Poet, artist and campaigner, Vince Laws, has launched a collection of ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards in the Tate Modern whilst having his portrait painted. The limited edition collection comprises six cards with hand-written texts in black and red biro.
‘Who gives Atos about the sick?’ asks the first.
‘Atos is a French IT company, paid £100 million a year by the government to take benefits away from the sick’ reads the second.
‘Atos Kills' [allegedly] states the third boldly. ‘Poet Paul Reekie killed himself in June 2010. He left out 2 letters informing him that his Incapacity Benefit and his Housing Benefit had been stopped.’
Card four reads: ‘Last year despite support from my GP, HIV consultant and psychologist – I scored zero points on an Atos medical and my benefits were stopped. I wasn’t even informed. This is no way to treat a mental.’
Card five: ‘Atos has just sponsored the Paralympics in London 2012. The Paralympians must refuse this money – which has been stolen from the sick and disabled.’
The final card reads ‘I went to Atos for a medical last Thursday. Did I get any points? Day of Protest – September 30th – outside Atos offices nationwide.’
Vince has been invited to sit for a portrait by the artist Tanya Raabe as part of the Revealing Culture: Head On Collection. The sitting was open to the public on Wednesday 21 September in the Tate Modern, where Vince’s ‘Atos Kills’ funeral cards were on display.
Vince Laws invites us to Tanya at the Tate...
Well let’s be honest, I’ve had my share of shit to deal with this year - but you know what, from shit springs roses! On 21st September I will be sitting in the Tate Modern having my portrait painted by an artist whose work I loved from the moment I first saw it: Tanya Raabe.
Tate Curator Marcus Dickey Horley explains. “For the last 18 months disabled artist Tanya Raabe has been working collaboratively with Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool to explore evidence of disability in the Tate collection displays. This has led to the creation of a series of live public events: Revealing Culture Head On, in which Tanya has been given studio space at the Tate in order to run live portrait sittings in which a series of disabled people have been invited in to have their portrait painted by Tanya. The session takes place over the course of a day - with the studio open to the public in the afternoon, giving them the chance to chat to Tanya and her sitter, and also to join in the creative activity, as drawing materials are supplied. The completed series of portraits will form a catalogue and essay, and we also hope to display some of the portraits at Tate Modern in 2012. The aim is twofold: to explore the evidence of disability and disabled people’s lives as seen in the Tate Collection, and also to give a high profile platform to disability arts and to disabled people who use art to say something important about their life experience.”
I first saw Tanya’s portraits at Disability Pride in the Forum in Norwich in 2010. I remember so wanting to take one of every postcard home with me, but I wasn’t sure if they were free. I saw my friend Ann, one of the Disability Pride organizers, and rushed over to ask, “Ann, who did these portraits? I love them. Are the postcards free?” Ann laughed. “Meet my friend Tanya,” she said.
Both Tanya and Marcus are keen to include invisible disabilities within the Head On series, and curious as to how the public will react to someone with no obvious physical disability. If you are HIV+, if you’ve suffered mental health difficulties, if you have invisible disabilities, I’m going to the Tate Modern in London to represent you on September 21st – come and join Tanya and I from 2-4.30pm and make yourself visible. And I’m 50 this year so bring me some cake!