Unlimited: Unfixed: A conversation


Unfixed is a project initiated by the Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT), in partnership with Unlimited and Watershed in the UK and Access2Arts in Adelaide, Australia. Unfixed is a residency and exchange programme focused on art, technology and disability that seeks to deepen the dialogue and explore the practice of contemporary artists. On 7 September at Southbank Centre three Unfixed artists were invited to share thoughts on their working practices.

A photograph of a group of artists standing in front of a white building, smiling

All of the artists involved in the Unfixed project. Photograph: Fee Plumley

There is a history of exchange and conversation amongst disabled artists from the UK and Australia.  The Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank Centre hosted the first in a series of public sharing in the UK as part of Unfixed, providing an insight into three of the ten artists on this programme. It sought to unpack some of their shared or contrasting issues and experiences. Jo Verrent, senior producer for the Unlimited commissioning programme, which is managed by Shape and Artsadmin, introduced artists Daniel Savage, Aidan Moesby and Jane Gauntlett.

This was an excellent opportunity to listen to the individual artists speaking about their practice and how it sits in both mainstream and disability arts contexts. Canberra-based Daniel Savage undertook traditional arts training at the Australian National University School of Art, majoring in photography. With the lack of a strong disability arts scene in his locality, he has positioned and contextualised his practice through exploring and understanding other areas of marginalisation including the work of indigenous artists such as Tony Albert.

In what many UK disabled artists would consider an enviable position, Daniel has been exhibiting regularly since graduating. His practice, both pre- and post-acquiring an impairment has centered around the exploration and questioning of perceptions. With artwork that would quite readily sit well within an exhibition by UK artists, he plays with language and our engrained visual culture to disrupt and encourage the audience to challenge their own assumptions. Of the disability-related elements to his work, Daniel says it’s not about an attempt to give the viewers an insight into his lived experience, but rather appreciate that they don’t understand it.

Jane Gauntlett is an artist and writer working in film and theatre who also works as a producer. Giving an overview of her practice that in itself verged on the performative, she described her ongoing project, In My Shoes. Through interactive multi-sensory audience experiences − at first using her own personal journey of acquiring and living with a brain injury − she seeks to literally put the audience in her shoes by immersing them in a first person documentary narrative to promote empathy in the viewer. In My Shoes has evolved to also incorporate other people and their stories.

Aidan Moesby gave an overview of his research-led socially engaged practice that was kick-started by a residency at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) five years ago. His work is concerned with the intersection of arts, health and technology and rejects the exclusivity and highbrow nature embedded in much of the contemporary arts, instead choosing to make work that is easily accessible to people and often appears in unexpected places.

Aidan makes work that raises questions about our psychological and emotional relationship to spaces and structure, both architectural and organisational. The Periodic Table of Emotions, which resulted from the relationship with DCA, attempts to “broaden our emotional lexicon and deepen our emotional intelligence.” The digital artwork (also available in print) gathered data from Twitter, analysing the sentiments of people tweeting in the city to create a ‘dynamic visualisation’ of Dundee in real time. The work will be installed at Glasgow’s Tramway for the Scottish edition of Unlimited Festival 15-25 September 2016.

The first Unfixed residency happened in Adelaide and next week is hosted by Watershed in Bristol. The artists have already found a real value in the time spent debating language, sharing ideas and exploring one another’s artistic processes. For Daniel, having worked in isolation from the comparatively small disability arts scene in Australia, Unfixed is an opportunity to find out if his work connects to other disabled artists. Aidan is taking the chance to further explore digital, develop relationships and spark ideas that might emerge quite far into the future. For Jane, being immersed in that intensive time to learn others’ processes has enabled her to reflect on her own creative work and give it increased attention following time largely spent in the producing role.

There are three more iterations of Unfixed: in conversation during the Bristol residency, including in Brighton tomorrow, Friday 9 September. Details as follows:

Brighton − Brighton Digital Festival at 68 Middle St: Fri 9 Sep 2016 15:00-17:00 (tickets are free). Speakers: Jo Verrent, Daniel Savage, Jane Gauntlett & Aidan Moesby.

Bristol − Watershed: Fri 16 Sep 2016 13:00-14:00 (followed by an afternoon tea with the artists in the Pervasive Media Studio). Speakers: All Unfixed artists.

Glasgow − Tramway Unlimited Festival: Fri 23 Sep 10:00-12:00. Speakers: Jo Verrent, Daniel Savage & Aidan Moesby.