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States of Mind: London’s Wellcome Collection explores reality and perception

A roomful of coloured mist was always going to be a hard act to follow, but the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition States of Mind: Tracing the edges of consciousness is a worthy successor. Providing a deep, contemplative and sometimes uncomfortable look at perception and lived reality, it poses a number of questions: how do mind and body connect, what is consciousness, and what makes us us?

False Memory Archive, Crudely Erased Adults (Lost in the Mall), A.R. Hopwood, 2012-13, Courtesy of the artist

False Memory Archive, Crudely Erased Adults (Lost in the Mall), A.R. Hopwood, 2012-13, Courtesy of the artist

If you’ve been watching The Brain with David Eagleman, the hit TV show that aired recently in the US and is currently on in the UK, you’ll already be fascinated by these questions. Scientists now understand more about the workings of the brain than ever before, and yet so much is still a mystery.

The Wellcome Collection’s show has a wide range of ideas to explore, taking in the zeitgeisty topic of synaesthesia – you can take a test that could help “train” you to connect colours with letters and words – as well as more unsettling topics like sleep paralysis and the experiences of vegetative coma patients. There are also compelling insights into pre-writing alphabets, and false memories: recollections many of us have from childhood that didn’t actually happen, but feel as deep-rooted and visceral as if they had.

Wellcome Collection

Training Grapheme-Colour Synaesthesia

Goshka Macuga, Somnambulist (2006)

Goshka Macuga, Somnambulist, 2006

While this second installation in the Wellcome’s series on consciousness is not as Instagrammable as Ann Veronica Janssens’ yellowbluepink, it will provoke a lot of thought, and might make you look at your mind in a new light. Free to attend, States of Mind runs until 16th October 2016 at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.

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