Following the announcement of the death of performance, video artist and activist Katherine Araniello on 25 February 2019, there was an outpouring of grief on her Facebook page, offering tributes and condolences.
Katherine made radical and politicised art that touched many artists with its direct humour targeted at the hypocrisies of a disabling society, using her lived experience as a font of material for the wild guises she created within her performance.
She will be remembered for her work with the Live Art Development Agency as well as the Disabled Avant Garde with Aaron Williamson, and numerous collaborations with artists and organisations within the worlds of Live Art and Disability Arts.
To honour her influence and ensure her lasting legacy, Katherine’s partner Tracey Jannaway, her family and LADA have set up a fund to create an annual Katherine Araniello Bursary Award for an unapologetically radical and politicised artist who works in Live Art and identifies as a disabled person.
At DAO, we decided to pay tribute to Katherine who blogged on DAO as SickBitchCrips, by pulling together a playlist drawn from some of the favourites posted on Facebook as well as those sent to us through email.
‘Take Me to Your Party’ was written in 1995 for Plastic Anorexic – the performance duo Katherine led with Sean Donaghey. The flamenco undertones are a perfect analgesic to the raw punk fuck you message that says: ‘patronise me if you dare’.
‘Sick Bitch Blues’ was composed in the aftermath of an illness. The film’s subversive lyrics and visuals play on and negate medical perceptions with references to disability, sickness and Dignitas, juxtaposing this with absurdity, humour and bluntness.
‘Meet the Superhuman’ Parts 1 and 2 were Katharine’s response to the 2012 Paralympic Channel 4 advert with its triumph over tragedy message. Who would be a supercrip?
SickBitchCrips ‘Dance’ mutated into three digitally manipulated personas to bring you a dance video like no other.
‘Lazy Baby’ takes no prisoners with its explicit lyrics and uncompromising attack on victim culture – set to a disco beat.
‘Pity’ saw Katherine dressing to mimic a 1960s Spastics Society collection box. When Damien Hirst’s ‘Charity’ was installed as part of the 2015 edition of Sculpture in the City, she revisited this performance to protest in London’s Square Mile.
‘If only I was normal’ saw Katherine performing in the role of one of her disability personas in an ironic take on victim culture.
‘Nice Song’ lyrically and visually captures an essence of Katherine’s humour, rude and life-affirming at one and the same time.
‘Unbelievable’ (The Disabled Avant-Garde 2017) was made for Awkward Bastards 2. It saw Katharine take on a number of guises with Aaron Williamson satirising disability arts and its penchant for celebratory work.
‘Amazing Art’ saw DAG satirising art therapy and an aspect of disability arts that seeks to normalise disability.
‘Damaged Dance’ (The Disabled Avant-Garde) saw Katherine and Aaron in a no holds barred pastiche of disability dance.