Claire Cunningham is an internationally renowned multi-disciplinary performance artist based in Glasgow.

As a self-defining disabled artist, Cunningham’s work often explores the potential of her own specific physicality; the use and misuse of her crutches are integral to her choreography, which rejects traditional dance techniques developed for non-disabled bodies.

She tours her productions nationally and internationally and this year will take two of her works, Give Me A Reason To Live and Guide Gods, out on the road.

Give Me A Reason To Live  

Her 2015 piece Give Me A Reason To Live takes inspiration from the paintings of medieval Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. The work explores themes of religion in art, and ideas around the judgment of bodies and souls. 

“The idea of empathy became quite an interesting topic for me when I was looking at the work of Bosch,” explains Cunningham. “I was really curious about what it is to empathise with other human beings, and where the lines fall between sympathy and empathy and apathy.”

You can watch the full interview, and short clips of the work, in the video above.

Guide Gods

Cunningham’s new piece, Guide Gods, was developed during a research trip in Cambodia, where the artist met landmine survivors. Through one particular encounter, she was exposed to Buddhist ideas of reincarnation, and became fascinated by attitudes held by some of the people she met, who believed that disability was a punishment for sins committed in a previous life. 

As Cunningham explains in the short interview film above: “It made me want to find out more about faith and beliefs around disability, and made me aware of my own vast ignorance around religions generally.”

The resulting piece combines music and dance with interviews with religious leaders to create a bold interrogation of how different world faiths view deafness and disability, shot through with Cunningham’s signature caustic wit.

Watch the full interview, and short clips of the work, in the video below.

Give me a reason to live ©

Ben Nienhuis

Guide Dogs ©

Brian Hartley

Give Me A Reason To Live heads to Japan and Spain later this year, and Guide Gods will be presented in Manchester as part of Sick! Festival in March.

A home-grown Scottish artist

As a Glasgow-born artist, Cunningham is passionate about her Scottish identity, and explains how it has shaped her work and career. 

“I think being based in Scotland creates a lot of possibilities for me. It’s perhaps been easier to thrive as an independent artist in Scotland. Humour is quite an important part of the Scottish character, and that’s always been quite an integral part of my work. It informs the way that I look at the world and look at issues.”


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