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London 2012: 2

Via Westminster Bridge and a complex of old buildings with a clock tower, we attempted to reach Trafalgar Square. Olympic Detours and fenced off areas took us through Whitehall and a photo opportunity with some gentle, patient horses standing beside a big label warning that they might kick or bite.

Along our route, a long, long queue of London taxis, progressing slowly and very noisily with much horn honking, was the cause of much laughter.

The prominent Olympic Countdown caused mild amusement, but the young people drawing flags on the paving, and the 'would-be' statues standing motionless on soap boxes, attracted the most attention.

With a passing nod to the lions in the Square, we made our way into the National Gallery.

Secretly hoping to steer the party towards the Sainsbury Wing and Metamorphosis, I nevertheless resisted the urge to cheat and followed my guests on their whimsical travels through the complicated unsignposted space. Looked at through Asian eyes not much of it seemed to make sense, but the individual talents of the classical European artists on display, were much appreciated.

 

 

Do you have a guide?

Oh no, we have far too many rooms for that.

Well some way of finding our way around?

We are a very big place, we get many visitors

we could not possibly afford to do that.

Perhaps just a map of the layout?

There is a Plan. At the entrance. And her tone speaks:

idiot; but maybe she didn't know

they don't have one in Chinese.

And maybe she is unaware

of cultural diversity.

 

 

Posted by Gini, 22 July 2012

Last modified by Gini, 22 July 2012

Chopstick impressions, access and flying solo.

Semi abstract picture of a woman drawn with Chinese ink and pigments, in a slim wooden frame, seen with reflected city-scape in shop-window..

I've had a disagreement with a woman in an art gallery. We were discussing; I was talking about the visitors to galleries, she was talking about the exhibitors in general and the artist exhibiting there in particular.

I said that Japanese took art very seriously. She declared that he had a free and easy style and Japanese art was very varied.

We politely agreed to disagree when suddenly she realised what I was trying to say, looked discreetly around, and then totally agreed with me. We both laughed, but quite discreetly; the atmosphere was very solemn.

While Japanese people walk around galleries in a state of solemnity, once positioned in front of a piece they are not intimidated by art; everyone seems keen to deliver their personal interpretation and to express an opinion.

Not much of an exchange, yet quite a milestone for me who speaks very little Japanese. There are moments when I feel I understand other people's conversations, but dialogue is much more tricky.

I am frequently approached by strangers keen to try out their language skills and strange meanderings across a variety of European languages result in painfully protracted monologues that have no real content.

I am however left with the impression that the locals have noticed me, like the way I look and enjoy the humorous positioning of chopsticks in my hair.

The chopsticks probably say more than I do, certainly more than I am aware of, and they seem to give the impression that I am accessible.

Wandering out of my comfort zone,
finding less accessible quarters,
I discover galleries. Indeed many,
all with steps enough to keep me out.
And curbs not dropped enough
to let me pass; but then I find
a rush of angels keen 
running to open doors;
eager to be
of assistance.
Solicitous. 
And I start to ponder 
the seldom seen
disabled person
flying solo. 

 

 

Posted by Gini, 1 June 2012

Last modified by Gini, 2 June 2012

Two legs ok. Four wheels cyber?

I subscribe to the theory that Utopia always appears to be getting closer. And with the perfect place, the perfect society, comes the perfect life-form - the cyborg. And wheelborne people could be closer than most.

The chairborne aquanaut leads the field, being more than just a metaphor for her chosen life-form, closer to whales, dolphins and sharks than any mere human in dive-gear.

I came to Tokyo hoping to pursue my hunt for Disability Arts, but instead find myself on an apparent detour. I want to return to Odaiba, the artificial island at the end of Rainbow Bridge, to revisit the Universal Design Centre at Toyota's Exhibition Hall. Here they demonstrate developments to a Universal 'wheelchair'.

This 'chair' transports it's user in upright or horizontal positions and travels at speeds that exceed those aspired to by most powerchair manufacturers. It is being designed to be  universally desirable. Is this what mobility disabled people want? Is it a viable alternative to a powersuit? Is it anything more than a detour on evolution road? Is it sexy enough to compete?

Technology could be my best way forward: a way to make some connections; a way to look below the surface of life here; to discover heterotopic spaces. There may still be treasure at the end of the rainbow, or this could be going nowhere.

Sumida flows
contra flows
radiating
shell patterns
with no
apparent
sense of direction.
Sumida sees
me. Carries
my reflection
hither and thither.
I see Sumida.
Together
we dither.
Sumida rolls
I follow.
Today we find
a tree-lined
avenue of
artwork.

Posted by Gini, 21 May 2012

Last modified by Gini, 5 June 2012