Visiting London with Chinese friends seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the place as a visitor with almost no English; apparently it's supposed to be especially well geared-up for visitors right now.
Approaching the Capital by train, I was a little shocked to discover that my ticket was the most expensive of our party since I did not seem eligible for any of the offers available to the ambulant travellers.
Buying a ticket for a wheelborne traveller, did not alert station staff to the need for assistance or a ramp. No-one noticed me or my access problem. We were in real danger of missing the train, until hurried enquiries, in English, led us to the correct person to handle a ramp.
My arrival in London was totally unexpected; UK train staff might not have any means of communicating between staff, trains or stations?
I was stuck on the train until somewhere on Waterloo station the correct person was found to produce a ramp, and she appeared to be unfamiliar the item.
From Waterloo we wandered towards the festive atmosphere of the Southbank, and chuckled about two gigantic figures, one leaning over from a roof and one climbing up or down the wall of the building. Maybe they were robots? The building was decorated with columns of strange, green plastic bowls and didn't seem to have a main entrance.
Alongside the famous river we saw a lot of word-boards strapped to the railings. And some large empty crates that it was possible to roll through in my chair, amusing my friends. On one of the crates was a picture of brides in White Wedding gowns - one of the brides was a man with a beard and this caused prolonged laughter.
Keeping our eyes open for street art and entertainment, we were aware of posters advertising an evening dance event somewhere in the vicinity.
The multicoloured 'rainbow sandpit' where children were playing, was a curiosity that awakened some concern. Was it natural? Was it safe?
Pretty-girl crocodile, weaving through the crowd;
pointing toes, high then low and counting spaces,
snaking, swaying, dipping rhythms; curls of spine.
Supple bodies, sensuous arms, splaying fingers;
dragon-cousin crocodile: breathless, chanting.
Happy laughter woven into swirls and leaps,
arabesques, pirouettes, and smiling faces.
No special dress, no explanation, dancing
all we need to know.
Schrodinger's Cat. Box 2 of Triptychos, is black and 15 cms deep. It has six sides, each 7.5 cms. The outside has a texture like fine grosgrain which gives it a silk-like finish. The lid has a 3 cm lip and both box and lid are a smooth black inside.
When you remove the lid to peer into the darkness you will see the words read read read read read read read read & read in sky-blue printed around the edges of the floor of the box.
There is also a black square in the centre of the floor of the box. This square can be seen against a sky-blue background and it represents a black cube.
Inside the lid are the words: SCHRODINGER'S CAT.
I am the mystery;
Inside the box
I am a box only
faith sees inside.
But faith never sees
the inside of me
just closes the lid
and I am gone.
On days when I feel quite invisible, even to myself, I have, in the past, found something salvational in my archives; a confirmation, a reassurance of my existence as artist. Surrounded by the evidence of my work I then find inspiration and the need to say more and other.
For a year now the blog has been adding to my archive; or has it? It doesn't feel like it works in quite the same way. I'm wondering how other creatives feel about their blogs... When I exhibit artworks, perform or publish words, I still feel they are mine and a resource open to reinterpretation in other contexts.
Why don't blogged words feel the same? Why is revisiting them not the same experience? And why does that feel appropriate right now and maybe even empowering?
Rumplestiltskin was a truth
that, revealed, lost it's power.
What I create is the truth
about me. It may not be
more than the truth at the time,
but then gathering time
my catwalk words will draw
a bigger picture; outline
fill details to the image.
And the image will speak
the volumes left unspoken;
the slow, steady cradle
will layer the reveal.
These are the secrets I keep
from myself, for myself. But
are the catwalk words cast
like confetti to end in the
gutter? The images passed
like so much litter? Are they
still mine to add or to edit?
I'm here for the journey and
something is changing, but
who changes who, and why?
I've been thinking more about visibility since Wednesday when I watched a fantastic performance by StopGAP. In dance, the wheelchair attempts to shed its magical cloaking properties and without it a dancer’s personal space shrinks to that required by skin and bone.
Dancer Laura Jones set me thinking about my own special relationship with metal, rubber and memory foam. Never having worked with a wheelchair before, choreographer Thomas Noone took Laura's away. And enabled the most explicit piece of Disability Art I personally have ever seen danced. The storyline of Within was almost a distraction.
Here was a work that acknowledged and explored the visibility and invisibility: the need to be larger than life; a work that played with the symbolic and made wheelchair substitutes out of people; a work that boldly acknowledged the elephant in the room and made the absent wheelchair the hero.
The dance was breathtaking; the timing, the risk-taking: an emotional roller-coaster and the sense of commitment and solidarity: heart-wrenching. This was StopGap being superb.
I came away from the performance wondering if I’ve taken for granted that blurring of the line between me and my chair; if having my personal space reinforced by metal rods and spikes has altered my perception of where I belong within it and how I present to strangers. Unable to escape the comfort of memory foam, I may have lost something important to me.
never touched the ground
though my body ached
to embrace it. Eyes,
resenting the lines
a bland point of view,
rejoiced to be free.
And the price, the pain,
the good and the bad:
laughter and weeping
My body ached though
my feet never touched
StopGAP Dance Company took Trespass to Salisbury Arts Centre as part of their current tour; it features Within (Thomas Noone) and Splinter (Rob Tannion).
Their next performance is on 8th March at Marlowe Studio, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3AS
I’m finding communication hard at the moment; a familiar phrase that I read recently has rattled around in my head until I googled it: I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. This is Ralf Ellison writing about Negroness, but could just as well be me.
Or could it?
Because my own visibility is invariably surrounded by the negative visibility of my wheelchair I do often forget that when using it, I am invisible. We share my personal space and its easy to forget that we are not one. I cannot wear my chair of invisibility in quite the same way as Harry Potter wears his cloak, my chair is less frivolous and without it I may possibly become visible, but then I am turned to stone. Or something like it.
I do not know what it feels like to be abused because of the colour of my skin, but I can empathise. A lot of people can and I take advantage of it. When they are shocked that it took me years to feel able to speak as a disabled artist, I ask them if they would suddenly be able to speak for black people if they woke up one morning with an impeccable black pedigree.
Disability is the transformation that can actually happen, to anyone, any time. No wonder we are scary; and invisible. We are Darth Vader, Cinderella and Frankenstein's monster. Like Prometheus, we have a secret; like the X-Men we... I could go on.
This is my culture, this is my mythology. See us and know that we are not an afterthought or add-on to the argument, we are pivotal; when you can see us you can see the way beyond cultural diversity.
I value anonymity
seek only to be
hand behind the pen:
face behind the voice.
Seek only the space
to work unshackled
by the need for food,
for shelter, and water.
I need to find out
who I am, even
if it means I am
no longer nameless.