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Tony Heaton entitled his picture White on White, thus playing with the ambiguity of the titles of many modernist works of art. But it's subtitle: Barbara, Johnny and the Quiet Revolution told a more melodramatic tale. Johnny Crescendo and his partner, stage-named Wanda Barbara, were the main acts for a Disability Arts Cabaret at a 'special' school. Johnny has a rock and roller's predilection for not just volume but raw language. The non-disabled organisers taste was for censorship. So he simply pulled the plug on the amplifier.

In response to the paternalistic way many people in institutionalised settings are treated, Johnny and Barbara circulated a poem. Its message was that disabled people were allowed to say thank you to mainstream performers who were allowed to entertain them with their charity, but were not allowed to express a contrary view. Each verse concluding 'but they do'!

'Quiet revolution' refers to the fact that BSL was only officially recognised in 2003! In this artwork the top line of arts conservators' white gloves spell "smile". But to read the bottom line you will need to find a BSL user.

White on White - Tony Heaton

Title White on White (Barbara, Johnny and the Quiet Revolution)
Artist Tony Heaton
Year 2002
Medium Mixed media
Dimensions 148 x 89 (cm)
Image description Photograph of an installation artwork. 17 white conservator gloves - the types used in museums and archives - are laid flat against the white wall. The gloves are positioned - in pairs or alone - to spell out letters using the British Sign Language alphabet. Over two lines, the letters detailed spell out: 'Smile fuck.'
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