Sam Metz

Fleeting interruptions, failures, aberrations | Leeds Art Gallery

Sam Metz, Performance at the GAL Collective Takeover, Attenborough Arts Centre. Photo by David Wilson Clarke

My work captures what an unpredictable body is and how the very presence of a disabled body transgresses societal restrictions. Working with movement, as a disabled performer who has Tourette’s and is Autistic, short performances are an intrinsic part of my visual art. My work begins in performance and bodily experience and are translated into objects that give form to time based media.

‘Fleeting interruptions, failures, aberrations’ will be a one-hour performance centred around activating modular materials on site to build, assemble and destroy, closely connected to Dada anti-capitalist ideas. The modular pieces will be made from lightweight materials – cardboard formed shapes of the body with bamboo and poplar plywood, alongside paper for drawing. The temporary structures will demonstrate ideas around repetitive movement that comes from having Tourette’s which will be supported by drawing of ‘unpredictable movements’. These sculptures will be taken apart, the drawings will be wiped away and the work will be reproduced numerous times in different formats across the hour.

In relation to the Dada movement, I am interested in constructing and deconstructing modular pieces with no clear output or finalised piece. The building and rebuilding of assemblages relates to ideas of manufacturing and futility. I am interested in the consideration of making without purpose and how this connects to Dada’s rejection of capitalism and neoliberal agendas. My use of performance to build and destroy the works repetitively whilst also playing homage to Dada performances reinstates my core connection to ‘fleeting interruptions’ ‘failures’ and ‘aberrations’ connected to having an unpredictable body.

Inspired by the disability arts movement, and in particular ideas of radical reconciliation, I am looking to further develop ways of describing embodied ‘failures’, ‘aberrations’ and ‘interruptions’ connected to movement and disability, documented through sculpture, film and drawing. My work looks to destigmatise embodied communication that comes from disability, Autism and Tourette’s and to develop narratives that value non-verbal communication: the story of my practice, missing stories in art development around dynamic disability, neurodivergence and alternative communication.

I am interested in bringing the embodied interaction back to my sculptural work. All of my sculpture is based on movement and by activating the work through movement it will enable me to re-emphasise this connection.

I operate within a social model of disability (with deep respect for the disability arts movement) and I am keen that my work is authentically disability led. My work may make others uncomfortable due to the paucity of representation of disabled bodies and movement in society, or by challenging societal conventions that actively seek to exclude and marginalise disabled bodies, but I am keen to challenge the way that unexpected behaviour is alienated from society.

Sam Metz they/them MRSS (Member of the Royal Society of Sculptors)

Fleeting interruptions, failures, aberrations - 2nd July 2022

Initiated by a three day research and development phase in the Central Court, a 19th century architecture with glass roof and natural light within Leeds Art Gallery, the event synthesised key concerns in an hour long performance. The performance interacted with an installation comprising of : in-the-moment assembled sculptures resonating with the architecture of the gallery-space, an animation of these sculptures accompanied by text on a large screen, a spoken word sound work narrativizing negotiations of Disability within a gallery(traversing in and outside of institutional and personal frames) and drawing materials and large rolls of paper.


Embodying and holding the space of the Central Court through their body amidst the sculptural forms and sound work, Sam Metz conveyed a politics of Disability within galleries ‘moving’ through a personal narrative and towards to call for equity. The strength of the communication was significantly affective; we witnessed some members of the audience become visibly emotional as words became manifest in the body.

Intense at the start, the atmosphere was broken by the movement(s)of the audience as they were invited and then began to make smaller scale sculptures mirroring the larger forms. The collection action(s) intimated a different trajectory, where the institution seemed to offer a space fo rre-thinking Disability and where all, in all of their differences, could come together in ‘play’.


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