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 

Arts Council England logo.

Welcome to The Future is Loading...

Before viewing this exhibition, you may want to read our Trigger Warnings and Access informationYou can read a full exhibition blurb, too, where you will learn more about the curation of the show.

You can also view this exhibition on our Instagram.

All works in this show have been audio described. You can find these descriptions alongside each work. 

Where possible, British Sign Language support has also been embedded. 

Together with Able Zine, we are designing a zine for this exhibition which is available for pre-order. This zine includes a collaborative resources list, full of a variety of materials gathered by the curators and contributors during the production of this show. You can also purchase campaign t-shirts through PrintSocial. 

You can use this interactive list of contributors to navigate the exhibition.

Audio described artist biographies can be found on individual artist profiles on our site.

If you would like more information, please email [email protected] 

Andrew Omoding Arts Emergency Babeworld x Whinegums
Bobby Parker Brothers Sick (Ezra and Noah Benus) Charlie J. Meyers
Christopher Samuel Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley Elise Broadway
Hayden Stern Jeff Kasper Kirkwood Brothers
Laura Lulika Maral Mamaghani Panteha Abareshi
Romily Alice Walden Rudy Loewe Sasha Saben Callaghan
Sam Jevon Seren Metcalfe Tobi Adebajo
Yasmeen Thantrey

Andrew Omoding

Andrew Omoding is a Ugandan-British artist living in London. His work is intuitive and instinctive. Andrew creates large-scale sculptural forms by exploring his studio for buried treasures and using his tacit knowledge of form, shape, and construction to add and discard elements as he works. Building his creations through systematic layering, wrapping, and attaching, Andrew often uses textiles, patterns, and textures to complete a work. 

BSL Interpreted:

Audio description: 

Much of Andrew’s practice involves storytelling and performance, incorporating music and both written and spoken language. Andrew weaves, sews, threads, constructs, hammers and screws materials together merging with and becoming part of the work while simultaneously singing and telling stories.

Andrew’s work is personal, sometimes autobiographical and always intriguing.

Andrew's contribution to this exhibition comes from his residency at Camden Arts Centre London in 2019. With thanks to Action Space for their support in bringing this contribution to life.

It's my work, come see, come see (2020)

A view of a gallery installation framed along the top edge by a piece of white cotton fabric which we appear to be peering from underneath. Two strings of glass beading hang in the foreground from somewhere above, just out of shot.  Behind this, stretching from the right corner and into the middle of the room is a wall of individual rectangles of colourful fabric strung loosely together. On the left is a white gallery wall on which three sculptural forms are attached, evenly spaced and stacked horizontally. They are abstract, long and tubular in form. Wrapped partially in colourful wool. On the far wall, light spills into the room and onto the wooden parquet flooring from two tall windows.

In the centre of a white, gallery space, individual rectangles of fabric are loosely strung together. They form a large tent-like structure; walls made from hanging cloth of varying patterns and a roof of colourful sheets, horizontally stretched from the corners of the room. On the far gallery wall, a piece of shiny blue fabric is attached about 2 metres off the wooden parquet flooring. It protrudes from the wall, inviting a visitor to come in and look out of the two window flaps, which have been cut into the fabric.

Audio description: 

Arts Emergency

Arts Emergency is an award-winning mentoring charity and support network. The organisation helps young people without connections follow their passions and navigate their way into higher education and the creative and cultural industries.

Founded by Josie Long and Neil Griffiths in 2013 as a small grassroots project, Arts Emergency has blossomed into a community of 7,000 professionals. All of Arts Emergency’s members have pledged to support marginalised young people through sharing advice, free cultural activities and work experience opportunities.

Arts Emergency exposes the structural inequalities in the creative and cultural sectors, and aims to redistribute the social and cultural capital that underpins this inequity. They work for a society in which every young person has the chance to flourish and contribute to the culture in which they live.

The Future is Another Place (2015)

A textile piece photographed as it hangs on a white wall. Upon a rich red backdrop of velvet fabric, with a rough hem around the edges, are appliqued words. The bold, capital letters are made from fabric in varying shades of grey. They have a hand-cut and sewn quality to them. They read: ‘The Future is another place. Allow yourself to believe a better life is possible. Say it loud, defiantly to everyone.’

Audio description: 

This banner was created by an Arts Emergency volunteer in 2015 for the ‘Arts Emergency Response Centre’ exhibition at The Cass.

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Babeworld and Whinegums

Ellie Harman-Taylor

Ellie Harman-Taylor, aka Whinegums, is a London-based artist, weaver, writer, and lecturer. Her practice navigates the experience of living with mental illness and disability. Ellie uses the metaphor of the body as a processing machine to explore how coping mechanisms can develop and aid survival in circumstances of marginalisation and suffering. Working with sculpture, video, performance, and comedy, Ellie’s work is frequently collaborative, including the lecture series, ‘Don’t Worry I’m Sick and Poor,’ which she co-created with Babeworld at the Royal College of Art, London.


Babeworld, comprised of Ashleigh Williams and Georgina Tyson, is a collaboration which aims to demystify the processes of creativity often kept elusive in an otherwise exclusive ‘art world.’ Focusing on themes of political and social identity, Ashleigh and Georgina’s exploration of disability, accessibility, mental health, sex work, and poverty has firmly grounded their practice in the corridors of the everyday. By creating an accessible critical framework through formatting and use of digestible language, their practice makes space for new dialogue which, rather than sitting within existing artistic narratives, offers an alternative. 

Call Me By Your DWP Number (2019)

BSL Interpreted:

Audio description: 

'Call Me By Your DWP Registration Number' (2019) is a collaboration between Babeworld and Whinegums. Visually referencing the classic coming of age movies of the 90s and 00s, this pink and dreamy world filled with objects (with the occasional tacky zoom-in) satirically romanticises the parts about living with a disability that are often vilified: using weed as a form of pain management and disability benefits as a form of employment. 

The work begins with the DWP automated message, stirring a sense of dread, much like hearing your alarm tone through someone else’s phone. Ellie is portrayed as the stereotypical lead, purposefully placed on screen as a statement of palatibility. As the holding music plays, Ellie recounts some personal thoughts. In turn, anchoring the situations and struggles of the “in-between.” In-between referrals, in-between waiting lists, and in-between treatments. 

The video in its final edits uses iMovie default transitions and glitter gifs to reimagine a classic movie aesthetic, delivering a more low-culture and low-resolution piece, which is intune with the artists’ lived experiences and working class background.

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Bobby Parker

Bobby Parker is a writer and visual artist based in Kidderminster, Worcestershire in the UK. Born in 1982 to a working-class family, Bobby finds inspiration in his upbringing, mental illness, disability, and issues with addiction. He has taught for the Poetry School and given talks about mental illness, namely Borderline Personality Disorder and overcoming trauma through art therapy. Bobby properly started pursuing visual arts once he had his own space to create, painting abstract and figurative images and experimenting with photography, drawing, sculpture, film, and music.

I Won't Let You Give Up (2020)   


Three figures sit facing the viewer against a golden, wheat coloured background.  The larger central figure is shown from the shoulders up, wearing a red top. Resting on each shoulder are two identical child-like figures in bright blue tops, their sm

Red Boots Goes Shopping (2020)

On the horizon of this painting is a roughly sketched skyline of grey tower blocks, with glowing red and yellow windows. Smoke drifts darkly in the background over what may be pockets of fire. Beneath this we find two figures on either side of a grid

A square box, divided into 9 smaller square compartments painted in fiery red, orange, mustard yellow and brown tones. In each square sits a small colourful ceramic sculpture which are all abstract in form but contain elements which are somehow famil

Unusual Side Effects (2020)

Audio description: 

Brothers Sick (Ezra and Noah Benus)

An Army of the Sick Can't Be Defeated (2020)

In the centre of this digital collage are two IV machines and drips. They are presented next to each other with the machine on the right rotated 180 degrees. Around these is a border of red text which frames the image and reads: ‘An army of the sick can’t be defeated,  An army of the sick can’t be defeated’

Audio description: 


Ezra Benus is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and curator based in New York, USA. In his work, Ezra addresses a range of themes by drawing on his background in Jewish studies, art history, and disability, including: time, relationships of care, pain, and illness. For Ezra, the ‘Self’ is a site where political, social, and spiritual forces collide, as bodily knowledge and social models of normativity are untangled and extended to meet others’ experiences in tandem with his own.


Noah Benus, also based in New York, uses photography to explore people through the prism of their relationships; with each other, their environments, and with the camera itself. Noah’s work often reveals overlooked moments through alternative methods of portraiture, photojournalism, and studio works. Relying on both analog and digital formats, Noah seeks to educate and advocate for justice and accessibility.

Illness finds us all, Care unfortunately does not (2020)

A photograph of a hospital ward; with white tiled ceiling, linoleum flooring and row of 5 uniform beds divided by screens.  The image is displayed as a negative so the white shades appear in grey and darker tones glow white. Text is overlaid on the i

Audio description: 

to tally only numbers without counting

the breaths taken

the lives touched

the same air

carried and cared and

filtered between us

View the Ezra and Noah's essay about their work in text, spoken, and BSL formats.

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Charlie J. Meyers

Charlie J. Meyers is an artist working in figurative abstraction and portraiture, creating work from his studio in Philadelphia. Charlie’s work often focuses on relationships and pleasure as a form of political resistance, centring the concept of ‘erotic grief.’ 

Don't Hide (2020)

This watercolor depicts a figures head and shoulders in loose lines and thin washes of blue and light green. The composition cuts the figure off at the top of their ear and just below the shoulder. They may be sleeping; with eyes closed, mouth slight

Audio description: 

The ‘Tender’ collection (2020)

This body of work is a collection of figurative watercolours inspired by the concept of Spring Fever in quarantine. Spring fever invokes a sense of restless desire for romance and social connection. While stuck in quarantine, Charlie has turned to personal, archival material: memories, photographs, and films. Painted on hot-pressed watercolour paper with floral and earth tones, the paintings represent a tender reflection on love.

Quarantine Nap (2020)

A watercolour in shades of blue, yellow and green. Looking down on a figure, lying on their front with face turned and cheek resting on a large moss green pillow. They are depicted from just below the shoulder, with their left arm curling around and

Audio description: 

Felt (2020)

This watercolour in shades of blue portrays a mans head, with eyes closed. He is horizontal, face down and fills the composition from the bottom of his neck, to the tip of his head. There is an ambiguous form beneath him. A few long and curving lines

Audio description: 

Christopher Samuel

Christopher Samuel is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice is rooted in identity and disability politics, often echoing the many facets of his own lived experience. Seeking to interrogate his personal understanding of identity as a disabled person impacted by inequality and marginalisation, Christopher responds with urgency, humour, and poetic subversiveness within his work. This approach makes his work accessible to a wider audience, allowing others to identify and relate to a wider spectrum of human experience.

Cripple (2019)

Cripple explores the idea of idleness in the context of our reality in which disabled people have been pushed further to the margins of society as a direct consequence of austerity. The weaponisation of productivity under austerity means many view disabled people as lazy or idle and not deserving of help. Without support, however, their human rights are compromised, disabling them from participating in society and forcing them into a cycle of marginalisation.

BSL, Audio Described, and Captioned version:

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley is an artist living and working in London, creating works that seek to archive Black trans experience. Through an innovative use of technology, Danielle compels us to imagine our lives in environments that centre our bodies: those living, those that have passed, and those that have been forgotten. Danielle has contributed a brand new work to the show following the huge success of their previous game, the Black Trans Archive. 

​Pages for A Body that needs them

Digital image that could be construed as a person with a face in silhouette looking to the left, with masses of verdant growths around its head made of fern-like shapes in forest green. In quotations across this abstract figure are the words “Those that laid the path/ the path ypou walk.” Around the rectangular frame of the image more yellow letters in smaller font repeat the phrase, Don’t forget those whose thoughts enabled you to exist. Click to enter.

I hope these pages get to who needs them. Depending on your identity, the options may open up to you. You may deserve choice and you may not yet have earned trust in your own choices. Here those that have earned the right to choose will gain access to what they need... Others must only listen. They have taken far too much already and here, instead, we insist that we give them the bare minimum.

Wonder where you stand?

To enter the game, follow this link.

Audio description: 

Elise Broadway

Elise Broadway creates free-standing and wall-mounted sculptural works using stuffed, drawn or painted fabrics, often using stock images of people and animals found on the internet. The result is a startling mixture of the sophisticated and ungainly, with the apparently mundane transformed into something special and memorable. Elise's work is autobiographical and builds on a mixture of Texan cultural iconography, dark humor, and deeply personal, introspective imagery as a self-therapeutic mechanism that shifts between catharsis, deconstruction, and healing.

Cocoa (2019)

Cocoa is part of a series of works focusing on chimerical, symbiotically-surviving entities. Beginning as a portrait of a dog with a malignant tumor, the work began to transform as I began to consider the existence/absence of mutualistic relationships between humans and the natural world. This piece functions in conjunction with the my recent series’ (including Hecate) concentrating on the roles and bodies of domesticated animals and the concept of 'domestication’ in relation to the traditional female body. These works seek to call into question the particularly human psychological proclivity towards control (both personal and of others) and the perceived comforts of the home.

This surrealist composition presents a fantasy figure made from the merging forms of a dog, woman, and tulip. It is painted against a plain backdrop of green and blue, which is suggestive of a bright sky and a lush mountain range. In the bottom right

Audio description: 

Hecate (2020)

Hecate depicts playful, theatrical scene presenting a conglomeration of ancient and fantastical cultural motifs that indicate the presence of spiritual and physical healing, safety, and bounty. The historical Hecate figure- guardian of the home and purveyor of folk medicine- represents private/social tendencies to seek out alternative medicine when contemporary scientific methods don’t hold concrete answers.   

The bottom half of this scene is dominated by a bright green band of colour, from which large poppies and yellow wildflowers grow. In the foreground is a naked female figure with salmon pink, slightly translucent legs and a large black circle inplace

Audio description:

Rabbit (2020)

Rabbit focuses on the symbolism of thriving hopefulness; in a surreal setting of undisturbed daffodils, the rainbow-lit rabbit optimistically creates a bridge between organic and artificial life. Playing on childlike imagery, Rabbit highlights a personal inclination towards the comforts of life within the natural world in times of global gloom.

Across a field of daffodils, against a bright blue sky, a hare bounds.   From its haunches a rainbow of refracted light juts up and out towards the top right corner of the painting.

Audio description: 

Hayden Stern

Hayden Stern is a Seattle-based artist whose often figurative work centres around themes of embodiment, disability, gender, and madness, explored through the concepts of monstrosity, ecology, and dreamscapes. Hayden’s work explores mythologized depictions of othered bodies in intimate, ordinary moments. By centring the marginalised bodies of their community in their work - fat bodies, transgender bodies, disabled bodies, and traumatised bodies - Hayden reaffirms these communities as worthy of loving, complex representation. Their work balances the groundedness of touch and embodiment with fantastical motifs that pull the art out of pure realism.

Container (2020)

The artist describes this work as a depiction of ‘two, fat, trans, disabled bodies in [an] embrace. The embracing couple are huddled together on a blue rug in a room with warm golden walls and two bright green houseplants. The figure on the right sits with one leg crossed in-front of their belly, one hand propped on a knee and the other grasping a foot. The second figure knees and leans over. Their left arm curls around in a comforting half embrace with a cheek resting on the others forehead. Both have short, brown beards and wild hair which, on closer inspection, is a mess of medusa like blue snakes

Audio description: 

Night Swim (2020)

A naked figure stands knee deep in water. Sparse, speckled hair covers their chest, belly and chin. Their eyes are closed in contemplation, their cheeks flushed rosy red. Above the water swirling lines of pastel pink, purple and blue rise into a dark

Audio description: 

Jeff Kasper

Jeff Kasper is an artist and educator who works in-between design, media, and public pedagogy to facilitate participatory experiences, creative curricula, and conceptual social spaces. His current research explores how trauma-informed education and the ethics of nonviolence impact the design process, collaboration, and learning—especially for the health and wellbeing of queer and disabled folks. Over the years, his work has been dedicated to building cultures of support as an artist working in arts management, community health, and social planning.

things remembered (I look fabulous but I am in a lot of pain) (2018; 2020 edition)

A silver compact mirror photographed from above on a black background. On the lid of the compact the words ‘I look fabulous but I am in a lot of pain’ are etched.

Audio description: 

Jeff’s ongoing ‘things remembered’ series is a catalogue of keepsakes and trophies engraved with testimonials about the invisibility of pain and love, failure and becoming in relationships. Through this project, Jeff explores the potential everyday, inanimate objects have to tell the stories of what otherwise remains hidden between people.

prototypes for white flags (we want to participate) (2016)

Blue delft tiles frame a fireplace, of which only the top half can be seen. A small white interpretation label, mounted on the right of the fireplace suggests this is a photograph from an exhibition  installation.Above the fireplace a piece of white

Audio description: 

The ‘prototypes for white flags’ series similarly develops on this examination of objects. The white flag is an internationally recognised protective sign of truth or ceasefire. In subverting the flag’s usual call for surrender, Jeff asks what would happen if it was deemed a symbol of truce; of collaboration rather than defeat.

 things remembered (love is simple and simple things devour time) (2018)

This image is cropped to present the bottom semicircle of a minimalist analogue clock with silver hour and minute hands on a plain grey background. Underneath the clock a gold plaque has the following words etched; ‘love is simple and simple things dAudio description:

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We also welcome responses to our exhibition survey - we would love to know what you think!

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