This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Blog 11: Eavesdropping on an Eavesdropper / 22 November 2012

artist aaron williamson poses on a plinth in the walker art gallery, with a face covered in eyes

Aaron Williamson as 'The Eavesdropper'. Photo by Ruth Adams.

Zoom in to this image and read text description

By Lucy Gardner, Assistant Curator of Fine Art, National Museums, Liverpool

This was my first experience working with and artist in residence and it has been a truly eye opening occurrence.  We are extremely happy that Aaron chose the Walker to eavesdrop upon and I was pleased to be asked to facilitate the project. I could never have imagined the depth and scope of the research which was going to take place.

Over 6 months of Aaron’s visits to the Walker I have been lucky to have borne witness to the inner mechanics of the creative process, from the very beginning of his idea through its many incarnations to the development of the final magnificent performance. Indeed I feel as if Aaron has allowed me the privilege to have been surreptitiously eavesdropping on his own mind.

Every day I work among the many works of art in the Walker Art Gallery’s collection but very rarely do I get the chance to see how something is conceived and observe the depth and mass of thought that goes into creating this type of conceptual work. I had not anticipated that I would be so fascinated by the process itself but as the time approached for the performance I realised I was upset that it was over!

I think that Aaron’s working style is a reflection of his character. He is extremely contentious, never leaving a stone unturned in his quest for knowledge and understanding. In every step of his residency here he has pushed the barriers in order to find out more than was on the immediate surface. He has spent time as a gallery assistant studying visitor’s reactions to the artworks, explored the stores and cellars and delved deep into the copious amounts of information we hold on the paintings.

I sometimes worried I would lose him in the piles of paper and files, yet he would always reappear having found something I myself had never uncovered! In his quest he asked extremely difficult questions about the collection and the workings of the gallery, always wanting to find out more. I feel that through his incursion into the Walker Art Gallery my own knowledge of its collections, its history, its people and its purpose has grown hugely and I want to thank him for this.

The performance was extremely popular and each person who engaged with Aaron expressed a different reaction, from an elderly lady who informed me she wanted to tickle his feet to the student who told me the statue had ‘very real skin’.

For three days the models trapped within the paintings in our Victorian room were bought to life and visitors were able to experience the collection in a new and exciting way. The research Aaron has done has been fantastic, it will be used in the future for further talks and tours, we will of course credit our inquisitive Eavesdropper!

Keywords: audiences,visual arts,walker art gallery