By Charles Harrison
Despite many people calling the pandemic “the great equaliser”, it real terms it affected some groups more than others.
According to data published by the ONS, disabled people made up six in ten Covid-related deaths in England last year.
Peckham-based arts collective Shape Arts’ new exhibition, All Bound Together?, which opened on Monday, draws from the work of 24 disabled and nondisabled artists to critique the idea that we’re all ‘in this together’.
The online exhibition features work from artists from across the globe.
Elinor Hayes, Curator at Shape Arts said: “It was largely due to the innovation and dedication of creatives that many of us made it through lockdown; streaming content, experiencing culture from our couches.
“And yet, as we ‘reopen,’ it is culture that is most at risk.”
The exhibition, available online at allboundtogether.com, uses a variety of artistic forms, from video to photography to drawings.
The exhibition provides BSL descriptions of each ‘room’, and allow users to access the exhibition through different devices in order to promote accessibility.
Steven Fraser’s “Delay” is described as a “performance in a zine.”
It uses striking imagery and heart-wrenching text to explore anxiety – particularly for those with autism.
“My favourite art is honest and authentic,” said Mr Fraser.
“I liked the idea of having a performance as something you read, as opposed to something you just watch.
“For All Bound Together I presented a story that people can experience in this way.
“I add illustrations and comics to my scripts and present them as a zine – this style and accessible approach is ideal for my work.”
Mr Fraser stated that while being autistic has no impact on his ability to create art, it can cause difficulties when trying to get it seen.
“People who are in charge of funding and opportunities tend to award people who confirm their own biases of what an artist should look/act like and what art they should create,” he said.
Artist melissandre varin, whose video piece “my mother’s hands” uses claustrophobic but strangely comforting images combined with a intriguing voiceover, said: “I’m very grateful to be part of this exhibition because it’s the first time I’ve worked with an organisation who aren’t just talking about being inclusive and getting black, queer or disabled artists involved – they are really practicing it.
“I write my name in lower case and straight from the beginning they cared, and they treated me like a human being.”
Their piece reflects on their relationship with their mother, while leaving space for interpretation by the viewer.
“I was 12 when my mother passed. Because she was physically disabled I did not see a lot of her because we were always interrupted by illness,” melissandre said.
“What I always remember is how her hands transformed over time.
“It is a metaphor for something I cannot reach any more. It doesn’t only refer to this precise illness, but also how memory fades.
“I think the images aren’t misleading, but also don’t lead you very far.
“For me, art is not a desire – it is a need.”
All Bound Together is available until October 29.
Pictured top: melissandre varin
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