Bordered Belonging

An exhibition exploring the intersections of health, precarity, care and hostile environments at Newbridge Gallery
Abbi Varey
January 22, 2024

One of the most-important artist-led spaces in the North of England is about to unveil a new exhibition exploring the intersections of health, precarity, care and hostile environments.

Bordered Belonging opens at The NewBridge Project's Shieldfield Centre, Newcastle HQ on Saturday 3 February (following a preview evening on Friday 2 February from 5-8pm).

Bordered Belonging platforms the voices and perspectives of those living in a system that does not always offer compassion, adequate care, or sanctuary. How do we decide which bodies are perceived to be a risk to society? Why is care from the state often conditional and policed?

Bordered Belonging offers a space to interrogate health inequalities, the role artists can play in creating solidarity, and mutual aid in (un)caring systems. It includes new work by artist and activist Bhavani Esapathi and ‘Sick Bed’, a film by Leah Clements, which uses virtual reality gaming to situate the viewer as someone who is stuck in bed with an unnamed illness. ‘Crip Quilt’ by Jamila Prowse, a large-scale, patchwork textile quilt, translating the individual and collective experiences of disability, will also be on show alongside Prowse’s moving image work ‘Spoons (After Carolyn Lazard)’. This film explores spoon theory, using spoons as a visualisation of the disparity in energy reserves between disabled and able-bodied people. Finally, Jamie Hale’s poem ‘I wish to be held by a river’ will be exhibited, painted directly on the gallery walls, with their poetry collection, ‘Shield’.

There will also be an area for reading and reflecting within the gallery, featuring the revolutionary texts from those who have inspired and contributed to the creation of this project. This includes the work of Jamie Hale, Nira Yuval Davis, Bob Williams Findlay, Alice Wong, and Shada Kafai.

This programme is developed by The NewBridge Project with writer, maker & social-tech activist Bhavani Esapathi. As an immigrant, disabled woman of colour much of her work is impacted by her lived experiences alongside extensively working with patient groups and research institutes.

Bordered Belonging Exhibition at The NewBridge Project in Newcastle

Leah Clements is an artist from and based in East London whose practice spans film, photography, performance, writing, installation, and other media. Her work is concerned with the relationship between psychological, emotional, and physical states often through personal accounts of unusual or hard-to-articulate experiences. Her practice also focuses on sickness/cripness/disability in art, in critical and practical ways. She is the 1st prize recipient of the 2023 Mosaic Art Award, Hauser & Wirth London. Recent projects include her solo shows ‘INSOMNIA’ at South Kiosk (2022-23) and ‘The Siren of the Deep’ at Eastside Projects (2021), and artist-in-residence at Serpentine Galleries (2020-21). Upcoming projects include a solo show at Peer, and an artwork commissioned by Bethlem for a new hospital.

Jamie Hale
Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale is a poet, curator, director, theatre maker, screenwriter, and otherwise indecisively multidisciplinary creative. Their work narrates the intimate urgency of having a disabled body in society, linking nature, mortality, and universality, both welcoming and challenging readers and audiences. They were a Jerwood Poetry Fellow 2021-2022 and founded the Disabled Poets’ Prize in 2022. They also founded the award-winning CRIPtic Arts and won the Evening Standard Future Theatre Fund Director/Theatre Maker of the Year Award for their poetry show NOT DYING in 2021. Their pamphlet, Shield, was published by Verve Press, and their show has been platformed by large cultural venues, from HOME Manchester to Jaktent in Jakarta. Their work has appeared in the Guardian, The Rialto, MAGMA, the Wellcome Collection and Poetry Quarterly, and they have performed and spoken in venues and at events including the Saboteur Awards, the Tate Modern, the Southbank Centre, the Barbican Centre, and Newcastle Poetry Festival.

Jamila Prowse is an artist and writer, propelled by curiosity and a desire to understand herself through making. Informed by her lived experience of disability, mixed race ancestry and the loss of her father at a young age; her work is research driven and indebted to Black feminist and crip scholars. She is an active participant in a rich and growing contemporary disabled artistic community and has been ongoingly researching, programming, and creating around cripping the art world, since 2018. Self-taught, Jamila is drawn to experimenting with a multitude of mediums in order to process her grief and radical hope.

Jamila Prowse by Katarzyna Perlak
Jamila Prowse (Image: Katarzyna Perlak)

Currently articulating through moving image, painting, photography, textiles, and performance, she is a member of Open School East 23-24. Previous exhibitions, screenings and talks include Somerset House, South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire (London, UK) and Hordaland Kunstsenter (Bergen, Norway). Her writing has appeared in Frieze, Art Monthly, British Journal of Photography and elsewhere. She is currently working on her first novel.

Sick Bed – Leah Clements: ‘Sick Bed’ by Leah Clements is a VR game artwork that situates the viewer in bed with an unnamed illness. Commissioned by SPACE London as part of the Art+Tech Residency 2017-18, it seeks to negate the more prevalent VR ’empathy experiences’ which are always temporary and usually fun. For Bordered Belonging, Clements shares a moving-image first person demo of the VR game being played.

Sick Bed, Leah Clements, VR game artwork, still from game demo (2017)_
Sick Bed, Leah Clements, VR game artwork, still from game demo (2017)

Spoons (After Carolyn Lazard) – Jamila Prowse: ‘Spoons (After Carolyn Lazard)’ by Jamila Prowse is a moving image work based upon Spoons Theory; which uses spoons as a visualisation of the disparity in energy reserves between disabled and abled people. Though a disabled and abled person will start the day with the same number of spoons, an abled person may only need 1 spoon to undertake an activity such as going to the shops, while a disabled person might use 4 spoons. In this way, disabled people deplete their spoons (or energy reserves) far quicker and thus must be conscious about how they spend their spoons. Spoons Theory has translated into a colloquialism within crip communities – “I’m out of spoons” or “I’m going to spend my spoons on you.”

On screen, spoons are papier-mâchéd in newspaper clippings related to COVID-19, as an acknowledgement of a new generation of people living with chronic illness and disability because of long-COVID. While Jamila covers the spoons, placing them down on the table, two hands begin to come and take them away, continually depleting Jamila’s work. The act indicates the tireless additional labour involved in being disabled and how we are always running out of spoons/energy.

Over a 6-month period, Jamila exchanged voicenotes with three disabled artists – Leah Clements, Carolyn Lazard and Bella Milroy – about their personal relationships to spoons theory, which has then been turned into an original score using an algorithm by sound artist Felix Taylor. Thinking around voicenotes as a form of holding commune in crip communities, particularly for those who are bed or housebound.

The work is made in reference to Carolyn Lazard’s 2018 moving image, ‘Crip Time’, and mirrors the same bird-eyes view shot of a tablecloth. ‘Crip Time’ acts as a visual and research touchstone; influencing an exploration of how energy and time manifest themselves within crip communities.

This piece was Commissioned through Sussex University’s Full Stack Feminism project. This research/project was funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council under the ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Research Grants Call’.

Crip Quilt – Jamila Prowse: ‘Crip Quilt’ is a large-scale, patchwork, textile quilt translating the individual and collective experience of disability. With contributions from National Disability Art Collection and Archive, three new collated oral histories with disabled artists of colour and the artist’s own lived experience; each square in the patchwork relays a snapshot of a disabled artist’s life. While making the quilt, Jamila found that stitching aids symptoms of her disability, and her embroidered reflections took on a diaristic, confessional tone. Made on crip time, across 15 months, predominantly from the artist’s sick bed, the process became therapeutic in nature. The materiality of the quilt is weighted to reflect the use of weighted blankets to manage anxiety disorders and alleviate flare-ups and burnouts for neurodivergent people. The quilt will be accompanied by creative access adjustments of a soundscape, which is part audio description and part audio guide, and a moving image work for remote viewing.

I wish to be held by a river – Jamie Hale: Jamie Hale explains the story behind their poem, ‘I wish to be held by a river’: “I was in the early stages of respiratory failure, and confronting my own mortality. The poem holds both the dislocation of living with uncertain prognosis, and the cognitive disorientation high carbon-dioxide levels can cause. Writing it, I was trying to find some sort of peace. Natural bodies are subject to forces over which we ultimately have no control, except the personal question of how we respond to and accept the influence of that nature.”

The NewBridge Project is accessible. You can find out more here, or please contact the team prior to visiting if you require additional information regarding access and facilities.

Saturday 3 February – Saturday 30 March 2024

Opening Preview: Friday 2 February, 5pm – 8pm

Open Wednesday – Saturday, 12pm – 5pm