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Jo Howe

Responding to the plethora of prisoners committed to the Bridewell for reasons of mental ill health.

Museum Source Objects: Translucent Jane Sellers figure 

Title: Baggage



Jane Sellers and the other prisoners are illustrated by the ghostly aesthetic of the illuminated translucent piece on display, which uses light and form referencing a past life. This work inspired me to research the prisoners at Bridewell by directly referencing The Bridewell Prisoner Calendars of the 1700's. This contained information on those individuals who were convicted, as well as their crime and their punishment.

The use of language and words found within these hand scribed records are of the time, illustrated by the use of repetition, perfunctory and derogative words. I became curious about the use of labels and how they could become a self- fulfilling prophecy rather than just a categorisation of behaviour or personal description. I generated labels by cutting and removing the words from snippets of the 'calendars', enabling the light to seep through, what had then became a void. The removed words were then sealed inside a glass bottle, as they became too precious to discard.


I felt it was important to have every prisoner's name recognised, by combining them all into one document that now forms the end paper of the box.


Museum Source Objects: Bridewell Prison Room

Title: Embodied Emotions

Beyond words...


Her second piece relates to the emotional impact of trauma that many individuals may have experienced in the Bridewell.

Though this piece was not created specifically for the show, I felt it important to place the work, Embodied Emotions, within The Undercroft location responding to the plethora of prisoners committed to the Bridewell for reasons of mental ill health. Embodied Emotions serves as a representation of traumatic unresolved emotional pain that can be beyond words.

"Traumatised people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves."

Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (p.97).

My approach is always driven by my emotional response to a stimulus and personal experience of an element of the subject matter. My working process is just as important as the resolution of the final piece or pieces, although repetitive and arduous at times, it also serves as a cathartic experience that is both healing and invigorating”.

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