Tony Heaton entitled his picture White on White, thus playing with the ambiguity of the titles of many modernist works of art. But it's subtitle: Barbara, Johnny and the Quiet Revolution told a more melodramatic tale. Johnny Crescendo and his partner, stage-named Wanda Barbara, were the main acts for a Disability Arts Cabaret at a "special" school. Johnny has a rock and roller's prediliction for not just volume but raw language. The non-disabled organisers taste was for censorship. So he simply pulled the plug on the amplifier.

In response to the paternalistic way many people in institutionalised settings are treated, Johnny and Barbara circulated a poem. It's message was that disabled people were allowed to say thank you to mainstream performers who were allowed to entertain them with their charity, but were not allowed to express a contrary view. Each verse concluding "but they do"! Tony's reference to a "quiet revolution" was that only in 2003 was sign language been recognised as an official language! In this artwork the top line of arts conservators' white gloves spell "smile". But to read the bottom line you will need to find a BSL user.

White on White - Tony Heaton

White on White
(Barbara, Johnny and the Quiet Revolution) 

Artist: Tony Heaton

Year: 2002

Medium: Mixed Media

Dimensions: 148cm (w) x 89cm (h)