sarah bennett



Using artistic practice as a critical and inventive thinking tool, Reformations (2010) explores the conditions and contexts of a former site of exclusion - the Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum (1845) -see below.

The focus is on the repetitive and potent marking of locks and door handles on walls - wall-wounds (found) - which leave indexical traces of immurement. These traces are the vestiges of repetitive institutional acts of aperture and enclosure.
Wall-wound (found) image
Wall-wound (found) DCH-4

Wall-wound (found) DCH-4Wall-wound (found) VSWall-wound (found) ERRN-1Wall-wound (found) PSQ-1Wall-wound (found) DB-1Wall-wound (found) DCH-1

Wall-wounds (fabricated) were enacted in the studio and captured through stop frame animation. These small propositional 'events' operate as conduits between memory, inhabitation of architecture, and discursive networks and sites, especially those relating to regulatory systems, institutional controls and constraints.
Wall-wound (fabricated) image
Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 1021

Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 1021Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 605Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 351Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 1365Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 466Wall-wound (fabricated) no. 683

Presented as projections in various institutional sites, the stop frame animations disrupt the normative surface of the walls on which they are projected. Starting as small, hardly discernible marks they quickly transforms into vertical, oval or circular indentations before digitally fading back to the painted plaster surface.

Wall-wound (Projection) no. 339

The silence of the wall-wounds, their mute compression referring to the collection of trace moments between the bashes captured by the camera, appears to reveal the latent dramas of the building whether as symptoms, narratives, memories, associative traces, or erasure - the somatic grumblings of the building.


Wall-wound (Projection) no. 2249
The asylum's semi-radial architectural design and its archives, provided the starting point for the project, and involved the unearthing of narratives relating to the former hospital's histories, including its closure by the NHS in 1987 and subsequent transformation into owner-occupier gated residencies - a site of exclusivity.

  The research is published in: Bennett, S. (2010) 'Re-forming the institution: the wall as memory archive' in the Journal of Media Practice Volume 11 Number 3
Reformations background image
Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Exminster c. 1845.
Source: Eager (1945) The Treatment of Mental Disorders (Ancient and Modern), Exeter: W. V. Cole and Sons

Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Exminster 1845Aerial View of former Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Exminster 1970Aerial view of the former Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Exminster 1999
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