Banner image: Credit Ker Wallwork. Description: Crop of a watercolour painting mostly comprised of hues of red, with dark and light gestural marks to embelish with detail. A  hairless figure is portrayed. The image is cropped so only the side of their face - one eye, one ear, slivers of the nose and head - is visible.

Ker Wallwork is the recipient of the first Baltic x Shape Emergent Residency. Emergent is a new hybrid residency and support programme for early-career artists, delivered in partnership with Shape Arts, a disability-led organisation based in London. Wallwork has a multi-disciplinary practice spanning moving image, drawing, text, and sculpture. Their work is about language, queerness, sickness and the welfare state, and is broadly concerned with miscommunication.

During their residency, Wallwork is staging an intervention on Baltic’s Level 5 viewing platform and in other areas of the building. Titled, Merg (2020–ongoing) the intervention will take place over several days. The work takes the form of a benefits letter, handed out to visitors by Baltic Crew, enclosed in the infamous, now discontinued, brown envelopes used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Addressed to Joseph Rank, the original owner of Baltic Flour Mills, and to some of the first people to work at the mill when it opened, the letter incorporates direct quotes and language from the DWP’s guidance for benefit assessors.

Merg is part of a series of works chronicling the logic and language of austerity that has been used to justify increasing privatisation of the Health and Care sectors, and welfare reforms, which have had a devastating impact on the lives of many sick and disabled people. The letters will include a postcard with a still image from Wallwork’s moving image work Whatever, Pedant (2020).


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