The Reality of Small Differences 1 Favorite 

Date: 

Aug 23 2014

Location: 

Leeds UK

An exhibition of textile-based work by disabled artists, organised in protest at the inaccessibility of an exhibition by a popular artist, when it came to Leeds.

Local disabled people were angry and upset when they discovered that Grayson Perry’s popular tapestry series, The Vanity of Small Differences, was coming to Leeds in August 2014, but was to be be displayed on the first floor of Temple Newsam House – in a wing where there is no lift. Unable to see the tapestries in situ disabled people were left with the unsatisfactory, and insulting, alternatives of watching a documentary film, downloading an app or travelling to Liverpool where the tapestries were previously on show.

As a response to this, but more importantly, to showcase the talent and creativity of disabled people, the idea of an exhibition of textile art by disabled artists was conceived. Leeds-based Gill Crawshaw approached local arts organisations Inkwell and Union 105, both of whom offered exhibition space. Then disabled artists from around Yorkshire, most of them from Leeds, took up the invitation to submit work for the project.

The title of the exhibition, “The Reality of Small Differences” clearly echoed the title of Grayson Perry’s tapestries. More importantly, the title invited people to consider the realities of disabled people’s lives, while suggesting that the differences between disabled people and non-disabled people are indeed small. The differences perhaps lie in the opportunities that are available to disabled people and the barriers that disabled people face in all areas of life. Some of the work in this show was a reflection on life as a disabled person and on living in a disabling society.

The exhibition was of textile art, which makes a clear link to Grayson Perry’s tapestries and was bold, eclectic and challenging. The exhibition included a wide range of techniques and materials: woven, felted, knitted, printed, patchwork, dyed and stitched artworks.

Artists taking part in the exhibition said:

“Heritage trumps access all too often.”
“Physical exclusion and the façade of access imply that disabled people don’t
matter to arts organisations. No amount of interpretations or downloadable
activity packs will make up for not being to get inside to see the work in situ.”
- Katya Robin

“We do not like being excluded from the cultural events of our city and want to celebrate our colourful creativity.”
- Pyramid of Arts: The Eden Group

“Small differences can have a huge impact on daily reality. I hope the exhibition will encourage people to think and then make small differences in their own lives which will have a positive impact for others as well as themselves.”
- Carrie Scott-Huby

The exhibition opened in two wheelchair-accessible venues on the same day as the exhibition of Grayson Perry’s tapestries at Temple Newsam: 23.8.14.

Posted by Gill Crawshaw on