This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > Disability Arts Online commissions new work exploring SPILL Festival of Performance’s video archive

Disability Arts Online (DAO) is pleased to announce its latest Viewfinder commission, a collaboration with the SPILL Festival of Performance (SPILL) which will encompass a curated collection of SPILL’s video archive, a new video work and written reflections on the process.

A photograph of performance artist Martin O'Brien performing 'If it Were the Apocalypse I'd Eat You To Stay Alive', with a mask on his head and red ink on his bare chest marking out his lungs.

Martin O'Brien performing 'If it Were the Apocalypse I'd Eat You To Stay Alive' at Toynbee Studios. Image © Chameleoneye Films

Disabled performance artist Martin O’Brien was selected for his involved and rigorous artistic practice and his familiarity with SPILL’s programming, having performed at two previous SPILL Festivals. His work considers existence with a severe chronic illness within our contemporary situation, acting as a form of resistance to illness and a celebration of his body. As part of the project, O’Brien visited SPILL Festival 2015, delivering an in-depth review for DAO.

He is currently immersing himself in SPILL TV and will produce a curated pathway through the archive which will be hosted on DAO’s Viewfinder platform later in the year.

O’Brien said:

“I’m really excited to work with SPILL again. This time, in collaboration with DAO, not performing but looking through the archive and thinking about the ways in which disability has been curated and how that relates to politics of identity and representation. I hope that this project has wider implications. I’m really committed to widening participation in the arts and the kinds of work that is shown at major festivals.

I think that I’m in a position where I have a responsibility to contribute to this. As a disabled artist with an established practice I can make my voice heard. Not that I can speak for communities of disabled artists, but that I want to draw attention to the under-representation of disability in performance today. There are also wider implications such as the ignoring of important artists making work about illness and disability within art history.”

A photograph of Kris Canavan's performance piece Dredge. A man crawls across a road with flowers in his mouth, Big Ben can be seen in the background.

Dredge by Kris Canavan, SPILL Festival 2015 produced by Pacitti Company. Photo by Guido Mencari

Throughout the process O’Brien will enter into extended dialogue with SPILL’s Artistic Director & Curator, Robert Pacitti, teasing out themes on live art, disability and where these intersect with other aspects of diverse experience.

Pacitti said:

“I’m delighted that DAO and SPILL are enabling Martin’s research in to the festival’s archives. Foregrounding a diversity of body politics is the whole point of the festival and this project has potential to share meaningful and far-reaching outcomes.”

A new film will be produced which documents the discourse between O’Brien and Pacitti during the project, exploring the themes that arise from the curated collection, including Pacitti’s approach to access over his 25 year career.

O’Brien continued:

“The project will allow me to reflect, but the politics are dedicated to moving forward. For me this is really important. Opening up conversations about bodies and the way we are represented is really significant. So I’m thrilled to be able to work with SPILL and DAO on this. Let’s crip up the archives!” 

Viewfinder, funded by Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts, is DAO’s most ambitious project to date; encompassing individual artist commissions, and curated collections which will be featured on a new video channel of content focused on promoting disability arts practice to broad audiences.