to a disused roof space, surrounded by tall hospital buildings that look onto it. The garden provides a quiet and peaceful space for children and families, the centrepiece of which is a sculpture of a child.

 
Ninewells community garden, Dundee

Patients, staff and the local community can volunteer at this garden. The vegetable and sensory gardens, orchard, wildlife habitat and play areas offer multiple options for people to de-stress, recuperate and exercise

 
Horatio’s Garden, Queen Elizabeth national spinal injuries unit, Glasgow

The second Horatio’s Garden on this list has six distinct spaces, all of which serve to stimulate different senses. There is also a greenhouse which is surrounded by areas used for horticultural therapy activities.

 
Chase Farm hospital rehabilitation gardens, London

Chase Farm hospital has renovated two areas into specialist therapeutic gardens for patients. One of the gardens supports dementia patients, while the other supports stroke and rehabilitation patients. Based on a Japanese design, the gardens are compact but tranquil sanctuary within the hospital, and are also open to staff and visitors

 
Bournemouth hospital garden, Bournemouth

A desolate tarmac courtyard in the hospital was revamped and made into a three-part garden. There is a therapeutic garden outside the chemotherapy suite, a sensory garden linking the courtyard to a lakeside garden, and a large area to walk around and exercise in.

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