Trace    

It started from a small book that I found in Bethlem Museum of the mind. The book contains haunting pictures of historical restraining garments housed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives. These images made me think about people who had worn them, and inspired me to explore the meaning of this purpose-built garment.

The garments worn by patients while being treated in hospital becomes a part of their body and each garment reflects the wearer’s personality, character and emotions. 
 
Strait jackets were used at psychiatric hospitals to restrain patients who may inflict harm to themselves or others. The strait jacket crosses the wearer’s arms against their chest and the ends of the sleeves are tied to the back of the jacket to ensure they cannot cause self-harm or injure others. (In 1850s most asylums in England and Wales became non-restraint.)

Fabric body

In order to take a closer look at the restraining garment, I constructed a 1/4 scale strait jacket with only one sleeve to show how the wear’s arm is wrapped around the body. 

The sleeve is twisted and creates creases on the fabric when it is worn. The creases in the sleeve and the body are an indication of the wearers’ discomfort and troubled minds. 

 

The awkward movement of the body and sudden change of colour in the movie depicts the patient's unstable and insecure state of mind.

Paper body

The deep creases in the Fabric Body represent pain and scars engraved in the wearer's mind. To draw more attention to these ‘scars’, I replicated the creases on a paper body. Now 'scars' appear more acute.

 

The paper body in the movie rotates clumsily.

This movement reveals the patient's feelings of uneasiness being in a restraining garment. 

Paper object

The creases and lines tell us a story.

In order to examine and listen attentively to the patient's story, I extracted the creases onto a single sheet of paper. 

 

When the paper is held up against a light the creases appear heavier and deeper, as though to show the patient's state of mind being exposed through close medical examination. Also, viewing the paper object from the reverse side makes the smaller 'scars' within the creases appear more noticeable, giving yet
another perspective to the story.
 
The movie slowly closes up to the details of the crease. This motion gives a sense that the patient's mind is being carefully examined by the viewers.

Ward

The fabric body is inside a ward that is shielded with two curtains hung up on each side. A thick white curtain is drawn on one side, which represents a barrier between the patients and the outside world. Layers of semi-transparent curtains are hung on the other side, which represent the obstacles the patients put up to protect themselves from fear and anxiety.

The semi-transparent curtains that are slowly drawn open, shows that the patient is beginning to open up to the viewers, revealing their scarred mind.