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All Bound Together? ran from 2 August - 29 October 2021.

About the exhibition

At a moment in history in which freedom, health, and inequality are at the cultural fore, this exhibition centres the reflections of disabled and marginalised people on the interwoven pandemics that Covid-19 has induced. Through this exploration of creativity, isolation, community, and crisis, a legacy unfurls. At its heart is a questioning of the sentiment that underwrote many decisions - personal and political - through these events: “we’re all in this together.”

Disabled people constitute almost two-thirds of Covid-19 related deaths in the UK and millions of people are set to live with Long Covid in the coming years. We are at a precipice beyond which lies an uncertain future. Might the conversations around what links us together, sustains us, and nurtures us deliver the change many demand - to attitudes, infrastructure, and society? Or, as a guise of “normality” resumes, are these fragile bonds and precarious relationships at risk of being cut or stretched beyond endurance?

At any time of social and economic uncertainty, it is the marginalised who are placed at greatest risk. The sick get sicker, the poor get poorer. From this perspective, society’s tapestry appears both taut and tattered. Examining this more closely, these artworks tap into the deep uncertainty of the moment, to interrogate the proposition that recent risk and adversity has been collectively and proportionally shouldered, unravelling threads of superficiality to expose both raw hope and endemic injustice.

All Bound Together? asks us not to forget the tensions and truths that surfaced this year, before which time it seemed that meaningful change to the status quo was impossible. It also acknowledges and archives the many homes that community has found in defiance of the odds; places where people have carved out space in which personal experience is afforded complexity, a means of tethering to others. This exhibition therefore serves as a testament to radical care and solidarity at times of struggle, as well as to consider the knottiness of the landscape in which these struggles take place.

David Hevey, Shape CEO and Artistic Director said: “We have been through grim locked-down times which have shown that society is now even more unequal. Responding creatively, these Shape Open 2021 artists take on that inequality and take apart the idea that ‘we will get through this together’. Shape is proud to champion these disabled and nondisabled artists, many of whom were hit hard by lockdown and who live at the sharp end of modern times, as they creatively question where diversity, disabled people, and other outsiders will be in the ‘new normal’ emerging from lockdown.”

Elinor Hayes, Curator, Shape Arts said: “It was largely due to the innovation and dedication of creatives that many of us made it through lockdown; streaming content, experiencing culture from our couches. And yet, as we ‘reopen,’ it is culture that is most at risk. A similar parallel exists for disabled people, who’s understanding of the importance of community and care has been a vital resource. At this juncture, when all the adaptations that have made contemporary life liveable risk being reversed, this exhibition carefully unravels the threads that have tied us together at the moment they’re most likely to fray.”

For All Bound Together? Shape commissioned artists Abi Palmer (All the worlds you'll never see), Colin Lievens (People's Postcode Lottery sponsors Emmerdale), and Akissi Nzambi (But you don't look sick) to create new artworks directly responding to the exhibition's themes.

Exhibiting as part of All Bound Together? are: Abi Palmer, Akissi Nzambi, Annie Crawford, Catherine Cleary, Colin Lievens, Emelia Kerr Beale, Funmi Lijadu, Georgia Murphy, Juan del Gado, Louis Blue Newby, Mathilda Roach Osborne, Melissandre Varin, Mote Scherr, Natalee Decker, Oriele Steiner, Rach Wellbeing, Robin Smith, Rowan Riley, Sarah Yu Zeebroek, Shadi Al-Atallah, Steven Fraser, Yo-Yo Lin.

The Shape Open is an annual exhibition curated in response to a disability-centred theme, promoting conversation around topics often sidelined in artistic debate, creatively produced by Shape Arts.

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