Shape speaks to National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) commissioned artist Poppy Nash to gain some insight into Poppy’s involvement with our second Tate Exchange programme Ghosts in the Machine with her participatory creative session No More Pity at Tate Modern from 1 to 4 March.

Shape: Welcome Poppy! We are very pleased to have you on board as an artist-facilitator for our second Tate Exchange programme Ghosts in the Machine, taking place at Tate Modern from 1 to 4 March. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your practice?

Poppy: Hello, I am an artist and designer based in Glasgow and I’ve been commissioned by Shape’s disability heritage project NDACA to create a work titled ‘12/7 Tripping’. It consists of printed textiles, ceramics and laser cut numbers to form a mystical dream interior that represents how it feels in my head as I live my life with Type 1 Diabetes. 

I like to use printed cloth, clothing and costume in my work because I feel that it is something that surrounds us physically every day through wearing clothes, sleeping in bedding and using fabric.

During my degree, I started becoming fascinated by the idea of how our clothing defines who we are and how these fabric objects can tell stories - the idea that you are what you wear. I was heavily inspired by the women on the home front in World War Two, whose clothing was made from textiles printed with wartime motifs and patriotic messages. Through these design objects, we are told a story about that period of time and this captures the personal way it made people feel and what they believe in. A similar story can be seen in the shocking, beautiful, fascinating world of Japanese propaganda kimonos, a form of Japanese popular art that flourished from 1900 to 1945 and reflects the daily protest through fashion – which I think is extraordinarily powerful.

S: You’ll be running a four-day drop-in session with NDACA – No More Pity – as part of Ghosts in the Machine. What can visitors expect and how will they be able to participate?

P: Firstly, visitors can expect to learn about the History of Disability Art in the UK. The people involved in the movement were brave and fought for what they believed was right - it is inspirational to me that you can be so spirited and fearless.

Visitors are invited to come and create their own protest slogans by drawing and writing their ideas on templates. I will then be taking these ideas and printing them live in the space onto a huge six meter banner – it’s a great opportunity for the public to have their ideas collated and used to generate a piece of art, and I hope people will hang around and talk to each other and enjoy the space and the experience. Expect to see a lot of colourful works - I just can't stop myself in that department! 

We want to create an environment full of enthusiasm and fire similar to previous low-fi protest demonstration preparation: a way of creating art that is not overly considered or planned. I like low-fi art making because there’s a sense of immediacy and authenticity that comes with it.

S: What was the inspiration for the title: No More Pity?

P: It is inspired by my favourite slogan on one of the original t-shirts: ‘Piss on Pity’. It's bold and rude and funny and powerful and that's why I like it. We twisted the original slogan so that our event ‘No More Pity’ pays homage to the original idea while representing a new direction in the movement.

S: ‘What does equality mean to you now?’ is the main provocation that ‘No More Pity’ will be exploring and seeking contributions to. How important do you think it is to have a dialogue around equality in an institution like Tate?

P: I think the art world can be quite exclusive and intimidating and I find it is commonplace for people to dismiss it and say ‘it's not their thing’ because they can't find a way in to it - some art can be so hyper-conceptual and loses all meaning and some of the language used within art can be impossible to understand and turn people off.That's strange to me because I feel that art is for everybody to enjoy and learn from and use as a tool to express themselves.  

From my perspective, I feel that it is very important that an institution like Tate is encouraging discussion around the topic of equality both in the context of art in general but also in the context of this programme and art within the Disability Art movement.  

S: Can you tell us what, for you, is the significance of Shape’s Ghosts in the Machine programme as a whole, and its aims of challenging and exploring assumptions about the role of disabled people in art?

P: Disability art, in the end, is just art. It's all just art.  Art is about culture and people's life experience and how they feel.  It is the medium through which we can tell stories to the viewer and I guess in that way art is being used to communicate our ideas and inform and challenge our viewers’ preconceived ideas.

S: Lastly, what is it that you hope for visitors to take away from No More Pity?

P: To understand the importance of the Disability Art heritage and for people to be more aware of social issues and how everyone is essentially equal and entitled to equal opportunities.  Protest and 'speaking up/out' is a very powerful thing, it can change things, BIG things.  We all have freedom of speech so we need to go ahead and use it. If these disabled activists didn’t go out there and start protesting about what they believed in and wearing bold t-shirt like ‘Piss on Pity’ and chaining themselves to public transport, then I wonder where we would all be now.

Through the power of speech and low-fi art and DIY culture, a group of people managed to change laws in our country, which had a knock on effect on the attitudes of the whole world. I take my hat off to those people; it would be great if from our small workshop the visitors could see that too and feel thankful and inspired to keep fueling change!

Many thanks Poppy!

Ghosts in the Machine will take place from 1 to 4 March at Tate Modern, from 12 to 6pm daily. It is free to attend, suitable for all ages, and is fully wheelchair accessible and BSL interpreted.

NDACA and Poppy Nash – No More Pity at Ghosts in the Machine is open to the public every day from 1 to 4 March – drop in any time from 12 to 6pm.

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Image c. Poppy Nash - '12/7 Tripping', with photography by Melanie Hyams.