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ju90 gives a run-down on the UK-wide tour of her show Abnormal / 18 January 2011

the artist Ju Gosling mounts an exhibit in her show Abnormal

The artist ju90 and an assistant, prepare to hang an exhibit in her show Abnormal.

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I am going to use this blog to focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People as it relates to art, culture and sport. The Convention, which the UK ratified in 2009 (with reservations), states that disabled people should be able to participate in art, culture and sport on an equal basis, and, critically, that our own culture must be respected and encouraged (which presumably also means funded).

As a member of the group that is monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Convention, I am using my own experience to report back to the Office for Disability Issues and the other committee members. I am also going to share and document it here. The UK Disabled People’s Council is launching a website where individuals can report their own experiences, both positive and negative, and I encourage all DAO readers to bookmark the site and to use it whenever appropriate. More news about this next time.

This week I am still reeling from the news that my Abnormal national touring exhibition was taken down after just 48 hours in its new venue, the Bioscience Centre at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. The exhibition resulted from an 18-month artist’s residency at the National Institute of Medical Research, and both the residency and the tour have been funded by the Wellcome Trust. The tour has been ongoing for two years without complaint, and Newcastle was its seventh venue.

In Liverpool the media coverage was all positive, and the feedback was even better. The genteel residents of Bournemouth were confronted by it in their central library for seven weeks without finding it controversial, and engaged with the show in a workshop and open discussion. In Huddersfield and in Edinburgh, theatre-goers had foyer and café areas turned into an Abnormal environment, and the only problematic response was when the exhibit Shai was stolen by an over-enthusiastic fan in Huddersfield. In Belfast, a white coat bearing the word ‘God’ on it was hung in the window opposite the cathedral without raising an eyebrow, and an artist’s talk, private view and workshop were all well-attended.

However, in Newcastle the exhibition was felt to be inappropriate in a building attended by fertility clinic patients, and was widely complained about. It is currently in the process of being relocated to the visitor centre, where scientists and intending parents will only have to see it if they choose to do so.

Yet 700 scientists walked past the show three times a day for two months when it was in its original home at the National Institute of Medical Research, and pregnant women and parents of disabled children have given me some of the most positive feedback to date. I didn’t even know the building was used for anything other than laboratory research and teaching. Anyway, judge for yourself – you can find the Abnormal website at, or follow the link from my Home Page and see more of my work at