In the summer of 2015, I collaborated with contemporary and historical photographer, Michele Selway, to produce ‘Hanging in the Balance’.
Made in association with Forge Woodland Residency in the Whirligig Woods, ‘Hanging in the Balance’ symbolised the devastating impact austerity is having on disabled people in the UK.
Using wet plate processes in the remote woodland area, we photographed disability related paraphernalia (such as wheelchairs and walking sticks) hanging ominously in the trees. The emptiness of these images, along with the antique process used, creates a haunting double negative.
Suggesting a post apocalyptic scenario, these images depict the deep sense of threat and despair many disabled people feel about their future: A future that hangs in the balance.
‘Hanging in the Balance’ toured across Wales in association with Disability Arts Cymru between October 2015 and June 2016.
In response to recent cases of growth attenuation and forced sterilisation of disabled people, I composed a unique documentary sound installation – ‘A Womb With A View’. My installation is a journey into the complexities of ‘womanhood’ and our reproductive rights.
The documentary is both funny, hopeful and at times heart wrenching. In 2016 I worked in collaboration with visual and textile artist Jennifer Bryant, to present the piece in a physical form. Their installation piece was showcased at the Shoddy exhibition in Leeds, Spring 2016.
“Fundamentally it means that I am female, it has dictated the shape of my body and the sound of my voice…. my hormones, so my emotions.”
“It’s holding a little baby.”
“I didn’t start my periods till i was 17 and what it did was heralded the beginning of puberty, and for me that meant I got a lot stronger.”
“Women with epilepsy were routinely sterilised in this country until quite recently.”
“My sex education came from behind bomb shelters and walls and things.”
“It’s the one thing you can’t give a man who wants to become a woman, the essence of being a woman is having a womb.”
“One of society’s concepts is that to be a real woman you need to have a womb amongst other things like breasts, and dress a certain way and behave a certain way, but a womb is an important part of womanhood for a lot of people.”
“Womanhood is about the inner self and not the superficial exterior.”
“Protecting her from pain or distress by cutting into her body and slicing through skin and muscle and membrane and taking organs out, seems a really brutal overreaction.”
“Part of the notion that you should sterilise somebody with an intellectual impairment comes from a deeply discriminatory position tied to a kind of sense of gothic horror that some people might be sexual.”
“I certainly don’t think that people who don’t have wombs, I don’t think they’re not women because they don’t have that, I don’t think you need breasts to be a woman, I fundamentally don’t believe in that tie.”
Last Friday fellow artist, Michele Selway and myself launched ‘The Woodlawners’, a photographic exhibition and oral history of the lives and living arrangements of the residents of Woodlawn Court, Manchester.Built in the 1930’s, Woodlawn Court comprises of 78 flats and is situated in the leafy suburban area of Whalley Range. A few of the older residents have lived there since it was first built, and still refer to the housing development as Whalley House – home of local entrepreneur Samuel Brooks. Whalley House was demolished to make way for the flats, but within the spacious grounds you can still find a few traces of the original structure.Produced in August 2012, inspiration for the project came from Daniel Meadow’s and Martin Parr’s exhibition ‘June Street’. Originally the work was presented on a cloud based virtual canvas, with an aim to create a similar digital story with a more contemporary feel. Because we wanted to provide the audience with an insight into the history of the area and relationships between neighbours, we recorded residents speaking about their experience of living in the area, and how it has changed. Both the photographs and oral archive touch on issues of diversity, isolation and community spirit.
The photographic exhibition will be up until Sunday 22nd November at BBQ Arts, 486 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester.