Luke Fowler

The Nine Monads of David Bell, 2006

Installation of sound, B/W, Super-8 film transferred to digital and archival materials

The installation The Nine Monads of David Bell consists of a new body of work that departs from Luke Fowler’s earlier film What you see is where you’re at (2001), a portrait of the Kingsley Hall community (1965-69) set up by maverick psychiatrist RD Laing and the Philadelphia Association to offer a place of refuge for those who were disturbed, distressed or mad. This beacon of the anti-psychiatry movement provided a counter model to the mental institution, breaking down notions of treatment and the doctor/patient hierarchy. What You See... is a collage of new and found, sound and film, providing an insight into the experiences of the residents of Kingsley Hall, re-appraising its relevance in our contemporary society.

The Nine Monads Of David Bell is a further investigation into the world of David Bell, one of Kingsley Hall’s most poetic and visionary residents. David Bell was a mathematician who moved to London in the 1950’s to work as a computer programmer. After being rejected by his girlfriend, Bell’s eccentric behaviour became a cause for alarm and he was sectioned. This led to his move to Kingsley Hall and his befriending of Dr. Leon Redler, a young American psychiatrist who came to London to work with Laing. Despite the local mental hospital’s characterization of Bell’s language as "pure schizophrenese”, at Kingsley Hall his words were valued and documented. Further documents of David Bell, who died in the nineties, where preserved by Dr. Leon Redler, material on which this present installation is based.

The central component of this installation is a sound installation lasting fifty minutes. This material has been edited from tapes recorded between 1965 and 1976 at Kingsley Hall and later at Redler’s private practice. Luke Fowler structured the material in order to highlight a semi-chronological representation of the changing states of David Bell. While the first part documents David in various social situations around Kingsley Hall, the second half focuses on internal struggles between his three distinct personages, “he”, “she”, and “boy”. The last section offers a stark contrast to this; here we find him under strong medication and in therapy with Redler, offering a lucid, yet lackluster self-reflection of his behaviour over the years.

The transferred Super 8 film shows a recent film that Fowler made with amateur actors re-enacting the dreams of David Bell, which were recorded on tape. The photographic documentation is comprised of three different series. The first shows a series of newspapers that David Bell has used as writing paper and on which appear juxtapositions between the articles, advertisements and David’s own notes. The second series shows extracts from a loose-leaf notebook of David’s. The final series are photographs taken at Archways Community, the Philadelphia Association’s successor to Kingsley Hall. The photographs depict David and his fellow residents in various social situations. These photographs were taken by Mike Yokum, resident and caretaker at Archways Community. The exhibition also features two miscellaneous handwritten cards and a passport that David has defaced.

With thanks to Anselm Franke and Dr Leon Redler