Jennifer Kelly: The Rat Park and the Smaller Glass, until 2 November 2019

The exhibition The Rat Park and the Smaller Glass by ESW Member, Jennifer Kelly, is on show in the Hawthornvale Space, 21 September – 2 November 2019.

It 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 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. The comment “maybe I’ll use a smaller glass” was expressed to the artist.

The artist has worked using the narrative shown on the whisky glass on display

         Mr Baxter knew he had been drinking too much since his wife died

        His first clue was he kept falling over

        His second when he couldn’t get up

        He thought maybe using a smaller glass would help

Playing with archetypes such as hobo, drunk and clown, Kelly’s work invites viewers to step into another’s shoes and to understand the human connections with addiction.

Venue: Hawthornvale Space, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.