Wellcome Collection: Art, Activism & Access

Last year, I was lucky enough to work with the Wellcome Collection, voicing audio versions of six articles by disabled artist and activist Jamie Hale on the subject of Art, Activism & Access.

Drag performer Tito Bone adjusts their costume, ready to go onstage.
Credit: Christopher Andreou for the Wellcome Collection

Hale’s brilliant series looked at the experiences of disabled people in different artistic disciplines, with different access needs, facing a range of barriers to creating, sharing and amplifying their work. It was an eye-opener for me, and I learned a lot from the artists and facilities they interviewed. From drag performers to rappers to painters, each interviewee shared a new perspective on art, and highlighted the forcefields they encounter around mainstream art communities.

Disabled artists are often portrayed as battling against their limitations, and while there certainly are more challenges involved as a result of ableist venues, attitudes and programming, the most exciting part of Hale’s series for me was seeing the ways in which these performers actively incorporated their disabilities into their practices.

These included Keith Salmon, a painter with a visual impairment whose pictures encompassed a multisensory experience of a landscape, and Signkid, deaf rapper taking sign language to both deaf and hearing audiences, as well as autistic performer Emma Selwyn, who rejected advice to suppress their stimming actions, instead making them a pivotal part of the live experience they created.

You can read or listen to the whole series here: https://wellcomecollection.org/series/Xl4tyBIAACIANeoE

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