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By Selina Hurley on

Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious In Everyday Life

For the past six months, I’ve been working on an exhibition Psychoanalysis: The unconscious in everyday life which opened in the middle of October.

Curated by Dr Caterina Albano, from Artark at Central St Martins and sponsored by the Institute of Psychoanalysis, the exhibition looks at the workings of the unconscious mind through historical and contemporary artefacts.

As well as drawing on contemporary art by artists such as Grayson Perry, Tim Noble and Sue Webster and Mona Hatoum, some of our objects are on display for the first time. They have also been interpreted by leading psychoanalysts, whose voices you can hear on the gallery.

Votive face, Roman, 200 BCE-200 CE (A634923 Science Museum, London)

As well as some of our famous tattoos, a range of votives are on display. Votive offerings were made at the temple of a healing god such as Asklepios, the Greco-Roman god of healing and medicine. They were made in the hope of receiving a cure or as thanks for one.

For the exhibition the votives have been interpreted as an example of wish-fulfilment. Wish fulfilment is a technical term for a particular state of mind in which our unconscious wishes are fulfilled in our fantasies. Freud came to the view that dreams have in them the fulfilment of secret wishes that would be unacceptable to our waking conscious mind. For me, it is amazing to get a different perspective on our objects.

Play is another theme explored in the exhibition. Using the Margaret Lowenfeld toys currently in the Science Museum’s collection, dream-like scenarios have been set out for the visitor to interpret. Play is an important tool in analysis as it allows children to express their thoughts and feelings in a non-verbal way. 

Lowenfeld toys – zoo sign and tree scene
Lowenfeld toys – zoo sign and tree scene (Science Museum)

Visit Beyond the Couch for an in-depth digital catalogue or come to the Museum to see the real thing.