Mad Art

How We Went Mad Before The Joker

The Daily Pic: With the Industrial Revolution, ravings became mechanical – as today they're cinematic

07.25.12 7:41 PM ET

In today’s Daily Beast, I made the argument that the Batman movies taught the shooter in Aurora precisely how he ought to go mad – because madness is always shaped by the culture it occurs in. This detail from an 1810 image, in the New Museum show called “Ghosts in the Machine” – the subject of this week’s Daily Pics – is more evidence for my position. It illustrates the delusions of a mental patient named James Tilly Matthews, who said a machine called the Air Loom was controlling his mind. No one before the Industrial Revolution would have raved in quite that way, and no one would in our information age. Instead, the madman of today says he’s the Joker, and commits supervillainous slaughter. 

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