The Bluecoat welcomes all things Niet Normaal as DadaFest 2012 opens in Liverpool

By Ben Miller | 13 July 2012
An image of a digitally-created photo of a baby in the womb clutching a mobile phone
Koert Van Mensvoort, Next Nature Baby (2008)© Koert van Mensvoort
Festival: DadaFest 2012, various venues, Liverpool, until September 30 2012

Originally established as the North West Disability Arts Forum in 1990, the team behind DaDaFest have turned their annual season of events – launched in 2001 –  into the world’s most comprehensive festival of disability and deaf arts.

A photo of a white-walled art gallery with the letters everything is going to be alright on the floor
Untitled, a wall painting by Ben Cove, is part of the London 2012 Commission for Niet Normaal© Ben Cove
The exhibition centrepiece this year is Niet Normaal, a contemporary art show at the Bluecoat which, translated from the Dutch phrase, has the dual meanings of “not normal” and “cool”.

Curators Ine Gevers and Garry Robson, who first displayed it to 50,000 visitors in Amsterdam two years ago, have asked artists to respond to the concept of what normal might be, including Bob and Roberta Smith, Bruce Nauman and Evelien Krijl and Olivia Glebbeek, a pair whose t-shirt subversions of “institutional language” have been formulated alongside Mental Health users as one of three new commissions for the show.

“It stimulates visitors to think about their own definitions of difference and normality,” says Robson, praising the exciting and provocative elements of a multidisciplinary exhibition. “It suggests alternative ways of looking at art, science and society.”

Ruth Gould, of DaDaFest, says planners are “delighted” at Niet Normaal’s inclusion as part of the London 2012 Festival, calling it “especially poignant” during a Paralympic year.

“It is moving on the debate of how everyone is affected by issues of disability at some point in their lives,” she reflects. “It brings it into the mainstream, and the works are stirring and thought-provoking in their own right.”

Deaf artist Aaron Williamson, the festival’s artist-in-residence, will be responding to Victorian paintings at the Walker Art Gallery, creating reworked versions of them alongside a series of talks and tours.

The Bluecoat and FACT also host film screenings – at the former, a live clarinettist performs a rhapsody before the screening, while the latter presents a range of shorts embracing the festival theme of shifting identities.

Interactive games which you can play across town via mobile phone and numerous workshops also figure in an imaginatively dense programme, much of which takes place at the end of August.

  • Visit for full listings and details. Niet Normaal is at the Bluecoat until September 2 2012.

More pictures:

A photo of two women standing side by side in a courtyard looking up at a building
DaDaFest founder Ruth Gould and Lord Mayor Sharon Sullivan raise the Flag of Compassion in the Bluecoat Courtyard© Mark McNulty
A photo ofa  young woman in a blue dress standing next to exhibits in an art gallery
Jennifer John makes an improvised performance around the Bonfire installation which is part of Niet Normaal© Mark McNulty
A photo of people looking at exhibits lined on a table inside a well-lit art gallery space
Visitors take a look at Pharmacopoeia, an exhibit depicting the medication an average person will consume during a lifetime© Mark McNulty
A photo of a dark leather sculpture of a human figure without arms or a head on a stool
Birgit Dieker, Bad Mummy© Mark McNulty
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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