This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Disability. Arts. Symposium. What's not to like? / 11 April 2013

A jumble of words crowded together

Digital Visual Verbal Assemblage

Zoom in to this image and read text description

Symposium is Greek for partying and plotting with one’s chums and cohorts. Lying was the norm, as in cushions, couches and comfort. Food, wine and entertainment were laid on too.

From the Personal to the Universal Symposium on Disability Arts, Diversity and Activism (Salisbury Arts Centre, 10 April 2013) wasn’t anything like this.

What else wasn’t it like?
It wasn’t like, political.
It wasn’t like, rights-based.
It wasn’t like, about barriers, exclusion and oppression, the removal of.

Do disabled artists think that merely by being artists, by doing art, that this makes them activists? It would seem so, if one is in the business of ticking the diversity box.

Jo Verrent said "difference is delicious". Excuse me?

Vodka and tonic is delicious. Chocolate; oral sex; toothpaste. Difference is sheer shit if you’re the one who’s not the same and is constantly reminded of the fact in no uncertain terms. For example, hate crime.

Ten pounds they charged people for attending that gig including light lunch with all the crisps you could eat, armless chairs and wall to wall speeches. (I got in for free – thanks DAO).

Who dreamed this one up as a perfect day out? Purgatory, more like; suffering for one’s art.

Not that I’m against a bit of discomfort. Not that I have a choice, you know, as a disabled person with kyphoscoliosis, osteoperosis, chronic pain, blah-blah. Yeah, baby! Bring on the impairment-specific. What else can you do if you have a ‘hidden disability’?

But I digress. Possibly.

Diversity is bland, colourless, clean, cuddly and totally unobjectionable. Not like politics (yuk!).

Then again, Hassan Mahamdallie highlighted a contradiction – conflict even – between the universal and diversity. He was right to bring this to our attention. Was anyone listening?

Gini reminded us that at the level of stardust we’re united, one and the same. True. But we don’t live our lives out there in outerspaceland. Down here on planet global elite and rampant no-holds-barred capitalism, it’s them and us; them against us.

In the 1980s Micheal Heseletine said the market has no morality.

So, in a market-led economic world system, the only restriction on base attitudes is… there is no restriction.

Back in the symposium, contemplating the way forward, Mahamdallie calls for dissonance.

I’ll give you dissonance! I’m dissonance personified and a fat lot of good it has done me. People want harmony and fusion, not conflict.

Who can blame them?

People don’t have the knowledge and know-how for dealing with discord and disagreement. The marginalised and oppressed give in to the powers that be. What choice do they have?

Me? I’m either a change-maker or an artist; I’m neither sufficiently talented nor well enough resourced to have it both ways.

Not that I’m not trying.
More pics here.


Keywords: hate crime,identity