Labyrinth of Living Exhibits

Aaron Williamson distorts his face using a glass cabinet at The Huntarian Museum.
Aaron Williamson, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Specimen Mirror
Brian Catling wears a headpiece mimicking a tumourous growth. Brian Catling is touching his brow with a cloth.
Brian Catling, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Out Of It's Depth
Katherine Araniello dressed in an animal outfit, a large grey tube is attached to her nose.
Katherine Araniello, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, BiPAP 1 (Living Experiment)
Sinéad O'Donnell fits wires to potatoes.
Sinéad O'Donnell, Labyrinth of Living Exhibits, Who's afraid of the big bad wolf

Part of the Specimens to Superhumans series curated with Shape

Labyrinth of Living Exhibits considered specimens and curiosities through infiltrating and responding to the exotic and disturbing collection of London’s Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. The audience had the chance to explore the displays while encountering four simultaneous site-specific performances curated by Aaron Williamson and commissioned by Shape and The Arts Catalyst to respond to the museum's permanent collection: Aaron Williamson - Specimen Mirror, Sinéad O'Donnell - Who's afraid of the big bad wolf, Brian Catling - Out of its Depth and Katherine Araniello - Bipap I (Living Experiment). This was followed by a panel discussion. Artists Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello, were joined on the panel by Brian Hurwitz, D’Oyly Carte Professor of Medicine and the Arts at Kings College, and Sam Alberti, Director of the Hunterian Museum, for a discussion about the historical representation of disability and contemporary approaches taken by the medical community, chaired by the Richard Hollingham.

Living Exhibits

The 'living exhibits' were performances by disabled artists commissioned expressly to respond to the museum's permanent collection and will be presented by Katherine Araniello, Brian Catling, Sinéad O'Donnell and Aaron Williamson.

Katherine Araniello uses subversive humour and wit in performances and films that address the social issues surrounding disability.  The majority of her work have been short films and video blogs. In addition to this, she has staged performance pieces as part of the collective the Disabled Avant-Garde with Aaron Williamson. Her works are continued investigative and experimental observations that either highlight the tragedy and pity implicit in medical model representations of disability or present a completely alternative picture of physical difference.  The prime focus is to subvert and parody complex contemporary issues which include assisted suicide, media representation and body aesthetics. Using a variety of media including film, performance and digital prints Araniello transforms these multifarious and serious issues to make works that are humorous and playful with a critical edge.

In 2010 she was awarded an Arts Admin bursary and is currently working on a one-act comedy performance as a potential vehicle in which to expand and develop her ongoing concern with the contemporary enthusiasm for Assisted Suicide.

Brian Catling is a poet, sculptor and performance artist, who is currently working in video and live work. He has been commissioned to make solo installations and performances in many countries including; Spain, Japan, Iceland, Israel, Holland, Norway, Germany, Greenland and Australia. His recent solo show Antix at Matt’s Gallery drew much critical acclaim. Four years ago he founded the international performance group, The Wolf In The Winter, whose most recent manifestation was at The South London Gallery. His video work moves between gallery installation and narrative films made in collaboration with Tony Grisoni. Their most recent work, The Cutting, was released last year. They also produce the no holds barred Cabaret Melancolique.

Catling’s permanent monument for the site of execution at the Tower of London was unveiled in 2007. Eight books of Catling’s poetry have been published and his work has been included in many anthologies. He is professor of fine art at The Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Linacre College. 

Originally from Dublin and based in Belfast since 1995, Sinéad O'Donnell’s performance practice is nomadic and patterns of travel have broadened her cultural perceptions and influenced her artistic sensibilities regarding time and space. She is highly active in the Belfast performance art scene working with local organisations to foster performance art activity and support emerging artists. The critical and artistic core of her solo work explores identity through immediate and mediated encounters with territory and the territorial. Recent performances have been presented at the National Review of Live Art Glasgow 2010, Art No.11 experimental residency Japan 2010, ArTrend performance art festival Taiwan 2009, Shelter 209 Israel 09, My land performance art festival Croatia 09, Glassbox exhibition space University of Ulster Belfast 09, and Paves, Toynbee Studios London, 09.

O'Donnell has also applied her skills and experiences in the development of an international curatorial practice that enables exchange between local and international artists. Most recently, she has curated ‘CHAOS’ with the arts organisation Bbeyond, commissioning 10 Canadian artists to create and produce live work for a week long event in Belfast, 2010.

Over the last 15 years Aaron Williamson has created over 200 performances and video works in many countries: in Greenland, Japan, US, China, South America, Taiwan and throughout Europe. He completed a Doctorate on performance and writing at the University of Sussex, (1997). His many Awards include a 3-Year AHRC Fellowship at the University Central England, (2004 - 07); the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at Oxford University and the British School at Rome, (2001 – 02); the Cocheme Fellowship at Byam Shaw, University of London (2008 – 09). He won the ‘Artist of the Year’ award from FACT in Liverpool, (2007) and was the Adam Reynolds Bursarist at Spike Island, Bristol for a residency between February to April 2010.

Profoundly deaf, Aaron Williamson is the founder of the disability artist’s collective 15mm Films and is one half of the satirical ‘Disabled Avant-Garde’ with Katherine Araniello. A retrospective of Williamson’s video works, ‘The Bell Clapper & Bestiary’, was exhibited by Spike Island, Bristol, in 2010. A monograph, ‘Aaron Williamson: Performance/ Video/ Collaboration’ was published by Live Art Development Agency in 2008 and a compilation DVD ‘Quick Clips and Short Cuts’ in 2011.


Shape,  Hunterian Museum


Funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award and Arts Council England.