Exhibition: Wunderblock

Wunderblock – a new exhibition and symposium on the history of the child’s mind at the Freud Museum
6th March – 26th May 2019

As part of this exhibition there is also a Hidden persuaders symposium organised on the 6th of April, 9am-12.30pm You need to register online. For enquiries about the symposium contact Sarah Marks: s.marks@bbk.ac.uk
Drawing on historical research by the Hidden Persuaders project at Birkbeck, University of London, artist Emma Smith explores how child psychoanalysis and psychiatry sought to influence, understand, and encourage children’s healthy development after World War II. Smith’s artworks and interventions interrogate some of this complex narrative to highlight the hidden history of the child’s influence over the adult world.

Research into infant observation in psychoanalysis, the emergence of child-centred education, and the anti-psychiatry movement, have all been important in the exhibition’s development. So too have ongoing debates over nature and nurture, benign and malign influence over the child. The title Wunderblock comes from Sigmund Freud’s ‘A Note Upon the “Mystic Writing Pad’”. A ‘Wunderblock’ is a toy used by Freud to illustrate the workings of our unconscious, where memories are stored and from where they may re-emerge. In the exhibition, Smith takes this idea and uses it to imagine and uncover the complexity of the child’s mind.

At a time when concern over the mental health and rights of children and young people regularly makes the headlines, Wunderblock aims to provoke debate and reflection. Taking historical research as a starting point, the exhibition and the accompanying events programme encourage you to consider and question your own beliefs in relation to the current status of children in our society.

Wunderblock is curated by Rachel Fleming-Mulford, and is commissioned by Birkbeck College, University of London for the Hidden Persuaders Project, funded by the Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fund.

Emma Smith is a visual artist based in the UK, who works internationally. She has a social practice and creates public platforms for experimentation, research and action through site-specific events and installations. Smith’s work tests the boundaries of human connectivity: relationship, communication, sense of place and entanglement. Her work looks in particular at hidden forms of connection: the intimate, the transient, the subconscious and the invisible. Previous exhibitions and commissions include Tate Modern, Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery, Bluecoat, Whitworth, ICA and Arnolfini, UK, with international projects across the globe. http://www.emma-smith.com/

The Hidden Persuaders project, based at Birkbeck, University of London, examines ‘brainwashing’ in and after the Cold War, exploring the roles, real and imagined, played by psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts in this history. It ask how these disciplines pictured tyranny and freedom of mind, were drawn into ‘psy warfare’ and commerce, and were mobilised in social and political critique.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of events that consider the expertise of the child, the voice of the teenager, and the politics of emphasis placed on the influence of the mother:

Saturday 30 March, 12.30-2pm: Feeding Time – an event by and for teenagers
Saturday 6 April, 9am-1pm: Hidden Persuaders Symposium
Saturday 6 April, 12pm-5pm: showings of films by teenagers from the 2018 Hidden Persuaders Schools Programme
Saturday 13 April, 10.45-11.30am: The Children’s Group – an event for 0-4 year olds and their parents
Wednesday 1 May, 6pm-8pm: late opening and curators’ tours of exhibitions at Freud Museum London (7pm) and Camden Arts Centre (6pm)
Wednesday 22 May, 7-8.30pm: The Hidden Persuader – an evening of discussion with the artist and special guests
Fridays: 29 March, 26 April, 24 May: Slow Hour – an hour each month when the Museum particularly encourages families to visit Wunderblock (although families are always welcome)

Related event: Thursday 21 March, 6-7pm ‘Wellcome Library Insights’ at Wellcome Collection: ‘Playing with the Invisible’ – the artist will discuss archive material that helped inspire Wunderblock.

For enquiries about the exhibition contact: Lili Spain: lili@freud.org.uk / +44 (0)20 7435 2002

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