Designer Asylums & Experiencing Psychosis at the FACT Gallery, Liverpool

I’m not a big fan of traditional art galleries, or even most modern galleries for that matter; feigning interest in boring old paintings, or even worse, modern art that I simply do not ‘get’, is not really my cup of tea. The FACT Gallery in Liverpool, however, is a completely different story. I’ve enjoyed every exhibition I’ve been lucky enough to see here, and the current one, Group Therapy, is no exception.

We entered the building with no idea what to expect and first came across Madlove, A Designer Asylum. The colourful turquoise walls and bright pink and yellow furniture were instantly appealing and there was plenty to see and do; The Staircase to Nowhere was filled with inspiring self-help books to read, the Oasis provided a relaxing atmosphere to sit back and watch the plants grown, and the padded room of the Cooling Tower was the perfect place to let off some steam!

Designer Asylum, FACT Gallery, Liverpool
As we ventured into the second gallery the bright, colourful atmosphere was replaced by a dark gloomy room. Here you can be hypnotised via a large video projection, learn about the treatment of mental health in other parts of the world and even use various computer programmes and applications for a do-it-yourself mental health diagnosis.

They saved the best until last however, and in the third and final gallery we discovered the Labyrinth Psychotica, an opportunity to experience what it’s like to have psychosis. As we entered the room and saw the labyrinth in front of us we were directed to replace our jackets with lab coats and go in one at a time. Thick sheets and blankets were hung closely together from the ceiling to form the maze, and my only instructions were to follow the path ahead.

Labyrinth Psychotica, FACT Gallery, Liverpool
As I pushed the sheets back and marched forwards I was first filled with excitement, not knowing what I was going to come across or what was going to happen next. The excitement, however, was soon replaced with boredom; after five or ten minutes pushing sheets back and marching forwards it was getting a little tiresome, and I was starting to wonder if it was nearly over yet. Finally, came the fear.

With every step further into the centre of the seemingly never ending labyrinth, the lights flickered faster, the sheets moved closer together and the eerie noises got louder. I began to jump at every sound and the previous excitement to discover what was coming next was replaced by dread. My imagination went into overdrive as I feared the worst, especially when confronted with what appeared to be a sheet splattered with blood. I had to use every ounce of my mental strength and determination to keep on going.

Soon enough, however, it becomes clear that everything is not quite what it might first appear to be. Those blood splatters? Well, it turns our they were actually delicately embroidered butterflies! And as I reached the centre of the labyrinth, the dark, claustrophobic tunnels were replaced with a spacious opening filled with bright, calming light. The only problem was that to make it back to the outside world, I had to turn around and follow the same path I’d already come down…

What are the most memorable art exhibitions you’ve experienced?

PS. If you love unusual art, take a look at Quit Your Job, Follow Your Dreams, Become An Artist.