Tony Heaton

Out of Order | BALTIC, Gateshead

Monument to the Unintended Performer, Tony Heaton. Commissioned by Channel 4 to celebrate the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Photo Dave King

For Tristan Tzara, art was both deadly serious and a game. This intervention, Out of Order at the BALTIC is both.

Tony Heaton has championed disability rights for decades and his activism has informed his practice both as an artist as well as his work as CEO and now as Chair of SHAPE, the disability arts organisation.

In the first instance Out of Order, could be seen as a call for action, a direct way to mobilise and ignite awareness of the basic human rights and opportunities denied to many people in society.

Recent world events from BLM and the social and economic inequalities highlighted by the ongoing Covid pandemic make it clear that the idea of society needs to be reconsidered. We need to declare the idea of ‘normal’ that underpins society  an outdated concept.

In terms of accessibility, it is not just about disability, there are many barriers that deter and impede opportunity in the arts and of course in life as well.

The fallen in society are the forgotten, othered, overlooked, left out, pushed out, ignored, discriminated against, despised, hated, locked away, institutionalised, oppressed, overlooked, objectified, abandoned, neglected, excluded, neutered. Society is not binary it is a complex construction with boundaries constantly being reimagined, rewritten and redrawn.

Tzara said, ‘You’ll never know why you exist, but you’ll always allow yourselves to be easily persuaded to take life seriously’. There are people, even today, who don’t want disabled people to exist, who would like to ‘assist’ us not to…

Heaton has for over thirty years, created a series of deadly serious games; ‘Wheelchair Entrance’, ‘Shaken not Stirred’, ‘Great Britain from a Wheelchair’, ‘Monument to the Unintended Performer’, ‘White on White’, ‘Wheelchair Descending a Staircase’, ‘The Barriers’, ‘Gold Lamé’, ‘Raspberry Ripple’, ‘TRAGIC-BRAVE’ and now, ‘Out of Order’ have been played.

‘Out of Order’ is devised, directed and produced by Tony Heaton and Terry Smith with a specially commissioned original musical score by the British composer John Woolrich.



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