atomictv David Bickerstaff
Artist, filmmaker and creative director of digital media for narrative environments

Artist works

Other projects
Narrenturm Narrenturm Narrenturm  


Double screen video installation
commissioned for the exhibition
'Madness and Modernity' at
the Wellcome Collection

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2 x HD | 16:9 | 6 mins 20 sec

Commissioned for the exhibition "Madness and Modernity" at the Wellcome Collection, this large double screen video installation documents the architecture and environs of the Narrenturm or 'Tower of Fools" in Vienna. The Narrenturn was built under Emperor Josef II in 1784 and was the first psychiatric hospital in Vienna. Under a policy of 'hospitalising the insane' rather than incaserating them in prisons, the city's mentally ill were housed in the Narrenturm until 1866, when it eventually became a residence for doctors and nurses with laboratories and workshops. In 1971 it became the Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum and is still run by the University of Vienna today. 

The Narrenturm is uniquely built in the round over several floors, with a bisecting block of rooms for staff and two courtyards. The circularity has the effect of disorientation where each floor looks similar and the beginning is the end. The corridors are flanked by individual rooms that look both inside and out. The video installation journeys from the outside, though the courtyards into the rooms and endless corridors, flash cutting between snatched views of contingent spaces and adjacent landscapes. The viewer is made aware of the shifting relationship between the exterior and interior confines. Sound, light and space evoke the building's past as we journey though the empty passages of white walls, curved surfaces and endless cell doors.  

Director, camera, sound and editor: David Bickerstaff
Sencond camera: Phil Grabsky
Curators: Gemma Blackshaw and Lesley Topp
Producer: James Peto, Wellcome Collection
Exhibited at the Wellcome Collection, London and the Wien Museum, Vienna

  Atomictv © David Bickerstaff