Beyond Epilepsy



Writer & Photographer currently based in Edinburgh, UK.

Summerhall TV Interview

Interview with the Project Director shedding more light on our exhibition and what Beyond Epilepsy is all about.

Beyond Epilepsy goes on Bottle of Red

Drug addicts, prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, and epileptics. Which one stands out for you?

In last week’s series finale of Bottle of Red, our project director Rachel talks exhibition and ‘making up people’ with Ross Garner, and asks whether changes in medical knowledge equals a change in society.

Listen here now!

Our thanks to Bottle of Red for the interview. Do check out his website and Facebook page for more brilliant interviews and engaging discussion

Launch Night!

It’s been great seeing the exhibition progress. From a crazy idea in a pub to artist sketches and then finished artworks and seeing the exhibition come to life. We’ve had an excellent turnout and it’s been great seeing everyone enjoying the exhibition. If you missed out don’t worry, the exhibition is on for the whole duration of the Science Festival (until 19th) at the amazing CCA venue in Glasgow. And best of all – free entry!

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Behind the Scenes at the Exhibition

Putting up an exhibition is no easy feat. There was a lot of planning involved – and lots of coffee and croissants consumed at our 3rd Collaborative meeting last month. Then before our launch there was a flurry of activity, the artists and contributors were  hammering, gluing, and balancing on ladders, to make sure everything was perfect and ready for the big night.

The Beyond Epilepsy Exhibition is on until the 19th June, free at the CCA, Glasgow. Do come along and have a look at the final product!

News & Press Features

Leading up to our exhibition we’ve got some exciting news to share with you. First of all, we’re excited to reveal our new poster, all bright and shiny.

Beyond Epilepsy Poster

We’re delighted to hear that our exhibition is gathering interest, and it hasn’t even started yet!

Beyond Epilepsy received the prestigious Magnusson Award from the Glasgow Caledonian University, awarded to the GCU researcher and Beyond Epilepsy Project Lead Rachel Hewitt. An article about the project and the award ceremony has been featured on the GCU Newsroom.

The story of our exhibition has also travelled all the way to Redditch, and has been featured in the Redditch Standard.

Our Project Lead Rachel has also been interviewed on the Bottle of Red Podcast. So pour yourself a glass (or a whole bottle) and listen to learn more about the historic links between epilepsy, hysteria and gender, and whether society has really moved on from looking at people with epilepsy as ‘the other’.

Going Beyond Epilepsy through art and history

We hope this whetted your appetite for the exhibition itself. Click attend on our Beyond Epilepsy Event on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss it.

Beyond Epilepsy Art & History Exhibition in Glasgow

  BElogoIntermedia Gallery, CCA: Glasgow

9th-19th June 2016

Open 11.00-18.00 Tuesday-Sunday

Free entry



Beyond Epilepsy is delighted to present the exhibition ‘Beyond Epilepsy : Art & History Exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, in conjunction with Glasgow Science Festival 2016.

Do you know what causes a seizure? What it feels like? How it affects people’s lives? Around 1 in 100 people in the UK has epilepsy.

Beyond Epilepsy is working with Glasgow Science Festival 2016 to ask whether a greater understanding of the brain has led to more understanding in society as a whole.  This project  aims to be a platform for artists, not only promoting disabilities, but also artists with disabilities.

Beyond Epilepsy is a collaborative community project and are recipients of the prestigious Magnus Magnusson Award at GCU. The project has grown to include six well-established and newly graduated artists so also have personal experience with epilepsy.  We have developed a close working relationship with Epilepsy Scotland, the largest Scottish charity for people with epilepsy.

Beyond Epilepsy Exhibition

  • Part of Glasgow Science Festival 2016, Beyond Epilepsy Exhibition explores experiences and challenges faced by people with epilepsy through visual art.
  • The exhibition also provides historical background of the changing responses of society towards people with epilepsy from the Greeks to the present day.  
  • Through its use of visual art and history, the exhibition aims to challenge current misconceptions and stigma and raise awareness and increase engagement with the community.
  • The exhibition will feature paintings, drawings and photographs from Scottish based artists, some of whom have personal experience of epilepsy.

Contributors include: Scottish-based artists Moyra Campbell, Margaret Mitchell, Siobhan Scott, Gemma Travers, Sharon Thomas and Olivia Vitazkova, and historians Rachel Hewitt, Simon Walker, Jennifer Farquharson and Axelle Champion.  



Facebok Page  | Twitter |  #BeyondEpilepsy

Details and booking:





Hysteria and epilepsy had been linked long before Jean Paul Charcot attributed seizures to a physical disturbance within the brain. Seizures, according to Charcot, were the manifestation of true hysteria. Charcot had the advantage of his position at the Salpêtrière, a general asylum with a large number of chronic epileptic patients, largely poor and female. The reorganisation of the Salpêtrière led to a ward dedicated to epilepsy, which was then divided into those who were ‘sane’ and those who were ‘insane’. Charcot’s hysterical patients were therefore mixed with long-stay epileptic patients without any formal differential diagnosis being given. It was further believed to be the case that hysterical patients mimicked the convulsive seizures of epileptic patients as part of the ‘crisis’ in le grand hysterie, and that such attacks rendered both epileptic and hysteria patients in the same category.

Charcot therefore identified a hybrid form of epilepsy and hysteria which was said to mimic the progression of the newly named ‘grand mal’ seizure but was caused by hysteria.  After 1878, his studies of epilepsy moved into theatrical séances, in which female patients were hypnotised to laugh, cry and to fall into convulsions. Although identified by the Romans, the trance-like state produced by temporal lobe epilepsy was forgotten until the 1950s. However, Mesmer and his followers were operating on epileptic patients were able to produce seizures through light, sound and touch as triggers.  One of Charcot’s colleagues at the Salpêtrière, Paul Richer, discussed a close link between hypnotic states and epilepsy in 1885, namely in hystero-epilepsy, arguing that this included hallucinations, automatism and état somnambulique, or sleepwalking.

Ian Hacking, in discussing the cultural figure of ‘the fugue’ in French psychiatry further adhered to some knowledge of the link between automatic action and epilepsy, arguing that French neurologists had identified a latent form of epilepsy in men found wandering for days with little memory of their actions.  This semi-permanent state of hypnosis fell firmly into late nineteenth century French ideas of trance-like states, and the link with epilepsy is identified not by convulsive seizures, but in temporary lapses in consciousness.

 Études cliniques sur l'hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérieCredit: Wellcome Library, London. WellcomeÉtudes cliniques sur l'hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie. Epilepsy.1881 Études cliniques sur l'hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie /Paul Marie Louis Pierre RicherPublished: 1881Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
Études cliniques sur l’hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérieCredit: Wellcome Library, London. WellcomeÉtudes cliniques sur l’hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie. Epilepsy.1881 Études cliniques sur l’hystéro-épilepsie ou grande hystérie /Paul Marie Louis Pierre RicherPublished: 1881Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Second Collaborative Meeting

Hello, here are some photos from our February meeting chaired by Rachel & Olivia. We also had representation from the lovely Epilepsy Scotland and of course our contributors as well. It’s been great seeing everybody!

We have some exciting updates in the pipeline so make sure to follow this blog and our new facebook page!

The Borderland of Epilepsy Exhibition – Call for Artists

Hello there!

We are looking for volunteer collaborators who would be willing to exhibit their work with the intention of raising awareness and challenging misconceptions about epilepsy. It will aim to use both historical material, modern understanding and artistic interpretation to present a timeline of change in medical and social contexts, throughout which people’s experience will remain central. The project will benefit from the involvement of Epilepsy Scotland, who will be forming a consulting role.

The exhibition is a collaborative project between visual artists and historians, exploring the history of epilepsy in an interactive and engaging way for audiences. We are aiming to use visual art to demonstrate the changes in medical belief and social context, from the Hippocratic ‘sacred disease’ to the present day, through an analysis of female hysteria and the discovery of the workings of the nervous system. It is part of a Wellcome Trust-funded PhD project on the history of epilepsy being undertaken by the project leader, Rachel Hewitt, at the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare ( The project will also benefit from the input of a Creative Director, Olivia Vitazkova and a Technical Director, Sam House.

Unfortunately, we are unable to pay salaries or fees to members of the project, but materials and expenses for the production of new work will be reimbursed, and all intellectual property rights belong to the producers of the work. As it is largely a charitable project, it is being run not-for-profit through Glasgow Caledonian University and Epilepsy Scotland. Any proceeds raised through charitable collections will be donated to Epilepsy Scotland.

For more information contact us at:

Jean-Martin Charcot
Jean-Martin Charcot

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