The Future is Loading

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View the Shape Open 2020: The Future is Loading exhibition, featuring the work of 25 marginalised artists! 

"2020 has been a paradigm shift for many, a year like no other. A time of raw hardship and sudden turmoil in the midst of which we have witnessed gestures of care and support capable of reminding us: we need each other. 

For many disabled and marginalised people, familiar with adversity, witnessing the world come to a halt in a matter of days has paradoxically generated hope. Hope that, for once, the world might take greater heed of what it means to be shut away, impoverished and excluded. 

For people who are marginalised in the present day, facing discrimination and barriers to access, imagining the future can be an act of radical defiance.

As the crisis has evolved and its shockwaves travelled, we find it acting as a catalyst for many other significant conversations, in the home, the workplace, or whilst, in the case of the Black Lives Matter movement, taking to the streets in an assertion of grief and outrage. In this time of reflection and learning, a plurality of realisations has occurred. With this, widespread unrest and demands for change have arisen.

More than our lives, entire structures have been thrown into the air by what we are living though, revealing the outlines of a starkly unequal world. In the process, a pandemic of health has radicalised mainstream debate, and we are no longer shying away from discussing the pre-existing pandemics of racism, of gender discrimination, barriers to inclusion and advancement, of gaping inequality, isolation, and disenfranchisement. The list goes on.

Set against this uncertain and restless backdrop, where risk of greater exclusion battles with unique opportunities for change, we at Shape are looking to the future as an act of hope.

For people who are marginalised in the present day, facing discrimination and barriers to access, imagining the future can be an act of radical defiance. It is the act of making a claim to a space that is otherwise denied ­– and for once, marginalised people have the agency to place themselves at its centre."

The Shape Open is our annual exhibition of artwork by disabled and non-disabled artists created in response to a disability-centred theme. The Open provides a space where disabled and non-disabled artists can discuss and exchange views and ideas about issues and topics which are often sidelined within artistic debate.

The Future is Loading / Shape Open 2020

Curated and creatively produced by Shape Arts 

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Latest Shape collaobration: Panteha contributed to the Shape Open 2020: The Future is Loading.

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Artist Statement: Panteha Abareshi is an artist based in Los Angeles, California. Panteha’s practice is rooted in their existence living with sickle cell zero beta thalassemia - a genetic blood disorder that causes debilitating pain. The coalescence of Panteha’s identity means she is fully immersed in ‘Otherness,’ by her own definition. Through her work, Panteha pushes back against the lack of representation endemic in the arts and is able to discuss the complexities of living within a body that is highly monitored, constantly examined, and made to feel like a specimen. Taking images of recognisable human forms and reducing them to gestural shapes, Panteha juxtaposes her own body’s objectification and dissection.12 landscape photos set in a grid atop a red and green background. The background looks pixelated, as though made up of static. The red circle is in the middle and bleeds out into the green background. The 12 photos are all of the artist. She wears surgical face masks, though not always on her face. Each photo is the artist in a different pose. Sometimes, there are multiple face masks involved, often covering her breasts as well as her mouth.

About the works Panteha contributed to The Future is Loading...

Not better yet (2019)

Shot on Super 8 and VHS film. This performance cuts between audio of doctors and nurses recorded during a hospital stay and clips of Panteha contorting her own body in painful, performative ways. The audio documents the disrespect, disregard, and lack of understanding Panteha experienced; the feeling of being both emotionally and physically unsafe. It sits in direct contrast to Panteha’s own performance which, though painful, demonstrates self-control and agency, making all the more stark the powerlessness engendered by “mainstream” medicine and healthcare. 

Again (2020)

Part of a series of 2D works created while bed-bound during quarantine. ‘Again’ documents Panteha’s experience with disability as non-linear and frustrating; accepting the perpetual state of reckoning she lives in as her body deteriorates. 

For Parts (2020)

Panteha created this VHS video work during quarantine using footage from a performance earlier in the year. The video contemplates the emotional and bodily changes that occur as a result of receiving medical implants and prosthetics. By exploring her own body as inorganic, Panteha outlines the ways in which non-disabled standards of performance, of appearance, and behaviour dictate what we consider “human” and what we consider “subhuman.” Tracing her experience, Panteha exposes the consequences of this systemic segregation in which the disabled and sick experience is ostracised. The performance and audio, recorded during a hospital visit, force the audience to reckon with the binary between body and machine, organic and inorganic; is that a heartbeat or a machine? In unpicking this liminal space, Panteha is further making a claim about her own lived experience.

Watch Panteha discuss the work they contributed to The Future is Loading exhibition...

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Banner image: 'Again' (2020) by Panteha Abareshi. Image courtesy of the artist.