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.
My mind is sunshine distilled through a bed of nails, shining but hard to hold, especially also when the skin feels like shifting sands, and the soul and its perceptions seem like a mirage.
What is grounding me and connecting me to the world are lots of artistic projects. There is a new one on the horizon: I will be part of a project, still in its infancy, that hopes to explore unusual mental states and film, which will be launched in March 2013 at the Barbican, where one of my films will be shown.
But the thing at the moment that is stroking and calming my amphetamised wings is making this film of Portugal Prints for Diverse Perspectives, commissioned by DAO and the Royal Academy.
When I researched the film, I went to visit Portugal Prints at one of their bases in Soho. The first thing that hits you is the warmth of the place, you are instantly accepted as family. So I decided to make a film exploring the heart of Portugal Prints. I am very near the end of making the film, just two more days of filming next week. I have already filmed their haiku event at the Tate Modern; I have interviewed Kate Horbury, the ex-access officer of the Royal Academy, about her love affair with Portugal Prints; and I have filmed a linocut printing workshop at the Royal Academy, run by the artist Phil Baird and the amazingly named Becky Jelly, which was attended by Portugal Print members who created some beautiful stuff.
The crux of the film though will be the filming next week, where I will film at the Soho base and interview members about art, mental health, and the heart, which for so many has been told to shrink, but where at Portugal Prints, you see the greenhouse of hearts grow.