The Future is Loading

Listen to this text: 

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

Kirkwood Brothers

The Kirkwood Brothers, Jonny and Jordon, are Glasgow-based artists whose work often revolves around neurodiversity and mental health in an effort to dispel related stereotypes. Working collaboratively as brothers, Jonny and Jordon create art through conversation, re-capturing the popular culture from their childhood. Humour is a central vehicle to their practice, affording both brothers agency over their own experiences. 

Everything is wrong (2020)

A bright blue spherical burst of scribbled lines sits in the centre of this digital print. In handwritten capital letters text reads; ‘Everything is Wrong’

Audio description: 

Much of the content of Jonny and Jordon’s work is still taboo among communities in Glasgow: disability, mental health, suicide. Though their work might at first appear naive, it performs as a vehicle for conversations about these topics unravel.

Future (2020)

A black circle which appears to be roughly drawn from thick oil pastel marks sits in the centre of this digital print. Underneath the circle handwritten text reads; ‘The future’

Audio description: 

Jonny and Jordon prefer to let their work speak for itself, avoiding the pitfalls artists often face when trying to explain their work in written language. They believe this often makes their work feel more relatable and accessible and affords the audience an intimate and individual relationship with their art.

Nothing is Right (2020)

A roughly drawn red circle sits in the centre of this digital print. Underneath the circle handwritten text reads; ‘Nothing is right’

Audio description: 

Laura Lulika

Photograph of part of an art installation. A white, heart-shaped balloon floats in the air attached by a thin cord. The balloon is partially deflated and crumpled-looking. Printed on it in red letters are the words: Stay Sick

Laura Lulika is a crip (sick+disabled) artist and researcher. Working predominantly with video, sound and performance, their practice explores themes of care, sexuality, labour, sickness and performativity in the everyday. Their work is driven by the rhythms, movement, and rituals within daily activity. Looking at accessibility from various perspectives, Lulika attempts to work outside of common capitalist artworld structures in liminal spaces that are not controlled by structures of oppression. 

Lulika has worked with many community groups including senior-citizen dancers, people with learning disabilities and urban beekeepers. Collaboration is key to their practice. They strive to work in interdependent formats which reflect their care needs and the care needs of everyone involved.  

Lulika is an initiating member of Sickness Affinity Group which has been active for three years. SAG is a collection of artists, researchers and health practitioners, working with the topics of art, health and accessibility. They function as a support group and working group that challenges the competitive and ableist mode of working in the arts by sharing experiences and information and by prioritizing the well-being and access needs of its group members. 

An Ode to Marge Simpson (or how I taught myself to speak again by watching the Real Housewives) (2018)

Audio description: 

An autobiographical work which deals with voice-loss due to chronic illness. After losing their voice for over a year due to a combination of health issues, Laura received vocal therapy. However, they found that watching The Real Housewives while housebound is what really helped them regain their voice and agency. The work celebrates The Real Housewives franchises as a rare example in popular culture where women's voices are prioritised, while at the same time questioning the privilege these women hold and therefore the healthcare they have access to in comparison to many of the viewers. It draws on GIF reaction culture and the thriving online crip community and features questions the artist was asked by their vocal therapist.

Photograph of part of an art installation. Along a plain white wall, two shower curtains are fixed, a long blue curtain to the right and a shorter transparent one centrally. To its left a much longer pink fabric is hung from higher up, partially drap

Audio description:

Maral Mamaghani

Maral Mamaghani graduated with an MA from the School of Jewellery and Silversmithing from Birmingham City University in 2017. During her time at BCU, Maral created work that drew on her experience with feminism, oppression, and the forced wearing of the hijab [veil] in Iran as a Deaf Iranian woman.

Leaving Iran and studying in the UK gave Maral a new perspective on the issues surrounding women’s rights. She began to use human hair as a material within her work, the hair representing the long-term political struggle that exists in Iran. 

BSL Interpreted: 

Audio description: 

Tale of Tresses

Drawing on her own roots as an Iranian woman, and her interest in feminism, Maral explored the issue of the hijab [veil]. As a woman in Iran, you are not allowed to uncover your hair or talk about feminism or sexuality as these are ‘forbidden matters.’ Looking at this problem from outside, Maral discovered that hair, as a material, could represent the long-term political struggle that existed in Iran. Maral explored this conceptually by creating a series of brooches with her own and other friends’ hair. The brooch symbolizes their own individual characters and personality coming together, and the stories that they, as women, reflect upon.

Moreover, the shape of the coconut shell resembles women’s breasts. This provokes discomfort for many Iranians, preventing some from willingly wearing the brooch


“She is into warm tones and the mysterious and primitive shapes from ancient human drawings. I tried to weave her hair into the wood, in her favourite shape – the triangle. I did this in the traditional way that people made baskets. The triangle is upside down, representing the shape of the womb, to show her femininity."

A woman stands in front of a bare brick and tiled wall. She wears a baggy grey dress with an open denim shirt over the top and dark grey head scarf.   Her head is tilted backwards as she looks up.On her right chest a large circular broach is pinned,

A circular brooch made from half a coconut shell, is propped up on its two silver pins so it tilts from the surface on which it stands and the underside is exposed. The patterning on the inside of the piece is a geometric maze of triangular lines.A circular brooch made from half a coconut shell, photographed from above. In the centre of the shell a triangle of dark down hair has been woven. The triangle is upside down which, as the artist describes, represents ‘the shape of the womb, to show

Audio description: 


“She is outward, warm-hearted, and sympathetic; however, she is broken inside and tries to hide her sadness by always bringing joy and giving confidence to everyone. I made her brooch like a bridge. She always wants to connect with people and is keen to help; she is flexible and communicates well with everyone.” 

A woman stands in front of a beautiful tiled wall. Her head is bowed and she has the glimpse of a smile, She wears a moss green head scarf and yellow calf length jacket. On the jacket a large brown circular brooch is pinned at her right chest.

A circular brooch made from half a coconut shell, photographed from above. On the surface, white hair has been woven so it loops at intervals out of the shell.A circular brooch made from half a coconut shell, is propped up on its two silver pins so it tilts from the surface on which it stands and the underside is exposed. The patterning on the inside of the piece is a geometric maze of hexagonal lines. On

Audio description: 


“She is thoughtful but, on the other hand, she has a silly side. I wanted to show the two parts of her character. She thinks before saying anything, which is represented by the top of the piece. The shape of the natural, curved hair, free of limits, shows how crazy she can be.”

A woman stands in a large tiled alcove. She wears white trainers, black trousers, mustard button down shirtdress and navy head scarf with one end folded over her shoulder and the other trailing down her chest. Her head is tilted forwards as she looks

A semi-circular brooch made from half a coconut shell, photographed from above. Three strips of black hair have been woven into the surface and are knotted at the straight bottom edge of the brooch. The hair falls from these knots into three long pon

Audio description: 

Panteha Arabeshi

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 recongisable human forms and reducing them to gestural shapes, Panteha juxtaposes her own body’s objectification and dissection.

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.

Audio description: 

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. 

This digital print is filled with a spray of bright yellow, the colour more saturated at the centre and becoming lighter at the edges, as if produced from the burst of an aerosol. In the centre, is a large black circular line. The words ‘beginning / end’ are written next to the point in this circle where an arrow and dot meet. Underneath in black capital letters with thin black border text reads; ‘We are Here again’

Audio description: 

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. 

Audio description: 

Romily Alice Walden

Romily Alice Walden is a transdisciplinary artist whose work centres a queer, disabled perspective on the fragility of the body. Their practice spans sculpture, installation, video, curation, and printed matter, all of which is undertaken with a socially engaged and research-led working methodology. They work both individually and collectively as a member of Sickness Affinity Group; a group of sick, disabled and care-giving art workers and activists who work on the topic of sickness/disability, care, and labour conditions. 

Notes From the Underlands (2018) 

BSL Interpreted:

Audio description: 

Notes From The Underlands is a performative text from the depths of queer disability culture. It is both a future-orientated vision of a sick, disabled, and care-giving Utopia and an urgent call to action in the now. The text is performed through video, audio, large-scale print, and subtitles; challenging the notion that the body must be physically present (and abled) in order to perform.

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Rudy Loewe

Rudy Loewe is a visual artist and arts educator whose work focuses on themes of gender, sexuality, black histories, and colonialism. Using firsthand experiences, interviews, and archival material, their work uplifts voices that are rarely given a platform. Rudy is concerned with questions such as: who are the authors of history? Whose narratives are seen as objective? How do we preserve our own legacies?

Rudy works with painting, drawing, printmaking, and self-publishing, often utilising formats that provide greater accessibility to make their work easily disseminated. Their approach to text in their work references Jamaican sign painting, protest placards, and banners. This can be seen in We Been Here, which uses bright colours and hand drawn lettering to speak to the Afro-Carribean diaspora and the histories of Black resistance in the UK.

Having organised in activist and community spaces over the last decade, Rudy is motivated by the potential for art as an activist tool. They see their artistic practice as a way of engaging people in critical themes, raising awareness of issues and creating community space.

We Been Here (2019)

Image credit: Jessica Wittman 

This large scale painting points to moments of resistance in recent black history in the UK. 

A line of 12 black women of differing ages marching towards the viewer, from the top right to bottom left corner of the composition. The women wear bright turquoise, pink, and navy blue clothing which contrasts beautifully against a bright yellow block background. Some hold banners. On which the text reads: ‘Britain doesn

Audio description: 

It highlights the black women who have been at the forefront of anti-racist protests, dating back to the Caribbean women who came as nurses during the Windrush generation. 

Black women who protested after the murder of Kelsey Cochrane; who marched after the New Cross fire; and who continue to fight against racist borders and deportations. The women continue out of the frame as they continue to fight.

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Sam Jevon

Sam Jevon, based in London, began creating work at Submit to Love Studios in 2009. A mum of two, she began attending three years after sustaining a brain injury in a car accident, which affected her speech, dexterity, eyesight, and balance.

A self-taught artist, Sam is well known for her detailed line drawings and unique illustration style. Buildings, people, and animals become curiously crooked and contorted under her guidance. The self-described ‘Queen of Wonky,’ Sam will tell you how she could only draw matchstick people before her brain injury. Her work now is intensely detailed, with an inimitable style that makes it instantly recognisable.

In Charge (2020)image of a black man in white powdered wig, which reaches just past the shoulders. He holds a stately posture, standing in front of a red floral background. Patches of fabric have been roughly sewn to illustrate his 17th century costume.

'In Charge' is Sam's first embroidery work, inspired by the 1996 photograph 'Effnik' by Yinka Shonibare CBE from the Autograph archive, originally commissioned by Autograph. Yinka is the Shape Open Patron, so we are proud to be continuing a conversation initiated by him over twenty years ago; a conversation about colonialism, racism, and inequality. In inserting into the visual canon a disruptive and subversive iconography, Yinka aimed to critique and satirise the photograph's context. 

The work was created in a project-based collaboration between Submit to Love Studios and Autograph gallery, 'Common Threads,' which you can view online. Artists from Submit to Love Studios were invited to recreate in textiles photographs from Autograph's archive. Shape works closely with both Autograph and Headway East London, who run Submit to Love Studios, so Sam's work really symbolises more than her own practice. It threads together (pun intended) the work of these impressive and important organisations, with whom we are proud to work!

Right: Yinka Shonibare, Effnik, 1997. Commissioned by Autograph.

An embroidered and appliqued image of a black man in white powdered wig, which reaches just past the shoulders. He holds a stately posture, standing in front of a red floral background. Patches of fabric have been roughly sewn to illustrate his 17th century costume.  White stab stitching has been worked at the end of his jacket to suggest a long drooping lace sleeve..

Audio description: 

About Submit to Love Studios

Submit to Love Studios is home to a collective of self-taught artists. These artists have developed a set of unique practices and interests, refined over more than a decade.

All of the artists have survived brain injuries - some use this to inform their work, whilst others take inspiration from the world around them.  

The studio is based at Headway East London, a charity supporting survivors of brain injury.

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Sasha Saben Callaghan

Sasha Saben Callaghan is an Edinburgh-based artist, writer, and disability rights campaigner. Her work employs collage techniques, iconographic imagery, and juxtaposition to unravel tensions and contradictions found within the politically-charged parameters of everyday life.

Harvesting (2020)

One of the most horrible aspects of the pandemic has been the term ‘harvesting’ to describe the number of excess deaths. I wanted to reclaim the word and whilst the young man in this image may represent the ‘grim reaper’, the butterfly resting on the scythe he is holding symbolises immortality.

This photomontage shows a cross section of the earth; a thick band of soil, below a wildflower meadow, below a starry night sky. In the bottom third of the composition, nestled in the soil, are two skeletal figures. The one on the left kneels over, hands clasped around his neck, head bowed. Two sparrows perch on his tibular (back of lower leg). The second skeleton, seen from the waist up, has their palms together in prayer. Two small spherical spikey forms are buried in the soil, reminiscent of microscopic image of a virus. Above ground a lush band of wild flowers and grasses grow. Standing on this is a boy wearing a victorian sailors outfit. He is black and white save for a flash of blue from a small St Andrews Cross flag which he clasps. Next to the boy is a Jack Russell dog. Next to the boy a is a vertical photographic slice of a golden seascape at sunset. On the other side of this and on the right of the composition a White wolf is howling.

Audio description: 

Renewal (2020)

Like everyone else, Covid-19 has been uppermost in my thoughts for months and I wanted to show something positive emerging from it. I’ve used the image of this wee boy in my work several times – not just because I like it so much but because although he must have died decades ago, seeing him keeps his memory alive.

This Photomontage presents a figure in a brown buttoned up shirt, braces and black wide brimmed hat staring directly at the viewer. On the top and brim of the hat 2 sparrows perch. In his right hand he holds a scythe, a bright blue butterfly rests on

Audio description: 

Seren Metcalfe

Seren Metcalfe is a Yorkshire-born but London-based multi-disciplinary artist and writer. Her research spans the themes of time, labour, energy, routine, and structure. Interested in the ways the body navigates space, Seren frequently mobilises parallels between cityscapes and landscapes or the Natural and the Mechanical in her work. Further exploring fame, television, consumerism, and class, Seren weaves her own memories into her work, creating her own language with which to speak about personal experience. 

Seren is the Founder of the Working Class Creatives Database, working to counteract the absence of people from working class backgrounds in the arts through platforming, collaboration, and resource sharing.

The Go Fuck Yourself Choir (2019)

Lit up by smartphone torches, a Choir of voices repeat the words 'Go Fuck Yourself'.

Audio description: 

Guided by thorough research in much of her work, the Go Fuck Yourself Choir is the embodiment of Seren’s otherwise suppressed urge to react and respond to her immediate surroundings. Although initially envisioned as a formal choral piece, Seren’s choice to use volunteers and instruct them herself ultimately enriches the sentiment of the piece, which is not bashful in its commentary on tone policing and resource accessibility within the arts.

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

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