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> > > DaDaFest 2012 presents Niet Normaal - Difference on Display
image of a foetus inside a womb, holding a mobile phone

Koert van Mensvoort, Next Nature Baby, 2008

'Niet Normaal: Difference on Display', a major international contemporary art exhibition will come to the Bluecoat, Liverpool this summer as part of DaDaFest 2012.

The exhibition also forms part of the London 2012 Festival programme, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad celebration, inspiring creativity across all forms of culture.

From Fri 13 July – Sun 2 September, the Bluecoat will be given over to this landmark exhibition, which will feature the work of over 30 internationally renowned artists including new commissions, each addressing a definitive question of our time: ‘what is normal and who decides?’, specifically focussing on language as freedom and language as imprisonment. This question is being examined through art that aims to celebrate difference in the Olympic and Paralympic year, in the context of a disability and deaf arts festival. 

Niet Normaal brings together important artworks by a number of leading international artists who address this question Adapted by curators Ine Gevers and Garry Robson from a highly successful Amsterdam exhibition, which attracted over 50,000 visitors in 2010 (, this will be the first showing in the UK of this compelling group of works. 

What is this norm, and who actually satisfies it? Where do we draw the line? At a facial wrinkle, a depression, at someone who isn’t interested in getting ahead, at a visible prosthetic device, taking pills to improve intelligence, at major cosmetic surgery? Every minute of every day we make judgments about other people. We base these judgments on a host of superficial factors, appearance, health, age behaviour, cultural definitions of validity, where perfection is often assumed to be the norm or at least the goal. But what is perfection and who wants it?

sculpture of a black female torso, without arms, legs or head, covered in spikes

Birgit Dieker, Bad Mummy, 2005

Niet Normaal will display work by artists seeking out paradoxes and casting a keen eye on the world around them, and share their findings with visitors. The result is by turns shocking, humorous and touching. New spaces open up between temptation and confrontation: room for being different.

Niet Normaal will feature paintings, installations, films, photographs and sculptures by renowned artists such as Bob and Roberta Smith, Bruce Nauman, Christine Borland, Christiaan Bastiaan, Douglas Gordon, Javier Tellez, Pharmacopeia, Koert van Mensvoort and BirgIt Deiker.

New work has been commissioned for the exhibition including from Evelien Krijl & Olivia Glebbeek, Aaron Williamson and Liverpool based Laurence Clark. Krijl and Glebbeek are interested in the way language can be used to liberate and yet enslave. They will be working with Mental Health users and providers to produce t-shirts emblazoned with printed texts, examining the desire to be original yet also displaying the conformity of institutional language. Aaron Williamson’s commission radically re-visions Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery’s Victorian collection.

Niet Normaal co-curator Garry Robson said: “Through an exciting array of provocative contemporary works in a whole range of media this immersive exhibition stimulates visitors to think about their own definitions of difference and normality and suggests alternative ways of looking at Art, Science and Society.”

Ruth Gould, CEO of DaDaFest, said: “Niet Normaal is a major offer in DaDaFest this year. I am delighted that it is also part of the London 2012 festival. Not only is the exhibition a stirring and thought provoking collection of works in its own right, it is moving on the debate of how everyone is affected by issues of disability at some point in their lives and it brings it into the mainstream. It’s made especially poignant in a Paralympic year.”

Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director at the Bluecoat said: “We are delighted to host this important exhibition which raises pertinent and provocative questions at a time when much focus will be on sporting attainment and ‘the body beautiful’. Our partnership with the exhibition curators and DaDa, part of the creative community in our building, is a fruitful collaboration and promises to result in a highly engaging exhibition.”

There will also be a series of talks, films, workshops and seminars during the period, where the public, artists and other practitioners can come together to discuss the exhibition and the issues it raises.

DaDaFest 2012, the biggest, most comprehensive and challenging festival of Disability & Deaf Arts in the world, takes place in Liverpool from Fri13 July – Sun 2 September, with the majority of live events concentrated in the last two weeks of August. These range from cutting-edge comedy to deaf culture events and leading international musicians, in a programme that will both entertain and present artforms from different cultural perspectives. The Festival’s theme, TransActions - Fluid Bodies: Shifting Identities, will look at how disability affects us all, examining exchanges that occur between people and technology, and how a sense of identity is bound up with our changing bodies.

Niet Normaal: Difference on Display is produced by DaDaFest at The Bluecoat

For more information you can also search for DaDaFest on Facebook or follow @DaDaDisDeaf on Twitter.

Fri 13 July – Sun 2 September 2012
Open daily from 10am-6pm
at the Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool