| Atos Protest Armband (2012)
French IT firm Atos was contracted by the Tory-led coalition government, at a cost of £112.4m, to administer the notorious Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Designed to cut the national spend on social security, the WCA has led to the deaths of thousands of disabled people, with many more experiencing serious distress and poverty. Combined with government and press rhetoric against disabled people and benefits claimants, hate crime against disabled people has skyrocketed. At the London Paralympic Games in 2012, Atos became an official sponsor.
Artist Liz Crow took the fight against Atos into the heart of the Games, wearing a homemade anti-Atos black armband stating: ‘Atos kills’. In doing so, she took up the battle cry of activists working nationwide to protest the WCA. The image of the armband against a backdrop of the Olympic stadium was widely circulated online raising awareness, provoking discussion and affirming the accounts of disabled people.
Liz says, “While Atos was getting public kudos for sponsoring the Paralympics, behind closed doors they were wilfully wrecking people’s lives. The idea of the Paralympic ‘superhuman’ was being used to whip up vitriol against disabled people – and Atos was profiting from both.”
Liz Crow is an artist-activist. In Bedding Out (2012), a durational performance responding to the benefits overhaul, Liz took to her bed in a gallery, holding bedside conversations with members of the public about the issues raised by the work. Bedding Out was livestreamed to nearly 10,000 people in over 50 countries. Figures (2015) was a mass-sculptural performance that made visible the human cost of austerity, urging action against it. Taking up residence on the streets and foreshore of central London for 11 days and nights in the run up to the UK general election, Liz sculpted 650 small human figures out of raw river mud, one for every parliamentary constituency, with each figure representing an individual at the sharp end of austerity.
Photo credit: River Crow/Roaring Girl Productions