Pukaar Magazine

ART BY EXPERIENCE

In an Art Bed and Breakfast in Blackpool you can book a room that is not at all comfortable, but the Leicester artist who designed it says that is the whole point.

Christopher Samuel, 40, wants to show able-bodied people some of the everyday frustrations of life faced by the not-so-able.

His conceptual art room looks great. However it is totally unpractical. The bed is too high, with a hard wooden frame on all sides, making it difficult to get into. The light switches are rendered useless by being positioned far too low out of reach, the bedside lamps can’t be switched on and off unless the person gets out of bed. The bathroom has no separate shower.

It all looks lovely but design-wise it as if everything conspires against the occupant.

The 40-year-old artist makes no apologies for his unwelcoming room, which is one of many pieces of conceptual art he has created with the idea of giving a voice to the unheard.

Creating art with a message, from his studio in Leicester, Christopher wants his work to portray how people in redacted circumstances get overlooked. He says: “I guess it might be seen as political to some degree, but mainly my art is more humanist in nature.”

Christopher’s room – Image credit: Christopher Samuel

He is fast gaining recognition, in fact we spoke to him before he set out for America to give a talk on a piece of his artwork exhibited in North Carolina, called “Housing Crisis”.

How this particular piece came about is through a personal experience. Chris has a type of muscle-wasting condition called CMT and as such is a wheelchair user.

He says: “For a long time I created artwork that was unrelated to disability because I didn’t want to be put into the ‘moaning disabled person’ bracket.

“I came out of hospital and wanted to do something different . I’d always been creative so went on a graphics design course. To my surprise I discovered I could actually draw. I’d never tried it before and was shocked to find I was good at it.”

He says: When I’d done I looked at it and was very shocked to see that it really looked just like me! It sounds strange, but it was as if someone “other” was showing me I could do it. Since then I haven’t looked back.”

“In the space of the next two years I did a preliminary drawing course and an arts foundation course. I then got in at De Montfort University and did a degree in fine art.”

It was after he graduated from there that Chris found himself in the position of being homeless.

He says: “The local authorities were arguing between them as to who was responsible for housing me. I was a wheelchair user but otherwise capable of caring for myself.”

“At first, I paid for myself to stay in a hotel room, which was not at all geared up for anyone who wasn’t fully able-bodied. That’s what gave me inspiration for my ‘unwelcome hotel room’ concept.

He realised that everyone needed to experience the feeling of badly designed living facilities in order to actually realise the importance of good – and also usable -design.

So he designed a sleep-in installation that targets non-disabled people and is slightly theatrical.

His concept was snapped up by artist, mentor and producer Ben Fredericks, who introduced it as an art installation in the Blackpool ArtBand B,

Through his art, he aims to show that the theory of one-size-fits- all and tick-boxes is not working and he asks us to question all types of criteria that peddle and perpetuate this.

Right now, at his art studio in Leicester’s StudionAme in Broughton Street, Christopher is working on a body of work relating to giving a voice to those who receive care, and the relationship between the carer and those they care for.

Christopher’s website is: www.christophersamuel.co.uk/

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