Dancing hands

Nick and Michelle Genders

Dancing hands


Series of 4 digital images

12cm x 12 centimetres


Exhibited in:



Artist statement:

During the Hatch program that generated the artwork that was included in the ‘Transformational’ exhibition I worked intensively with one person called Nick.

On the first week of the Hatch, during our initial discussions, I noticed that Nick wanted to contribute something. When prompted, he stood up and walked into the centre of the group and communicated in sign language. He had not done this in previous programs and it definitely stood out as a special moment. Although we did not understand what he was saying, we were struck by the beauty of the way he moved his hands.

In subsequent weeks I worked with Nick, and with the help of his carer Malcolm, we explored the ways that Nick communicates. This included written words, gestures, sounds and body movements. I learnt about the things that were important to Nick, such as his group home and the friends that he lives there with. A breakthrough occurred when we traced one another’s bodies with a marker lying down on a large sheet of paper.

I realised that if I learnt sign language then this would open up communication with Nick even more. I learnt simple alphabet based sign language and through this Nick told me that his favourite bands were Abba and the Beatles. We watched Abba videos together on Youtube and he was clearly excited by this. He even started to sing! I knew that he could play piano (because I had seen a video from a previous program where he did this) and we moved towards expressing Nick’s love of Abba using his forms of communication.

Nick told us that his favourite Abba song is ‘Fernando’ so we got hold of the sheet music and he used a keyboard to learn to play the song. It was another huge breakthrough for him to learn this new song and he really pushed himself to do it!

Next we worked with the lyrics of the song. We decorated Nick’s hands in the style of the costumes worn by Abba in their video. We wrote out the lyrics to ‘Fernando’ and Nick and I signed all of the lyrics to the chorus together. Again, he really pushed himself to make this part of the video. It is not comfortable for him to have things stuck on his hands but he enjoyed the way the decorations looked.

This artwork represents a transformation for Nick because he really extended his strengths into new areas in order to make it. Not only did he learn new things, so did I. I really like knowing what he is saying rather than it being a mystery as it was originally.