Disability Arts in the North East – A Living Archive
A tribute to all the disabled artists and groups who have made up the Disability Arts Movement past and present
Simon McKeown is an award-winning internationally exhibiting disabled artist renowned for his work on disability as well as our digital futures.
He exhibits internationally and his works, including Motion Disabled which was the first non-medical study of impaired motion, have been exhibited as far afield as the Smithsonian International Gallery in the USA, The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague, Czech Republic, GAK in Kosovo along with galleries in Australia, Norway, America, South America, the UK, along with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany. In 2018 he exhibited at the UK Government led Great Exhibition of the North in an exhibition entitled This Way North, which also featured the work of Damien Hirst and David Hockney. In 2010 he was named DaDaFest International Artist of the Year following the simultaneous showing of his work in 17 countries.
Mckeown created large scale outdoor video projections for the 2012 Prometheus Awakes production for Greenwich and Docklands International Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival with London’s Graeae Theatre and the international outdoor theatre company La Fura dels Baus (Barcelona). As an outdoor specialist, he completed the massive event Cork Ignite (2015) which was supported by Arts and Disability Ireland, Arts Council of Ireland and Cork City Council with partners National Sculpture Factory and Create Ireland. The project represented a culmination of many of his research interests including, large scale complex outdoor projection, theatrical works, soundscapes, and collaborative practice with disabled artists. It was premiered in Cork, Ireland to an audience of around 7000-10,000 as the culminating event for Culture Night Ireland (2015). In late 2018 McKeown created We Are Still Here, the culminating and premiere event of St Helens 100 Year City Council anniversary celebrations, working with learning disabled artists from the city. (Note new work has been delayed by COVID).
Simon’s statement on the exhibition
“Is the 21st Century in the North East demonstrating significant signs of inclusion? I’d like to believe so. Our communities and interpersonal relationships are now complex and no longer wholly governed by an old fashioned conservatism which placed people in pre-set and often stagnant roles. As we live our lives, we need to choose our own destiny. Increasingly young people are leading the way. Our families are mixed in ways that challenge stereotypes and demonstrate tolerance. Disability is part of this diversity, part of the human “kaleidoscope” of our region. 20-25% of the people on our nearby high street may be impaired. Disabled people including myself, demand access to art, culture, employment and education, not just as addons, spare parts and numbers in a box but as central to life, as demonstrated by Prometheus Awakes and the many disabled artists, dancers and animators who made it possible.”