Specimens and Superhumans

Aaron Williamson presses his nose and mouth to a modern glass cabinet at The Huntarian Museum. The cabinet is filled with medical specimens.
Aaron Williamson, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Specimens and Superhumans, Specimen Mirror, 2011
Benedict Phillips sits in front of a blackboard wearing a dunce hat. He is surrounded by wooden objects, and is holding a timer.
Benedict Phillips, 3D Thinking in a 2D World, Specimens and Superhumans, 2011.
Brian Catling covers his face with his hands.
Brian Catling, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Specimens and Superhumans, 2011.
A pen drawing of Gabriel Hardistry-Miller and Ben Connors.
Gabriel Hardistry-Miller and Ben Connors, Alternative Ways of Thinking, Specimens and Superhumans, 2011.
Katherine Araniello dressed in an animal outfit, a large grey tube is attached to her nose.
Katherine Araniello, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Specimens and Superhumans, 2011
Stratigraphic illustration of artist Jon Adam's visit to ARC
Autism Research Centre visit 3
Anna Bergstrom stands with electrodes all over her body. Her body is recreated digitally in the second image.
Anna Bergstrom, All That Happened To Us, 2011, Trevor Mathison's image of Anna.

A series of events exploring contemporary issues around biomedical science, disability and ethics, and how these are explored, represented and critiqued in art.

Specimens to Superhumans was a series of four events curated by The Arts Catalyst and Shape.  The events provided creative opportunities to show the work of and to provide mentoring, development and networking opportunities for disabled artists.

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits considered specimens and curiosities through infiltrating and responding to the exotic and disturbing collection of London’s Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. With Aaron Williamson, Sinéad O'Donnell, Brian Catling and Katherine Araniello

Alternative Ways of Thinking

At a time when the media frequently feature stories about screening for or even ‘curing’ autism, presenting it as an affliction or disease, this event explored and celebrated the special qualities of the autistic mind. With Simon Baron-CohenJon Adams, Gabriel Hardistry-Miller and Ben Connors.

Benedict Phillips unleashed his dyslexic side in his performance piece 3D Thinking in a 2D World.

"All that happened to us..."

An event exploring the implications of the biomechanics of ageing for contemporary dance practice with Ann Dickie, Anna BergströmTrevor Mathison, Professor Raymond Lee, Dr Siobhan Strike and Dr Jin Luo.

Bionic People

A two-day practical workshop with award-winning filmmaker John Williams creating short films that imaginatively address themes of disability, bioethics and prosthetics. This practical and inspiring two-day workshop gave disabled artists who already work with film/video and disabled emerging filmmakers an opportunity to explore and extend their work in these media.

Event Details

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits

Hunterian Museum, London 12 May 2011

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits considered specimens and curiosities through infiltrating and responding to the exotic and disturbing collection of London’s Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. The audience had the chance to explore the displays while encountering four simultaneous site-specific performances curated by Aaron Williamsion and commissioned by Shape and The Arts Catalyst to respond to the museum's permanent collection: Aaron Williamson, Sinéad O'Donnell, Brian Catling and Katherine Araniello. This was followed by a panel discussion. Artists Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello, were joined on the panel by Brian Hurwitz, D’Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts at Kings College, and Sam Alberti, Director of the Hunterian Museum, for a discussion about the historical representation of disability and contemporary approaches taken by the medical community, chaired by the Richard Hollingham.

Full-length panel discussion could be seen in the videos below:

Alternative Ways of Thinking

Cheltenham Science Festival, 10 June 2011

Exploring the Autistic Mind 

At a time when the media frequently feature stories about screening for or even ‘curing’ autism, presenting it as an affliction or disease, this event explores the special qualities of the autistic mind. Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre, discusses creativity and the autistic mind with artist and geologist, Jon Adams, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, Gabriel Hardistry-Miller, a non-verbal young man with autism who, with artist Ben Connors, runs a music, performance and poetry club.

Gabriel & Ben's video- How We Met can be viewed here:

Benedict Phillips, 3D Thinkers in a 2D World

In this humorous and thought-provoking performance, artist Benedict Phillips unleashes his dyslexic side as ‘The DIV’ highlighting and examining our presumptions about intelligence, communication and perception, unravelling the numerous misconceptions surrounding dyslexia and presenting the unusual advantages it brings.

"All that happened to us..."

Roehampton University Dance Faculty, London, Thursday 22 September 2011

An event exploring the implications of the biomechanics of ageing for contemporary dance practice. 

 While traditional dance science looks at how to enable an elite dancer to achieve perfection in both performance and aesthetics, this participative event will seek to explore what we can learn from the science of ageing about how a disabled or older dancer’s body works and what they need in order to perform to full capacity and to unlock their body’s full potential.For both older and disabled dancers, achieving elite standards may be neither possible nor what they are striving for, and this event explored the nuances between the social model of disability and the medical model of ageing, to see what common ground emerges.

The collaborative event, hosted by the University, was led by choreographers Ann Dickie, Director of From Here to Maturity Dance Company and Anna Bergström, Associate Artist at Candoco Dance Company, audio and digital artist, Trevor Mathison. Drawing from expertise across Roehampton UniversityProfessor Raymond Lee and his colleagues Dr Siobhan Strike and Dr Jin Luo from the Active Ageing Unit at Life Sciences Department also participated in the event. We are grateful for the support of Roehampton University’s Dance Faculty and for the input from Louise Portlock and Frank McDaniels from Gloucestershire Dance.

Bionic People

Two-day filmmaking workshop for disabled artists and filmmakers, part of DadaFest,  30-31 July 2012

John Williams, a writer/director with over 10 years experience, whose films combine live action, animation and visual effects, engagingly dealing with highly sensitive subjects, including mental health (‘Robots’), young children dealing with the death of a friend (‘Hibernation’) and a child’s complex feelings towards his robotic dialysis machine (‘Paraphernalia’), led the two day practical workshop.
Gary Thomas from Disability Arts Online attended the workshop and created this film.

Partners

Shape, Hunterian Museum, Cheltenham Science Festival, Roehampton University, DadaFest

Funders

Funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award, and Arts Council England