Design meets disability at V&A Dundee

Choosing a prosthetic hand is a complex and deeply personal decision which will be explored in a new exhibition at V&A Dundee, Hands of X: Design Meets Disability, which opens today (27 June).

Hands of X: Design Meets Disability explores and questions the different factors at play in the design of prosthetic hands and proposes a new, more nuanced approach.

The collection of prototype hands designed by Graham Pullin, Andrew Cook, Corinne Hutton and Eddie Small offers an unashamed yet understated choice somewhere between the extremes of ‘cosmetic’ hands that imitate human hands or ‘bionic’ hands that look superhuman, because for many people disability is not something to be hidden or overcome – it is just part of everyday life.

The exhibition recreates a prototype consultation service that was installed in an eyewear shop in London in 2017. This encouraged wearers to choose from a range of materials and create a hand that truly felt their own. The exhibition unpacks the participatory process that brought people with limb difference and amputees together with designers, prosthetists and makers to feed into the collection’s development.

Visitors are invited to contribute their experience and imagination by taking part in the next phase of this active research project, exploring how choice can bring a sense of ownership, and joining in by creating a collage of a hand they would like to wear.

Sophie McKinlay, Director of Programme at V&A Dundee, said: “It is hugely exciting that visitors to V&A Dundee will have the opportunity to take part in this important project and to feed into ongoing research in the field of prosthetics design.

“Whether or not you have limb difference or identify as disabled, we value your experience, imagination and sense of style.

Hands of X: Design Meets Disability shows very powerfully how important design is to all our lives, and how it can be used to illuminate and interrogate issues through exploration and research.”

Graham Pullin, who led Hands of X, said: “The exhibition will contribute to a new study, supported by The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute, exploring choice and a feeling of ownership in limb fitting services.

“We have also published a manifesto with signatories from the worlds of disability and design, from Aimee Mullins to Alain de Botton, from Tom Shakespeare to Tomoko Azumi.

“This is part of the launch of the Atelier of Disability Design and Culture, a new interdisciplinary centre across the schools of the University of Dundee, co-founded in 2019 with leading disability studies researcher and theorist Fiona Kumari Campbell."

Corinne Hutton, founder of Finding Your Feet, said:"For most prosthetic users, builders, wearers, the cosmetic part is small. And it shouldn't be."

Hands of X: Design Meets Disability is being realised in partnership with the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design and supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The exhibition runs from today until 1 September.

The Michelin Design Gallery is a responsive programme of dynamic and challenging projects. These range from small-scale displays exploring the breadth of practice the design world embraces to national projects responding to current design issues.

V&A Dundee has also been nominated for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019, the most prestigious museum prize in the world. The winner is announced on Wednesday 3 July.

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