Alex Billingham awarded Explorers residency
Image caption: Fishwives Revenge – Promo pic for performance at Tate St Ives 02/07/22 as part of We are Invisible We are Visible supported by DASH arts & Disability arts online
Three artists have been selected for West Midlands residencies as part of the Explorers project with Project Art Works and Outside In
Following a call-out for applications from neurodiverse artists, Project Art Works and Outside In have today confirmed the three successful applicants who will undertake five-week residencies at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and The New Art Gallery Walsall as part of the Explorers project. Naoibh McNamee and Henry Jones will start their residencies in Walsall over the summer, with Alex Billingham due to begin a project in Coventry in the autumn.
Established by Project Art Works to open up routes into artistic practice for neurominorities, Explorers is a national programme of art and activism focused on dismantling systemic barriers, creating platforms for neurodivergent people and pathways for cultural organisations to deepen their understanding and commit to change. The project intends to change the discourse of how neurodivergent people are positioned and described in culture.
José Sunshine-Okoro, Hub Programme Manager for Outside In, Midlands was among the panel of selectors. She said: “The diversity of practices and artforms was amazing to see. Artists selected for the programme showed a great sense of what they wanted to get out of the residencies. They were of a high standard, were fun, experimental and had really thought through how they wanted to work with our partners The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and The New Art Gallery Walsall.”
Find out more about the three artists and their residencies below.
Naoibh McNamee (18 July – 21 August 2022)
The New Art Gallery Walsall
Naoibh McNamee is a queer, autistic, multi-disciplinary artist from Birmingham. Their practice focuses on queer and disabled themes, in particular their gender non-conformity through the lens of autism.
Most recently, Naoibh has been using performance, painting and installation to understand and explore their position within the world, creating a series of costumes in which they perform. Each of these costumes focuses on a specific trait of autism that they experience, such as masking, eye contact, and feeling overwhelmed. Through bright, bold and camp materials, Naoibh has embraced their lack of assimilation, demanding their own agency and space to exist authentically.
Naoibh will use the residency to create a larger series of costumes and experiment further with installation and more daring performances. They will also use the opportunity to develop their online digital presence and have meaningful conversations with autistic people and others outside the community about representations of autism.
Naoibh said: “Having a residency which is specifically for neurodivergent artists is a dream come true and its importance should not be understated - I am delighted to have been chosen for this opportunity! I hope to be able to connect with the other amazing artists chosen and learn through this project what it means to be a working artist. I am excited to create a camp, colourful and fun celebration of being autistic and agender.”
Image caption: The Realness (2022) by Naoibh McNamee
Henry Jones (15 August – 18 September 2022)
The New Art Gallery Walsall
Henry Jones uses traditional making methods such as metalworking, stonecraft and ropemaking to produce socially-engaged artworks and projects that explore ideas of legacy and change and straddle the boundary between craft and fine art. Recent work has focused on his family’s longstanding relationship to coalmining, and horticulture as a form of participatory art. The artist co-runs a community garden in Northfield, Birmingham.
Henry’s desire to share everything in his work that informs his process and thought making is one way in which he expresses his ADD. He often positions found objects that reflect his making journey alongside finished work. Henry’s residency outcomes will be informed and led by his surroundings, both in the Gallery and the wider locality.
Henry said: “I want to take this opportunity to share, to show there’s more than one way of doing things.”
Zoë Lippett, New Art Gallery Walsall’s Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, said: “We are delighted to be working with Outside In for a second time on a series of residencies, this time as part of the Explorers project led by Project Art Works. Through this collaboration, we will be able to support two early career neurodivergent artists with studio space, curatorial guidance and online exposure, as well as meaningfully connecting them with a lead artist at a different point in their career. We are excited to see what Naoibh and Henry create and particularly look forward to bringing both artists together to share space and time at the midpoint of this residency project.”
Alex Billingham (10 October – 11 November 2022)
The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
Alex Billingham is a disabled / neurodiverse trans fem artist living in the West Midlands. Working mainly in live art with experimental theatre and film, their practice explores how their various identities collide and intermingle.
Alex uses an analogue approach to manipulating digital technology, allowing them to realise ‘a low-fi visual style, binding grime with glitter to make beautifully dirty work’. They use a mix of technology, from homemade theremins to digital synthesizers, to build up audio landscapes which augment their visual work.
Selected to perform at Tate St Ives as part of this year’s We are Invisible We are Visible programme, their work has recently been acquired by The New Art Gallery Walsall for their permanent collection.
Alex’s intention is to produce a film incorporating live art and disabled dance, charting their progress via social media channels so that people can see how they and the work are developing.
Alex said: “I'm hoping to use my time at The Herbert with outside in to step onto the thin ice of language while seeing how a fandango fits a fluctuating form.”
Martin Roberts, Senior Curator for The Herbert, said: “We’re really excited to be working with Outside In as part of the Explorers project led by Project Art Works, and we’re very much looking forward to working with Alex and to seeing the work they create for the residency. It’s a great opportunity for our audiences to gain an insight into the artist’s creative process.”
The Explorers project is supported by Arts Council England and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
About Outside In
Outside In is an established national charity, founded in 2006. It aims to provide a platform for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation. Outside In’s work covers three main areas: artist development, exhibitions and training. These activities, supported by fundraising and communications, all aim to create a fairer art world by supporting artists, creating opportunities and influencing arts organisations.
About Project Art Works
Project Art Works is a collective of neurodiverse artists and activists based in Hastings, UK. Intersecting ART and CARE, they promote the rights and representation of neuro-minorities through an expansive art practice, embracing holistic and practical support for individuals and caregivers alongside established artistic outputs. Working in partnership nationally and internationally, they seek to reverse the entrenched power dynamics of inclusion, and to provide genuine opportunities for people to represent themselves within culture and society.