Trish Wheatley talks to Liz Crow about her new work 'Bedding In' which is one of the eight Diverse Perspectives commissions funded by Arts Council Grants for the Arts programme.
Liz Crow has long been a part of the Disability Arts movement. As an artist-activist the importance of situating her work as a political statement has been obvious. With a movement towards live art and away from film media, this was perhaps most notable in her hour on Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth sat in her wheelchair dressed in a Nazi uniform as part of Sculptor Antony Gormley’s 'One and Other' in 2009. This was a both a political provocation and promotion of her touring installation Resistance: Which way the future?.
At the beginning of November Liz will make further steps into this exploration of performative arts activism. The piece is called 'Bedding In' and has been commissioned as part of the DAO Diverse Perspectives programme which has been supported by Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts. 'Bedding In' will be featured at SPILL Festival of Performance at Ipswich, a leading Festival of Live Art from 1st – 3rd November. The festival is the UK’s premier artist-led festival of experimental theatre, live art and performance.
Informed by critical thinking developed through her current work on a doctorate at the University of Bristol, Bedding In emerges from the current welfare benefits overhaul. It aims to highlight the grim situation that many are finding themselves in; caught between the threat of poverty and a propagandist campaign that has seen disability hate crime rise dramatically. In a standard gallery format, exhibited beyond a red rope barrier, a woman lies in her bed.
Liz explains “I wear a public self that is energetic, dynamic and happening. I am also ill and spend much of life in bed. The private self is neither beautiful nor grownup, it does not win friends or accolades, and I conceal it carefully. But the benefits system demands a reversal, my private self paraded to justify support.”
It is through the opportunity presented by live art that Liz is able to explore these ideas further and open them up to create a visual reference that acts as a catalyst for the audience to consider the personal implications, contradictions and challenging power relationships caused by the benefits overhaul.
“Bedding In is a performance in which I take my private self and make it public, something I have not done in over 30 years. It feels dangerous exposed exciting. Since the public me is so carefully constructed, this will be a kind of un-performing of my self.”
“I want to make a twilight existence visible. But more, I want to show that what many people see as contradiction, what they call fraud, is only the complexity of real life. This is not a work of tragedy, but of in/visibility and complication; a chance to perform my self without façade.”
Each day at SPILL Festival, members of the public will be invited to Bedside Conversations, gathering round the bed or perching upon it to talk about the work, its backdrop, its politics. From these conversations, Liz hopes to create documentation that will then be presented online.
For more information on Bedding In and the Bedside Conversations go to the SPILL Festival website.