Gemma Nash: Artist

Using sound to reimagine stories about people, places and objects

The pip tapes INTRO

During Lockdown I have been working on the R&D phase for my most recent project – The PIP Tapes.

When you hear the word PIP, you might think of Charles Dickens and the dark lives of the underprivileged during the Victorian era.  But this piece is not about Victorian England and it’s poverty, squalor and inequality; it’s about modern day disability rights, crip culture, cassette tapes and the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

PIP was introduced in 2012 to gradually replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – a social security payment for disabled people who have extra care or mobility needs.

Widening Inequalities

Disabled people have largely viewed PIP as an unfair cost cutting exercise driven by current neoliberal ideology.  Along with the harmful ‘benefit scrounger’ narratives churned out by the media, the move from DLA to PIP has widened disability related inequalities and prejudices.

Amongst many of the disparities of PIP, until 2020 claimants were not allowed to make digital recordings of their assessments.   

Many claimants resorted to using cassette tapes.  In fact, lots of the reviews on the Argos website for a cassette recorder were from people buying them for their PIP assessment.  I am interested in exploring the symbolism cassette tapes provide in this context.

Cassettes and Crip Resistance

In many ways cassette tapes represent the unfixed cracked nature of impairment.   Cassette tapes signify physical frailty; death and decay more forcefully even than vinyl.  They break and jam easily and require patience and time to be fixed. Even when they are ‘fixed’ they still hiss and distort recordings.

But they are also a symbol of rebellion, hope and freedom.  Cassette tapes can be recycled or hacked for bootleg recordings and are free from the claws of digital algorithms.   Cassette tapes are nakedly honest, and in this sense they are the perfect representation of ‘crip’ culture and resistance.


Still in it’s R&D phase I have created a chain of exchange between strangers through spoken word, remixing, cassette mail art, movement, flim (within a sound art context) exploring these areas:

1.   Milestones in the development of tapes alongside the fight for disability rights in the UK. 

2.   Personal stories about anything related to disability rights – not necessarily PIP – and/or cassette tapes.

3.   The recent surge in cassette culture and how it redefines our perceptions of value. In light of Covid-19, will we also revalue jobs such as farm labours or provide more investment for smallholdings?

I am still looking for more collaborators, but in my next blog I will post the work created so far.

Supported by Graeae Theatre Company (Beyond Programme) and Heart of Glass Arts Agency.

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