I got an email from Colin a few weeks ago with a few questions as to what value I got from Disability Arts Online. I typed a few short answers, as I was hyper and couldn't dictate my own voice as it was swallowed up by many others, and poor Colin would have to have decipher it like lost words in a word search.
My brain is a bit calmer so I can give a fuller reply to the importance of DAO
As a person within the disability arts scene and Mad Pride movement, I question identity and societal discrimination and oppression within my practice, as to why I expected to assume the role of pathetic burden. Instead I laughed at the stupidity of oppressive thinking, by parodying discrimination by turning it back on itself where these views can be shown to be as ridiculous as they are. There is no apology for being myself needed.
A lot of culture and society wants to put us in our place, to fulfil the role as ‘the other’, as tragic, brave, a burden, or ugly. The arts, especially disability arts, is in the best position to question, highlight, critique, or force the issue around the oppression and creating our own identities and agendas. And as an artist myself, it is great opportunity to celebrate my difference. It is the right arena for beautiful subversion, to show how oppression is pathetic, cowardly, and a self-defeating burden to itself.
I see disability arts as an opportunity to develop ways to reclaim identity from a mercenary, judgemental world that has abused it.
Being part of Disability Arts Online, I see a systemic refusal to assimilate into a broken, degrading process. Asking us to be normal is asking too little of us.
Every political action, personal and social identity development and celebration, needs a history and a voice created by the people living it. As that well-known African proverb states: ‘Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’ DAO is part of that necessary journey, a megaphone for the voice of the lion.
The aim can also be to ask questions, the more awkward the better, and in that way connect some isolated dots on the disability arts landscape. Where is the relationship the strongest, and where is it the weakest? Can disability arts be absorbed into a model? Should it be absorbed into a model? Doesn’t creativity function better as an organic, free process rather than having to bat against the walls of some model? How effective is the affirmation model within the context of disability arts? How effective is disability arts at effecting change, or influencing disability theory? How many people with the disability arts world are aware of disability theory? What is it about some aspects of disability arts at its most political that doesn’t apologise for being different, and what can be distilled from that to inform disability theory? What power do these artists have within a disabling society?
Hopefully DAO will help inform and inspire what is next in terms of the future of disability theory and disability arts. Identity is fluid, what is the river we are being pushed down, what arrests the flow, where will we end up? We don't know what is around the corner, but I for one, will be its fellow traveller until I finally walk into the sun.
DAO provides the backing music, we as artists must provide the dancesteps to make it a graceful union that inspires the world to move into the direction of equality, till our song is the song of humanity and not feeling pushed away from it.
Powerpoint is probably one of the most unsubversive mediums around, it is used 40,000 times a day to tell people what to do, I thought I would reverse the trend a tiny bit by creating a subversive powerpoint.
It all came about when I was part of the Sync Leadership www.syncleadership.com and coaching scheme. It really helped me find my focus regarding my arts practice. I was asked to do a presentation at a conference on my subversive career, and Sarah Pickthall, my coach, loved the idea of the powerpoint to accompany it, because she knew I would think it my moral duty to subvert such a dull medium, so here it is!
This artwork is an artistic response to the condem's treatment of disabled people. The two incendiary expressions of the piece that both the distortion of facts and blood of the inevitable suicides are in the hands of the condem's.
My next piece in the series will just be a blank canvas with the word: 'BASTARDS!'
On September 22nd I will be presenting a paper at the 'In the Mainstream' conference at De Montfort University, Leicester, organised by The MeCCSA Disability Studies Network.
The conference aims to re-visit and re-evaluate the complex issues at stake in contemporary representations of disability and impairment from a variety of critical perspectives, investigating both continuities and new trends in representing disability
My presentation will be on my experience as both a ‘mad’ filmmaker and a ‘mad’ documentary subject. This unique position has made me sensitive to how documentary-makers use ethics and objectivity in their films, because time and time again in broadcast media I have been squashed into a box of their preconceptions and prejudices, and the essence of who I am is lost.
And as a film-maker making films about mental health, where it isn’t to be pitied, feared, or used to alienate, scare, and antagonize, I have come up against ignorance and hostility from commissioners and other film-makers, who think I am exhibiting ‘symptoms’ of mental illness by saying that there are other ways to view mental distress and difference than the medical model. It has definitely been an interesting experience. I would also like to touch upon Mad Culture.
As a mad person, am I one-dimensional, visually different, soulless, with only evil in my heart? Am I person to be feared? To be pitied? To be laughed at? Am I not allowed to be loved? Am I not allowed to be sexy? I want to be represented on the screen as nothing less than who I am. Is it possible?
Hey guys, sorry for the delay in the blogging. It is ironic that at the Sync SouthEast event on the 21 July I said you should keep updating your blog regularly... it should be as regular as Eastenders. Well, I haven't kept it up because my life has actually become Eastenders.
The Sync South East event was amazing, uplifting and a definite though-provoker, because the event was on the day the government announced 50% cuts in the arts. I wish the Government ministers involved in such a decision could have attended the event to see the impact and power of the arts, and how they make the human soul feel. Well, the human soul has always been problematic to politicians. Like I have said before, for some of us our creativity doesn't come from fiddling and fraud, nor our culture from shagging our PAs.
The two things on that day that have stayed with me, apart from meeting so many wonderful people was seeing the passionate sounds of Stingray. They rounded off the day with style, funkiness and joy de vivre.
I also met a fellow artist Neal Pearce. We talked about bipolar and creativity and how the bipolar mind sees unique connections where before there were no connections. And when that is put down on paper, the only label that will fit is art, because it hasn't been created before.
One of his artworks Page 60, Book 12 of the Infinite Codex, is his own invented alphabet, mayan-like but at the same time unique, haunting, and so far without definition and meaning, but you don't need words to know that it is beautiful. These symbols are yet without sounds, but I could hear them sing their song on my way home to London. The funniest thing that happened on that day was people's surprise that my persona on DAO is not invented, and that I am indeed larger than life in person!
So what is my soap opera? Well, in the space of a month have graduated, been made homeless by the shenanigans of my ex, lost 2 friends to suicide, and been told by my girlfriend she is expecting twins. I am already in love with the two dots in the scan!
What is Mad Culture?
It is a celebration of the creativity of mad people, and pride in our unique way of looking at life, our internal world externalised and shared with others without shame, as a valid way of life.
It is an acknowledgement that we are reacting to a society that is scared of us and will hijack our art and literature once our artists and writers are dead and therefore deemed safe and easy to control, corrupt and capitalise.
Our culture is that we have control of our lives without being brutalised by a psychiatric system that wants us to conform to an ideal of normality that doesn’t exist anyway. It is challenging the idea that madness is something to be hidden; it realises that visibility counts in order to break the stigma that has a stranglehold over every single mad person alive today. Mad Culture is saying, ‘Yes, yes!” to life even if embarrasses the ‘normals’.
Mad Culture is saying: I won’t hold your sanity against you. My reality is good enough. Is yours? Not all mad people are artistic, some are quite happy to be accountants, and I don’t think mad accountants should be discriminated against.
We are already an alienated sector of society, in fact the most alienated sector of society. We are not full members of this society or culture and that is not going to change without us changing it. Because why is it in their interest to change what makes them feel comfortable and superior. So in that sense we need to create our own culture in which we feel comfortable in. Some would argue that leads to separation, but we are separate. Where does madness fit in ‘normal culture’?
We are the untouchables. Only fit enough to work in sheltered workshops, to be cleaners, media scapegoats and to paint multi-million pound masterpieces. Put simply, in this present culture we have victim status; in our culture, we are just ourselves. WE want a culture that doesn’t produce a suicide every 40 seconds.
Why have pride about suffering distress, some may say? It’s not about that. It is pride in our strength to survive that distress and what it teaches us, and not to feel like lesser beings because of it, and to question why we feel lesser beings because of it, to question that madness is an illness and not a human response to a sick society, a sick upbringing.
Can you imagine a world without music, art, dance and drama? It would be an empty, bland place. So why is the world without your music, art, dance and drama? If life is a stage, is yours worth watching? What would make the show better? Can we change the ending? Or make it a better story? Culture is letting us tell the story not them – it is as simple as that.