The artwork will be on show in Bethlem Museum of The Mind in London from September 2016 for a year.
The Air Loom is an imaginary machine and emerges from the mind of James Tilly Matthews in 1800. Matthews’ was a Bethlem (bedlam) inmate who had previously been embroiled in political intrigue during the French revolution. Up until now the Air Loom existed only as his drawings and writings, manifestations of Matthews psychosis. He believed it ran on magnetic fluids. Operated by skilled pneumatic chemists who controlled the warp of the fluids that travelled out of the machine toward the intended victim.
Matthews writes that the primary targets were key members of the British government at the time and the patients of mad houses (including Matthews himself). Targeted in coffee houses by the Assassins who worked the machine, their victims were surreptiously primed with vapours, ready for the dreadful event-workings of the machine.
According to Matthews the Air Loom had a formidable arsenal of tortures that it could deliver, all with their own cryptic names: Kiteing, Bomb bursting, Lobster cracking, Thigh Talking, Fluid Locking and Lengthening the brain.
Matthews writings and drawings of the machine were published by the then Apothecary of Bedlam, John Haslam, in a book titled ‘Illustrations Of Madness ‘ which has now become a classic text in psychiatric history.
The audio guide describes the machine’s workings from Matthew’s perspective and is best listened to at Bethlem in front of the Sculpture.
More information can be found at http://www.theairloom.org/