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> > > The Way Out: The Disabled Avant-Garde

14 March 2011

Edited by Colin Hambrook

On Tuesday 15th March, 11.30am, Radio 4 broadcasts a programme presented by Performance artist Aaron Williamson, featuring the Disabled Avant Garde, 15mm Films and interviews with numerous shakers and malcontents from the world of disability art and politics.

Can art and irony achieve what mainstream politics never has and give the disability movement its own revolution? Disability has never had its revolutionary moment: no Suffrage, Stonewall or Watts Riots. Rather it's been perceived as the poor relation of civil rights, last on the agitation pecking order.

Aaron Williamson asks whether performing arts practice can do what political agitation never has - radicalize, even revolutionise, mainstream public perceptions of disability.

Williamson's collective, the (probably ironically named) 'Disabled Avant-Garde' has performed cabaret, stand-up, played live, staged political pranks, and even made short films depicting a world in which a violent, insurrectionary gang of 'disability terrorists' has brought the government to its knees à la Baader Meinhof/ Angry Brigade - a sort of missing film about an absent revolution.

The blurb says that 'this feature will look at their work in contrast to mainstream public thinking on disability (eg.the Equality and Human Rights Commission) and ask whether the radical possibilities opened up by disability politics have been co-opted by endless subsidy and 'minority' box ticking.'

For those that have ears!

The feature is available on the BBC website until 22 March 2011



16 March 2011

DAG was posing the opposite question. Has there in fact been too much top-down patronage, rather than the bottom-up revolutionarism such as came from the sex pistols?

aaron williamson

15 March 2011

Barbara Lisicki was making the complaint about arts council application forms being inaccessible for disabled people. Barbara is not one of the Disabled Avant-Garde. But in any case, many artists considered 'avant garde' have historically received state patronage. The Sex Pistols did not need Arts Council funding as they had a huge record contract with EMI who are as much a part of the establishment as ACE - much of their money came from arms sales.


15 March 2011

Media response to disabled people has typically been patronising. The battle to challenge those responses has been a long hard road taken up by the disabled people's movement. This feature takes a long, considered, overview of the history of disability arts, from protests against telefon onwards.

The progamme describes how the fight for disability art became a fight for access. There's no point having art to go to if we can't access it. This led to a community set up to campaign for access.

A Way out is DAGs statement about the desire for relief from the stasis of the disability ghetto. DAG through their irony, fun, extravagance and over-riding craziness are looking to create something that everybody might want to feel a part of. Apparently they are

on the edge of taking over the world. They could be in your area any time soon!


15 March 2011

I think the previous anonymous comment on this feature, was from someone who missed the irony in the use of the term avant garde. I listened with avid interest but heard nothing that amounted to an avant garde complaint.

Perhaps some people just like to complain about complaining? Complaining is something disabled people have been forced into in a society that doesn't take our needs into consideration. It comes as naturally to us as not being able to get on a bus.

15 March 2011

Re today's Radio 4 prog... the blurb says that 'this feature will look at their work in contrast to mainstream public thinking on disability... and ask whether the radical possibilities opened up by disability politics have been co-opted by endless subsidy and 'minority' box ticking.'

I listened to the article but did I hear correctly, the Avant Garde complaining about not being able to get arts grants? Much like the rest of us then. I don't think the Sex Pistols started out with Arts Council funding... did they? How Avant Garde can you be if you have to ask the Arts Council if it's okay?

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