‘Demonstrating the World’ (Collected Handshapes)

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This print by Aaron Williamson illustrates a new language of hand-shapes – both reinforcing and destabilising their apparent familiarity. Originally presented on a purpose-built mobile performance platform, it accompanied a durational public intervention where Williamson created absurdly elaborate, live reinterpretations of YouTube ‘How-To’ videos. Drawing from this contemporary archive of ‘folk performance’, the artist enacted everyday tasks such as opening a cupboard, removing a jacket, or sitting on a chair, with detailed step-by-step instructions. The project was developed through a Research & Development award in the first round of Unlimited in 2014. It has been performed in the Experimentica Festival, Chapter Arts Gallery, Cardiff (2015); Southbank Centre's Unlimited Festival, London (2016); and Tramway's Unlimited Festival, Glasgow (2016). It also features in The Routledge 21st Century Performance Reader (2019).

    Demonstrating the World reflects issues which run throughout Williamson’s work, informed by his experience of becoming deaf and by a politicised, yet humorous sensibility towards disability. In 1998, Williamson coined the term ‘Deaf Gain’ as a counter-emphasis to ‘hearing loss’ during a University of California San Diego lecture.
  • About the artist
    Born in Derby, Aaron Williamson completed his doctorate on performance and writing at the University of Sussex in 1997. He has created more than 300 exhibitions, performances, interventions, videos, installations and publications for galleries, museums and festivals. Internationally, these include the 2013 Venice Biennale; Nippon Performance Art Festival, presented in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kohnosu (2009); and 2nd DaDao Festival, Beijing (2004). Grants and awards include an AHRC grant (2004–7) and the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at Oxford University and the British School at Rome (2001–2). In the UK, selected shows are Tate (2010, 2011, 2012, 2015); Bluecoat & Liverpool Biennial (2014); Spike Island & Arnolfini, Bristol (2010); and Hayward Gallery, London (2006). Alongside his practice, Williamson has lectured at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and Goldsmiths College, London; and has been a Visiting Lecturer to numerous institutions internationally. Since 2010, he has been a Trustee of Shape London the UK’s leading disability-led arts organisation.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    print (as object name), digital print
  • Details
    ‘Demonstrating the World’ (Collected Handshapes)
    One of an edition of 3
    digital print
    height: 115.0 cm; width: 158.5 cm; depth: 5.5 cm
    Purchased from the artist March 2021, through the Art XUK project 2020-21
    The artist; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 18 March 2021
    GAC number