Jennifer Kelly ‘The Rat Park (and the Smaller Glass)’ in The Hawthornvale Space

The exhibition The Rat Park (A Smaller Glass) by ESW Member, Jennifer Kelly, is on show in the Hawthornvale Space, 21 September – 2 November 2019. The exhibition can be viewed from the street Monday to Saturday, 9.30am – 5pm.

The Rat Park (A Smaller Glass) is an exploration using archetypes and narratives around alcohol addiction.

The term ‘rat park’ in the exhibition title, refers to an experiment conducted by Canadian psychologist, Bruce K. Alexander into addiction in the late 1970s. Alexander wanted to refine research from the 1960s that showed that a rat confined in a solitary environment and offered the choice of a bottle of drugged water or pure water, would consistently drink from the drugged bottle.  From this observation, psychologists concluded that addiction has a chemical basis.

But Alexander wondered how rats would react if placed in an environment made conducive to rats, including: other rats, and materials to enrich the habitat and provide stimulation. He called the environment he designed The Rat Park. In his experiment there was much less take up of the drugged water, and he concluded that addiction was also reflective of environmental and emotional surroundings.

Mr Baxter is an imaginary character but based on reality. He has a story, which is common to many, which explains why he drinks. He uses a smaller glass which shows his efforts to drink less. Playing with archetypes such as the drunk, hobo and clown, Kelly’s work offers viewers ways to step into another’s shoes to understand the human connections with addiction.

Venue: Hawthornvale Space, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.