Saturday, May 19, 2012


I'm talking about my art at the second DAC North Wales launch event
I have now given my two talks for the Disability Arts North Wales launch events. It was interesting to hear some viewpoints and especially the North Wales field officer Gareth Foulkes has inspiring ideas that resonate with my own. I have to say that I'm pretty overwhelmed with thoughts on the matter and it will take me a while to process it all. The talk I gave was a brief history of my own disability and how it runs parallel to my art. But I think that later in time I would probably focus more on my present concerns about visualizing the reality of invisible illness and the politics attached to it. 

I wanted to describe why I became so interested in paradoxes back in the past and why I still feel they are important in my work, and why a paradox can be easier to express in images rather than in a text. However I didn't have time to go too deeply into this nor did I feel that my thoughts were mature enough. On top of it all I've been dealing with a virus that takes about two months to clear. Thoughts are brewing though. 
Two sides of one coin - one cold and unfriendly, the other warm and inviting.
In this piece "Those Who Wait Will Be Rewarded" (1999) the two realities are interlocking.
There is also the obvious contrast between the blue of space and coolness,
and the yellow of the sun with the well rooted tree.
This piece was bought by a psychotherapist.
The paradoxes I'm talking about are the ones that linked with dualism. Our world is dual, or to be more exact, our minds perceive of reality as dual. There's high and low, light and dark, night and day, cold and warm, feminine and masculine, good and evil, disabled and able-bodied... We always feel that we have to choose sides, it's part of the human condition. Think of Yin and Yang... always mutating from one to the other, forever changing and thus not being constants. This is how things are in this world. Think for instance how ability can quickly change into disability, and the other way around (though nothing is simple so most disabilities are not 100% curable). Mentally, we are always in favour of one thing and against another - I'm talking about anything in life, anything you can take a stand against. It doesn't have to be so fierce though. In fact evolution of consciousness happens when people give up certain preferences that has kept them in a state of conflict and get on with something else. Without realizing it they have most likely thus embraced the paradox that both sides of the coin are just as valid. They have transcended a pair of opposites and arrived at a new synthesis.

This idea could be of some importance within the Disability Arts movement and its cause; the prioritization of health over illness and ability over disability are at the bottom of the conflicts that cause discrimination towards the disabled part of society. If authorities were able to see that these ways of being are just two sides of the same coin then perhaps they were more likely to be accepting and understanding of the value of equality. And this equality is not a bland "we are all the same" which runs parallel with the gender issues society experiences - i.e. in reality men and women are not the same nor should they strive to be alike, but they should have the same rights. These rights are not the same for everybody either. It's a common misconception that equality equals equal rights. It's not the rights that need to be equal or the same, but the fact of having rights in the first place. 

We live in times of great individualization, so it should be evident that the individual's rights has to be made to measure. We can no longer bunch people together and stamp the box with one label. Everyone has different needs. I know it's a tough issue for the authorities to consider, as there are always pressing issues of a financial nature. Making this into a more humane society should still be the priority. Of course there is a way if there is a will. It's not a humane society that is increasingly making cuts which in turn make disabled people even more isolated, stigmatized and anxious about survival. 

One should be allowed to relax into one's disability and be who one really is, rather than try and keep up with the more able bodied people. One should be allowed to make one's own stamp on society, in one's own way. If there is one thing we can learn from disabled people and artists in particular, it's that the individual contribution that these people often offer in creative terms when they are no longer able to do what other people are doing, is truly special. Paradoxically, their achievements are often windows to a unique experience of life because they may have the motivation, time or lack of options that leads them to engage in something much more interesting than what they did before. 

Often, limitations give us the incentive to do something in a way we wouldn't have considered under normal circumstances. They also tends to stimulate creativity as long as the subject is not too hampered by pain, fatigue and poverty. I also maintain that the suffering experienced by a chronically ill person can give rise to a great deal of wisdom, if they are willing to learn from adversity. This wisdom in turn can enhance their compassion, which can only be a useful thing in a world that needs to connect more with the heart and the idea that we are truly in this together. Obviously not everyone has the ability to adher to such a mindset but some do, and they can offer a valuable contribution to society. Ultimately, however, equality means that it doesn't matter if everyone makes a contribution or not. If you truly embrace the world view that sees reality as a whole rather than disjointed, separate bits, then you understand that we all deserve to be treated with the same respect for who we are. It's hard to grasp but deep down most of us are aware that human lives have an intrinsic value that you cannot argue. In reality it's one of those questions that no one can argue, because the idea is beyond mental analysis - only our hearts can tell us that this is true.

On a personal level, we can be vulnerable/weak and strong/assertive at the same time, i.e. in a state of paradox. Change and imbalance is at the bottom of our life experience, but we are forever striving towards balance because of a need to get to terms with life. Being a living contradiction is normal. If people could understand this, perhaps they would be more accepting of their own life's ups and downs and then ultimately of the ups and downs of other people as well. This is simple psychology; what you accept about yourself you accept about others. So for instance, if a government official accepted that one day he could be weak and vulnerable and sit in a wheelchair, he'd be more likely to support those who already are.  

Martin is helping out. My first piece for Project X is on the stand.

Myself giving talks in Caernerfon and Mold, North Wales (May 2012)
It was cool being sign languaged and transcribed,
but you do sadly realize how expensive it is to provide these services for disabled people.
When will money stop being an object when it comes to human rights?
Gareth Foulkes works for Disability Arts Cymru
as the organisation is luckily now funded through the Arts Council.
Gareth was very inspirational and helps me feel motivated about the "cause".
There are varying ideas about what the disability arts are about. Gareth who is the Disability Arts field officer in the North of Wales is very supportive of the sort of art that I have started to create. He feels that expressing the life experience and perceptions of a disabled person is enriching the art scene, and that it can even make a difference. His point of view is rather political, as (as far as I can see) it's got a lot to do with changing negative perceptions of disabled people through the arts. I think it goes without saying that if a disabled person wants to create art yet is finding this hard because of obstacles that are being put in the way of a disabled person, then this is not necessarily what disability arts is about - it's just disability politics. Both concern me more and more, but in particular I have to think deeply about what I want to say through my art... and even whether it's worth the effort. The hardest part is thinking how one could find ways of communicating ideas of empowerment to those who are afflicted with chronic illness for which there is no cure, and how one can change the general perception healthy people have of the disabled as being useless and unworthy of social support through taxpayer's money. Is it possible to do this through the idea of paradox? Would people be receptive?

Myself in front of "Welsh Theatre" in Mold

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