Mark Ware was commissioned to be one of the artists involved in Total Immersion, a two year CEDA Arts project funded by Arts Council England. The project was the CEDA charity’s most ambitious creative project to date. Total Immersion worked with a diverse range of artists in a wide spectrum of art forms, including residencies by internationally renowned professional disabled artists (Sue Austin and Mark Ware). The project also provided progression for a number of emerging disabled artists. Disabled people living in the region, and visiting, engaged with the project as participants, as audiences in the community and online.
Throughout the project CEDA hosted a number of exhibitions, celebration events and workshops for all, culminating in May 2018 as an integral part of AWE (Art Week Exeter). Of Mark’s contribution, CEDA wrote,
‘Mark Ware has been using his photography skills to work with CEDA’s service users to create photographic images of themselves which have been used to create ‘reflections of self’ banners which were exhibited in the Princesshay Shopping Centre during Exeter Arts Week Festival. Titled ‘Artistic Debris’, these are self-portraits of how the service users view themselves and the images are surrounded by words that they feel best describe them as a person. The images received very positive reactions and the exhibition of them was extended by Princesshay for longer than the initial Art Week.’
Mark commented: “My art contribution to Total Immersion has focused on perceptions of self and disability; How we perceive ourselves, how we perceive others, and how others perceive us. The intention from the outset was to create portraits of four Ceda users, all of whom have cerebral palsy, in ways that directly involve them in multisensory experiences during each part of the creative process. I sought portraits that went beyond traditional single-layered external representations. The context of the exhibition space for this part of the project was a shopping centre. The location greatly influenced the style and content of the work produced. Printed onto banners and hung above a shopping centre walkway, the portraits were displayed amongst a vast array of visual advertising imagery and words. I decided to create designs that, on first glance, might appear to be advertisements too, but on closer inspection reveal themselves as ‘non-commercial’ portraits of four people with disabilities. All four portraits show wheelchair users. Having used a wheelchair myself for lengthy periods in the past due to my own disability, I am acutely aware of how many people ‘look down’ on wheelchair users. I played on this shared wheelchair user experience by featuring wheelchairs prominently in each banner portrait, showing our group ‘looking down’ on the public from their banners that were hanging above.”
CEDA’s final report on Total Immersion can be found here.