The Ship of Crips, 2012 / 22 August 2012
Last Saturday I chartered a fully accessible barge from the wonderful 'Pirate Castle', in Camden Town, for a group performance/trip down The Regents Canal. Having researched the Renaissance practice of setting disabled people adrift on boats, and the famous 15th Century allegory based on that image ('The Ship of Fools', Das Narrenschiff, by Sebastian Brant) it occurred to me that our current government's practice of withdrawing financial support from up to 40% of disabled benefits claimants (via ATOS) might be viewed in a similar light (eg setting people adrift) My idea was to create a comedic and empowered version of 'The Ship of Fools', poetically inverting a historic relationship between disability and powerlessness or folly.
In a panicky two days I corralled a group of fellow artists to come on an indeterminate journey with me. Unlike the Royal Floatilla wash out, we were lucky to have 30 degree heat all day. Dressed in a collection of medieval garb, and with no filmmakers direction, we headed down the canal drinking cava and eating boat shaped h'or dourves in the sun, singing 'God save the Queen' by the Sex Pistols, performing Royal waves to onlookers, and generally had a riot.
Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello, who collaborate as DAG (The Disabled Avant Garde) injected a lot of their brilliant humour and energy, Tom Coogan taught me how to play songs by Smog (Bill Callahan) on guitar, Lucy the Chihuahua played an unconvincing corgi, Lisa Selby and Jill Van Epps transformed into very beautiful, sultry, then vampiric mermaids, Jimmy the skipper was cool, Kate Mahoney wore a cape and beak, Jack and Yuko Catling were reflective, until we hit a long tunnel, when Jack had an inspired idea to sing a song from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory - the one about being lost. We all drank too much and got too much sun, and by the time we reached Little Venice that calm that descends on long journeys kicked in and we stopped performing and just enjoyed the ride. Then we raided t a large supermarket in full costume to restock on booze and sundries...
Thank goodness Rachel Dowle, a very professional filmmaker who works with Kate Mahoney a lot, was on board. She filmed from the banks and the boat, with no direction at all, and is editing a film of the trip for screening at Camden Arts Centre, on September 12th. I got a bit of footage on my camera, so plan to make a short/trailer out of that.
Meanwhile I've been in the studio at CAC working on new 'Pugs in Space' paintings, chatting to visitors about the residency and my work, making sculptures, planning a new film about Unicorn Hunts, collecting Boring Stories and one word poem 'SHHH's' to camera, and eating delicious panini's from the cafe, which has a brand new orange juicing machine that is a thing to behold and is keeping me in Viramin C.
I'm giving a talk about my work as part of the Cafe Curio programme at Camden Arts Centre this Sunday 26th, from 3-5pm. If the weather's good it may well turn into an invitation to everyone to star in a new Unicorn Hunt film, to be made in the garden, drawing from some 15th Century Dutch tapestries that I'm a bit obsessed with...