Aaron Williamson

Aaron Williamson is a British multi-disciplinary artist, working mainly in performance and video. Born in Derby in 1960, he describes his work as being informed by his experience of becoming deaf.

His work engages with disability politics, highlighting issues of access and exclusion, but in a humorous or absurd manner; revealing, playing up to and skewing social attitudes towards disability. At a University of California San Diego lecture in 1998, Williamson coined the term 'Deaf Gain' as a counter-emphasis to 'hearing loss' - an idea that has gained worldwide momentum since.

In May 2019, Williamson’s newest exhibition opened at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre, alongside a retrospective of his work. This exhibition, Williamson’s largest solo showing to date, features the new commission by Attenborough Arts Centre, Inspiration Archives.

Inspiration Archives brings together never before seen collections of objects, artefacts, ephemera, film footage and photography, which document the lives and works of several historically overlooked personalities. Those featured include; Deaf wrestler Cain in Chains; Carlotta Waterton, a zoological illustrator who documented abnormal animal behaviour and visual impaired conceptual artist Amy Folgate.

Williamson’s videos and performances are created with a DIY sensibility – he creates his work almost immediately before they are presented to the public, shaped by the situation he encounters more than a process of rehearsal. The concept behind the work, for Williamson, is more important than exhibiting traditional artistic techniques. 

Aaron Williamson’s work is political and campaigning, demanding that society act upon the social model of disability, working to remove barriers which disable people. Yet, it is also conceptual and experimental, responding to, engaging with and poking fun at art’s histories. This, Williamson claims, makes him and his collaborators “maverick misfits in relation to the disability arts community itself”.

During his career he has received over 20 artist’s awards including: the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at the British School at Rome; British Council China Artist Links Residency; A Three-Year AHRC Fellowship, BIAD, Birmingham University; Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, Shape/Spike Island; Acme Studios Stephen Cripps Award; Unlimited 2 Commission; in addition to a number of projects funded through Arts Council England, the British Council, Henry Moore Foundation, and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Williamson received a PhD in Critical Theory from the University of Sussex in 1997, and has published widely, firstly in poetry (A Holythroat Symposium (1993), and in the influential anthology Conductors of Chaos (ed. Iain Sinclair, 1996). In 2008 he produced an artist’s monograph for the Live Art Development Agency: Aaron Williamson: Performance / Video / Collaboration (2008). A DVD of video works Quick Clips and Short Cuts was also published by LADA in 2011.

Often, Williamson devises unique works that are created on-site immediately prior to their public presentation. Informed by research, these consider the situation he encounters and represent, in part, a response to them. He has made works in shopping centres, streets, public museums, galleries, as well as in unusual places such as mountains, rivers, volcanic craters, small islands, a lock up garage, and rooftops. Williamson has collaborated with many other artists, including with Katherine Araniello as the Disabled Avant-Garde; and with the international performance collective The Wolf in the Winter.

Categories: Featured Artist

Date Posted: 26 June 2019