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> > > Disability Art and Science: Resonant Frequency

23 January 2009

Resonant Frequency was a major project developed through 2008 by ITHACA in association with Science Oxford (the Oxford Trust) and DAO

Although this ambitious and timely project failed to raise sponsorship, it raised some furtive discussion amongst disabled artists and scientists

Decadent New Assortments - mixed media by Esther Appleyard Esther Appleyard

Decadent New Assortments - mixed media by Esther Appleyard from 'A Series of Lines'

Image: Esther Appleyard

This disability-led partnership planned to deliver an art and science project over two years, from September 2008. The development was to lead to a series of commissions for disabled and Deaf artists and form a body of work for a 6-8 week exhibition at Science Oxford gallery. Alongside the exhibition we planned a series of events involving the local disability community. There was also be a commission for a digital-media response to the work in progress, which was to be hosted on DAO.

Resonant Frequency was set to be a collaboration between disabled and deaf artists and scientists to create a dialogue between the two communities. How can we foster trust and understanding that goes beyond the stereotypes that abound on both sides of the fence?

A primary aim of Resonant Frequency was to facilitate a collaboration between Disability Arts and Science. Whilst recognising that Disability Art is often by definition personal, the project was to take a series of thematic starting points to inspire collaboration e.g the notions of perfectionism and athleticism implicit in the Olympic ideal.

Designed to build on work that has already been done in this area within Disability Arts, Resonant Frequency was set up to commission Disability Art via public competition, with the intention of including social and scientific aspects of disability, as well as the personal.

The pages within this feature outline some of the discussions that were going on and feature work by some of the disabled artists who have contributed to this area of artistic exploration.

Crippen Specimen cartoon

Crippen Specimen cartoon

We want to find out what you think? Science dominates our lives as disabled people. Our independence is often reliant on technology and on medicine. Yet we have little control over how technology and medicine develop.

What might be the consequences of scientists engaging with Disability Art? What kind of impact might this cross-fertilisation of experience have? What themes would need to be explored in an exhibition that attempted to embrace these issues?

Project overview

Project overview

10 February 2009

Science can be a dominating force in the lives of disabled people. Individual independence for many is often reliant on technology and on medicine. Yet disabled groups have little control over how technology and medicine develop, and little input into the

Disabled artists explore scientific ideas

Disabled artists explore scientific ideas

10 February 2009

As part of this blog, Colin Hambrook is building an overview of artists and art projects that have set out to explore different aspects of an engagement between disability arts and science.

Caroline Cardus

Caroline Cardus

10 February 2009

Caroline Cardus adds some thoughts on disabled people’s relationship / experience of science.

Colin Hambrook

Colin Hambrook

10 February 2009

Disabled editor Colin Hambrook gives some personal reasons for wanting to advance Resonant Frequency

Esther Appleyard

Esther Appleyard

10 February 2009

Disabled artist Esther Appleyard gives some further background to her interest in genetics

Comments

Mandy Legg

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26 September 2008

I love the Resonant Frequency Project - my work has included a fascination with the brain and its workings and the psychiatric systems limited knowledge of it. I would love to explore that further.

Alex

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24 September 2008

Hello, this is so exciting that I found this place. I am a disabled artist who works with my x-rays and the natural work in most of my art, I also do a bunch of other things. The science and art connection facinates me. I am working on an idea of interlacing more disabled artists from all around the world and to create a show that could travel for a couple years. Please if you have time contact me by e-mail so we can get in touch. elaynaalexandra@mac.com or www.elaynaalexandra.com

Dave Lupton

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20 December 2007

Jane Campbell DBE recently joined in the debate about Lady Masham's amendment to the Human fertilisation and Embryology Bill which had its airing before the House of Lord's last Wednesday. A lot of Jane's own experiences as a Disabled person were included in her speech which effectively turned a scientific presentation into something that related directly to the lives of Disabled people. Just another example of how Disabled people can introduce an added dimension to scientific debate.

Allan Sutherland

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18 December 2007

It’s no surprise that disabled people should interpret ‘science’ as meaning ‘medicine’ and be somewhat sceptical about it. We’ve all had bad experiences at the hands of doctors. But I don’t think science should be made to take the blame for all the faults we find in medicine. Science is not to blame for the emotionally retarded state of public school-educated consultants. It’s not to blame for lack of funding for the equipment we need to live our lives independently. And I don’t see why it should take the rap if NHS wheelchair designers don’t ask disabled people what they want. You see, I’m in favour of science. It’s a way of looking for the truth about the world, and an immensely powerful one. I don’t think the search for truth is a bad thing. It is scientific understanding which puts paid to the idea that I, as someone who has epileptic fits, am possessed by demons. (The medical model of disability may have its limits, but it beats hell out of the religious model which preceded it.) The science of pharmacology has found the drugs which at last brought those fits under control. And centuries of anatomical research have produced the knowledge which is enabling a physiotherapist to undo the effects of thirty years of dislocating my shoulders during seizures. We do not have to fear science. We have to fear the misuse of science and bad science and the failure to implement the knowledge which science has brought. We have to fear bureaucratic ineptness and political decisions which refuse the funding for what we need. The better our understanding of what constitutes good science, the better equipped we as disabled people will be to challenge the distortions and misuses of science that form part of our oppression.

Liz Crow

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14 December 2007

Really interested in the Disability Arts Science project. Is there an email list and also please could you let me have contacts? Could well link very well to my next project which is a film and sensory based installation about the Nazi massmurder of disabled people and contemporary echoes.

Dr Lizzie Burns

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7 December 2007

What a wonderful project. Coming from a scientific background, disability was rarely discussed so I'm looking forward to learning more as I'm sure many others will too. How do you define disability, are any of us really 'normal'? While my background is in science, since 2002 I've been working as a science-based artist on a range of projects to engage people of all ages with biomedical research through art. As well as creating my own artwork, I also run workshops encouraging others to find artistic inspiration in the human body and the hope research can offer. Art is a wonderful way to celebrate and explore the awesome nature of our bodies and what it is to be human. I've also been working with patients in hospital, encouraging them to express their experiences and changes to their body through art and have been humbled, moved and inspired by people facing severe illness and the loss of a limb. I'm sure this new project will inspire us all.

Crippen

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4 December 2007

Oh dear. As a Disabled cartoonist, I only have to hear the words disability and science in the same sentence to start visualizing bizarre images from the realms of Dr Frankenstein. I see a group of scientists in white coats crowded around a person laying on an examination table. There is an empty wheelchair alongside of them. The speech bubble from the lead scientist contains the words: “We have the technology to make this person work properly again”. OK, get out the rubber. Erase the wording and put in instead: “We have the technology to remove the barriers within society that disable this person”. Puts a whole new spin on the image doesn’t it? As Esther says in her comment on this blog: “Often scientists are only exposed to the medical model of disability and do not have an in depth understanding of the identities of disabled people”. Right on Esther! Let’s confront them with the reality of us as Disabled people, warts and all. Let us identify ourselves to them as vital and vibrant members of society, not as something that necessarily needs repairing. We need them to see us as living organisms within a culture that needs modifying in order to facilitate our growth (I’m assuming that’s how they talk anyway!). Seriously though, only good can come from an exchange of views between scientists and the disability arts community. Let’s put a little colour into their lives eh folks? … even if it means painting by numbers!

Dr. Simon Hayhoe

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3 December 2007

This project is not only fascinating from a social perspective, it is also vital to our understanding of disability and the way that science functions within our cultures. Moreover, it is essential to comprehend the link between our understanding of disability and the sciences, as it is the sciences that define the way that we understand disability and ability. Our research, for instance, has shown that historically our current understanding of blindness began during the Enlightenment, and was in fact constructed by the likes of John Locke, William Molyneux and Isaac Newton. These thinkers not only defined a modern mythology of what it was to be blind, but also distinctly affected our notions of what it is to be sighted. These 17th Century notions, motivated by religious beliefs and political power struggles, pervade even the current Government's policies on the legal diagnosis of blindness and the exclusion and assessment of pupils in schools. More research and understanding of this field, therefore, is not only needed, it is imperative! Please find my PhD thesis on http://www.blindnessandarts.com/publications/education.htm and also my paper called "When Gucci Make Hearing Aids I'll Be Deaf" that relates a great deal to this issue. You will find it at http://www.blindnessandarts.com/papers/GucciAndDisability.htm

Esther Appleyard

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28 November 2007

I am a visual artist and I have a genetically inherited condition. My personal experience and interest in genetic research then directly influences my arts practice. I have also developed links with geneticists and spent some time at Guys genetics department, where I found the researchers to be extremely helpful. I am very interested in the common approaches between art and science - my work is very process led and multi layered both visually and metaphorically - I think this attention to detail and process can be transferable between both disciplines. Something which is very different though, is that scientists can almost remove the human emotional response - for example seeing things as a series of cells - not actually the start of a human life. A foetus can be seen merely as a condition, not a person. This is the danger, particularly when the scientist may be quantifying what they see as a "good quality of life".

Damien

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27 November 2007

This sounds a fascinating project - I'm particularly interested in the issue of science and the media; media reporting of scientific research and the 'meaning' of particular research outcomes is often the only interpretation the general public receive, and when that is distorted through inaccurate reporting, the research message (which may not translate into an effective media 'soundbite') is lost. There's some interesting analysis of this on the Bad Science site www.badscience.net - it's not about whether you agree or disagree with the research but about how e.g. data is misinterpreted, or how evidence is confused with hypothesis in reporting. I started thinking about the relationship between this and reporting on disability arts, and how 'data' (by which I mean the information a work of art contains) and how a critic might confuse evidence with hypothesis. 'Works produced by deaf artists are often misunderstood or misinterpreted by those who view and critique their art. Unless the viewer is familiar

Dom McDonald

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27 November 2007

One of the things that my field (Science Communication) has achieved over the last 20 years or so is to force a recognition that the knowledge which non-scientists have about their own experience can act as a valuable counterweight to the knowledge which is produced by scientists themselves. These sorts of "lay knowledge" don't replace a scientific understanding of disability, but they do make the scientific understanding of disability workable when applied to real social situations (rather than experimental lab situations). I suppose that the issue is to do with science being an essentially reductionist pursuit: most scientists get paid to drill down deeper and deeper into their particular area of interest, and as a result it is not their job to be good at looking across different areas. But this is exactly what an issue like disability challenges them to do. The scientific way of looking at disability cuts across a variety of "disciplines" that scientists would see as being quite distinct from each o

Bol

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26 November 2007

This is a very exciting idea. When do the people who make disability aids of any description - or who develop drugs - or have any specialised knowledge of a scientific nature - ever engage with disabled people?

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