Everywhere and Nowhere
The film was co-created with a team of researchers from the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries and the National Trust, alongside myself and filmmakers Belle Vue Productions. Deaf-led organisation Remark! supported with British Sign Language and accessibility.
Everywhere and Nowhere Is a research collaboration between the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester and the National Trust. It explores little known and previously untold histories of disability from across Trust sites and collections. Our approach places experience and expertise around disability at the heart of a collaborative research process to investigate how stories related to the lives of disabled people in the past can be ethically researched and presented in new ways.
The aim is to build and share richer and fuller histories about the Trust’s sites, their collections and the people who lived and worked there; by highlighting gaps and omissions, we raise questions about the stories cultural institutions choose to tell and those they overlook or choose to silence.
Researching disability history is a complex endeavour. For a whole range of reasons we very often know less about the lives of disabled people in the past than we do about non-disabled people. Negative and stigmatising attitudes can mean that our archives are partial and it can be difficult, but not impossible, to build a full picture of both the lives of disabled people – in their own words – and the social norms and attitudes that shaped their experience. Contemporary attitudes towards disability also play a part in obscuring or distorting the past. Historic connections to disability may be viewed as unimportant or omitted for fear of causing offense. Disabled people from the past are often presented in narrow, reductive and dehumanising ways or through the use of persistent and commonplace negative stereotypes. A fresh look at historical records can sometimes reveal those same lives filled with opportunity and autonomy, influence and adventure, love and joy.
In the absence of information about the lives of disabled people in the past, there is a risk that cultural institutions can present objects and stories in ways that erase disabled histories or reproduce untruths and are harmful to the lives of disabled people today; leaving little room for empathy, understanding or human connection.
Everywhere and Nowhere aims to tell stories linked to disability in ways that are as respectful and ethical as they are engaging and enlightening. Developed with disabled collaborators and experts in disability history, our research to date suggests that connections to disability are indeed everywhere, threaded through our heritage buildings and landscapes, the lives, collections and historical records attached to them. The stories we share through Everywhere and Nowhere begin to address long standing omissions, drawing disabled lives and experiences into view.
The Archive of an Unseen
Scroll through fragments of the artist’s life story, growing up black, disabled and working class in the 1980s, in this interactive artwork.
Christopher Samuel’s work addresses the imbalance of representation in medical and social archives to build a better understanding of the wider spectrum of the human experience.
Move through a digital archive of Samuel’s childhood from before his diagnosis at age seven, being registered as disabled at age 14, through to leaving high school. Layers of audio, video and photography form what he describes as an “expanded documentary” of his life. These are presented in a custom-built re-creation of a Microform reader – a viewing instrument usually operated by specialists – echoing the medical scrutiny he experienced as a child.
‘The Archive of an Unseen’ is commissioned and supported by Wellcome Collection and by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council England.
The Wellcome Collection
Cared 4 Network
Who has the control in a prescribed care relationship? Christopher has made a playful interpretation of the log book documents that carers are required to fill in daily as they administer care, drawing on his own experiences of being cared for for inspiration. Log books are used by care companies to monitor the amount of care delivered and the ongoing needs of the cared for person. They are instrumental in determining both the continued support for the cared for person and continued funding for the care company. Yet these documents are recorded entirely from the perspective of the carer. The often deeply personal and intrusive data gathered is completely out of the control of the person being cared for, and is shared in undisclosed ways amongst care companies and funders to be assessed. This process of data control creates a system of power that works against the person being cared for, protecting primarily the business interests of the care company. In The Cared For Network, Christopher reclaims this perspective to create his own log of events over a period of several days, imagining what happens if the power dynamic of the carer and the cared for unravels. Christopher imagines the possibility of these shadow log books, appearing on p2p networks, being written by the people being cared for or with full honesty by the carers, making space for a more revealing account of the processes of care.
Swinging in the Wind
Through a series of one to one conversations with men who have experienced a cancer diagnosis and treatment, Christopher gathered stories and insights into some of the unspoken impacts that cancer can have on men’s lives – What couldn’t they normally say? How had their sense of selves as men changed? What weren’t they told about?
Direct, open, honest, conversations allowed these men to reveal taboo and unspoken accounts of how their sense of mascilinity, sexual identity and sex lives were impacted, and what became important to each of them as their bodies changed.
Just as awkwardness and social norms stop many conversations about these side effects, Christopher wryly uses redaction and blocking out text from NHS pamphlets to uncover some untold stories.
Unseen was a series of photographic prints depicting areas of Blackpool that are inaccessible; be that physically, economically or culturally inaccessible. This series investigated everyday inaccessibility many people encounter on a daily basis. It takes audiences to places they might not think of as inaccessible or they might find solace.
Cripple explores the idea of idleness in the context of our reality in which disabled people have been pushed further to the margins of society as a direct consequence of austerity. The weaponisation of productivity under austerity means many view disabled people as lazy or idle and not deserving of help. Without support, however, their human rights are compromised, disabling them from participating in society and forcing them into a cycle of marginalisation.
Sleep-in Installation at Art B&B in Blackpool, which is a room for people to experience inaccessibility. I wanted to challenge the idea that when it comes to access, one size fits all and to create a conversation around accessibility. It was about designing a space that needs to be experienced to be understood, a slightly theatrical space, one that targets non-disabled people.
Photographs by Claire-Griffiths
Tackles the laws surrounding independent housing for disabled people, cutbacks in care and laws around health and care. The UK government has since been making cuts to benefit programs that give financial support to people with disabilities who cannot work and provide for themselves financially.
Screen prints: Paper, Ink
Collection of interviews about family dynamics
Glass, Pewter, Copper, Resin, Audio
What's Your Class
Collection of Family & Social dynamics
Glass, Pewter, Copper, Resin, Audio
The bond, unrequited
Routine and life events
Plaster, Steel, Copper
Medical charts, Assessment forms, Log forms, Ink, Thread, Wire