Broken - A Shattered Mind

Aleksanterinkatu 14-18, 00170 Helsinki

New Helsinki City Museum exhibition shows what insanity feels like

The ‘Broken – A Shattered Mind’ exhibition approaches the disintegration of mental health from the point of view of the person experiencing it. The exhibition features drawings, paintings and crafts by patients of the Nikkilä mental hospital (1914–1999) from the Helsinki City Museum collection. The works depict the humanity behind the diagnoses.

A hundred years ago, the solution to mental illness could be to lock the afflicted person in a mental hospital – today it is therapy, medication and outpatient care. The ‘Broken – A Shattered Mind’ exhibition at the Helsinki City Museum examines mental illnesses from the point of view of patients of the Nikkilä mental hospital. The exhibition delves into mental health issues as both a personal and social phenomenon and provides viewpoints into how insanity feels.

The exhibition presents works by patients of Nikkilä hospital and examines everyday life at the hospital through a collection of items. It also illustrates the various sides of mental health through statistical information and experiences. By spinning the wheel of diagnoses, you can ponder how open to interpretation the line between insanity and sanity is and how it has shifted in different eras. Human figures created by graphic artist Viivi Rintanen depict the different experiences of the disintegration of mental health. The audio work Hulluus (insanity) was created by Taiteen Sulattamo together with people recovering from mental health issues.

The use of the term insanity is carefully considered; the objective is not only to talk about serious mental health issues, but also the often fluctuating nature of the line between normal and insane and how mundane things can become completely insane in the wrong context. As a term, insanity is more comprehensive and complex than ‘mental health issues,’ for example, which has an air of diagnosis.

The collection of the Nikkilä mental hospital serves as a starting point and inspiration for the exhibition. The Nikkilä hospital (1914–1999) in Sipoo, owned by the City of Helsinki, was the largest mental hospital in Finland. The mental hospital collection was amassed starting from the 1930s, and after the hospital closed, the items were included in the Helsinki City Museum collection.

The comprehensive exhibition and programme entity was implemented in cooperation with Lapinlahden Lähde, Taiteen Sulattamo, HelsinkiMissio, Central Library Oodi, the Rikki collective, Nuorten Pride and the City of Helsinki Culture and Leisure Sector Youth Division.