Unfolding Shrines

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You’ve been surrounded by the same four walls for some time now. Outside, the structures of society are shaking. Shape Arts invites you to explore the captivating worlds of four artists; rooms of cartoon strangeness, tender tribute, and unfolding shrines. Allow these augmented realities to seep into your own as the walls around you expand. 

Contains flashing lights, vivid colours, and sound effects. QR code which, when scanned, opens a webpage from where you can download the app.

Unfolding Shrines is part of the Adam Reynolds Award programme, Shape Arts’ flagship award established in 2008 in memory of the life and work of sculptor Adam Reynolds. It is designed to support a mid-career disabled artist or artists through funding and exhibition opportunities. Jason Wilsher-Mills was the recipient of the ARA in 2020 and it is largely due to his ongoing collaboration with Hot Knife Digital Media that this group show was possible.

This exhibition features the work of artists Jason Wilsher-Mills, Sophie Helf, Rebekah Ubuntu, and Uma Breakdown, developed and designed in collaboration with Hot Knife Digital Media. The Shape Arts team are: Jeff Rowlings, Elinor Hayes, and Jane Sammut, the visual identity was designed by Mina Owen, and the access providers and creators: Ian Rattray, Hugh O’Donnell and Nikki Champagnie Harris.

With thanks to Arts Council England, Garfield Weston Foundation, Cultural Recovery Funds, and schuh for making this exhibition possible. Supported through the Mayor of London’s Culture at Risk Business Support Fund and the Creative Land Trust, we also thank the National Lottery Community Fund for their emergency COVID-19 Coronavirus Community Support Fund grant, supporting Shape artists under COVID-19 lockdown.  

The works in this show are products of the continued innovation and dedication of artists working through lockdown.

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The app is available on iOS and Android (Android Nougat 7 and above). If you are unable to download it, you can watch the full film here.

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Within a gallery-like room of vivid colours, with every surface covered by swirling designs and prints, framed artworks are mounted along the walls while before us stands a goddess-like figure with four arms - reminiscent of depictions of Kali, altho In a greyish evening New York street setting, photographs of shops, cafes and graffitied walls seem to come to life, framed by the overhead decking of the local train line. In the centre of the frame, an oversized image of graffiti reading ‘Cheat death in NYC’ attracts attention.
A digital field full of grass, with trees surrounding a large black screen. On the left of the screen grows a small plant with purple flowers, also digitally rendered. On the screen itself, text in capital letters reads “Rebekah Ubuntu.” On top of a grey and white grid, illustrated comic figures - in bright pinks and greens - sit, surrounding a box of text. The text, written in pink font, reads: “Alien rays cut through the padding of propranolol. Nerves should be soft not sharp, or at least they should be kept safe and held, like enamel holds a smooth bone around the networks in a tooth. That bit above the surface, the bit of the tooth in your mouth.”

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You’ve been surrounded by the same four walls for some time now. Outside, the structures of society are shaking. We have all had to adapt. We have had to evolve new and innovative ways of sharing, communicating, and experiencing connection in an unfamiliar and altered reality.

It has become evident, too, that our new reality straddles both the physical and digital spaces in which we spend our time. For disabled people, so often marginalised by the structures and attitudes of the physical world, these online spaces can offer degrees of equality and freedom that are elsewhere prohibited. 

We have seized this opportunity to chronicle the worlds dreamed up through this time of discontent; the augmented realities of marginalised creatives. In these rooms of tender tribute, four artists have built unfolding shrines; to people, places, and ideas that have revealed their importance against a backdrop of disruption.

The imagination of the marginalised has always tended toward the ‘radical,’ steered by the palpable need to create something new where the old is unfit for purpose. Where outdated systems have failed, might these radical redesigns proffer alternative futures? 

As you experience these landscapes, allow these augmented realities to seep into your own as the walls around you expand.

About the artworks

Jason and his Argonauts (Jason Wilsher-Mills, 2020)

Within a gallery-like room of vivid colours, with every surface covered by swirling designs and prints, framed artworks are mounted along the walls while before us stands a goddess-like figure with four arms - reminiscent of depictions of Kali, altho

Reflecting aspects of his personality, memory, illness, and disability, Jason’s gallery and the artworks it houses provide an opportunity to experience his practice in a magical environment. A reaction to the global pandemic that has engulfed the world, Jason and his Argonauts compels us to remember the pure joy of creativity. 

Jason and his Argonauts is an ongoing project designed to place Jason’s collaborators at the heart of his creations. Working so closely and so often with other disabled artists through workshops and events, Jason is committed to honouring their contributions through amusing, colourful, and eccentric references and depictions. You can experience the wider world of this project through the Jason Residential app, which Jason developed alongside Hot Knife of the course of his year as the Adam Reynolds Awardee.

Myrtle Avenue (Sophie Helf, 2021)

In a greyish evening New York street setting, photographs of shops, cafes and graffitied walls seem to come to life, framed by the overhead decking of the local train line. In the centre of the frame, an oversized image of graffiti reading ‘Cheat dea

Myrtle Avenue is the main vein through the neighbourhoods of Bushwick and Ridgewood in New York City. Or at least that’s how it feels to Sophie. The perennial din of the M train whirrs, the carriages rushing along the trestle overhead as people below shuffle and push, going where they need to go. At night it is - in equal parts - packed and desolate, sometimes both at once. Otherworldly, maybe. Or, perhaps, extra-worldly. 

Writer Sophie Helf transports us to New York City, to a street rich with personal resonance. The expectant and electric dark of an urban night is interrupted by Sophie’s animated thoughts. “Time hasn’t existed here for a while,” she muses. And as the vibrations of the city linger, you know this to be true.

Despair, Hope and Healing: Three movements for climate justice (Rebekah Ubuntu, 2019)

A digital field full of grass, with trees surrounding a large black screen. On the left of the screen grows a small plant with purple flowers, also digitally rendered. On the screen itself, text in capital letters reads “Rebekah Ubuntu.”

Despair, Hope and Healing: Three Movements for Climate Justice is a tribute to global BIPOC communities (Black/Indigenous/People of Colour), who contribute the least but are affected the most by climate collapse, and an amplification of voices from these communities fighting against environmental racism and climate injustice.

Sound artist Rebekah Ubuntu juxtaposes audio samples, field recordings and vocal activism in a composition dedicated to the unique, fragile and imperilled equilibrium of our planet's ecosystem. Conceived in 2017 during a commissioned performance at Tate Britain, this work has continued iterating through subsequent commissions from the Barbican Centre, Wellcome Collection and Tate Modern. The visuals for this work were created in collaboration with Rebekah’s longtime creative partner Jaime Peschiera.

"All people from all walks of life should have the right to breathe clean air." Despair opens with these words from Black American climate activist Cheryl Johnson, who, alongside her mother, has been fighting against environmental pollution since 1985.

In Hope, an Artificially Intelligent being prays to the ancestors for their timeless wisdom and guidance in the face of looming hopelessness.

In Healing, 16-year-old water protector Autumn Peltier addresses world leaders at the 2018 UN General Assembly on the issue of clean water. Autumn is Anishinaabe-kwe and a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation.

Mansions of Mist 1 (Uma Breakdown, 2021)

On top of a grey and white grid, illustrated comic figures - in bright pinks and greens - sit, surrounding a box of text. The text, written in pink font, reads: “Alien rays cut through the padding of propranolol. Nerves should be soft not sharp, or a

Mansions of Mist 1 weaves together fragments of various stories about systems and feelings in a broken future, told through pictures and words. It is made from great care and love and looping fear and there is no one way in which its parts can be mashed together.