Ok. I've been here 6 days, this is blog number 5, they all sat frustrated, unposted, on my iPad while I attempted to master the technology using unfamiliar tools.
How do I monitor the size of my images? Resize? Crop? How do I convert .png to .jpg? I guess I will have figured it when I post this, but the Greenroom blog will be out of sync with my tweet...
I may use wheels to augment my body; I may long for a cybersuit, or an avatar, so that I can run and climb and swish a skirt, I enjoy using the technology, but what can I do about my inability to think computer-think?
Yesterday I rolled out in the sun to explore Hibiya Park. The entrance is cobbled and painful to navigate and last year soggy pathways also limited my ability to move around. Access has been greatly improved. The park is bigger than I had imagined, but actually last year's accessible bits were probably the best and most traditional; with a cybersuit, I would have known that already.
The cybersuit needs more development; the Japanese guy testing it out in the French Alps will actually be carried by it's user. The guy lacking the disability will have his strength augmented. I guess we've all heard that story before.
In Marunouchi Building
point a host of decorated
figures. Onwards, upwards
they seem to say
through the eyes of
Japanese - crossing
educating the world;
artistic expressions with
Smooth as a financial manager, Sumida reflects my sunshine hopes back at me in a glassy smile. Tokyo, gateway to Utopia, or the crutch to support my fantasies?
Is the promise of independence sweeter than the realisation? Is the realisation realistic, or merely my wheelborne take on the impossible dream?
Humanity seems to possess a built-in hunger for the impossible dream, and living in an age where the dream becomes increasingly universal, and increasingly focused on bodily perfection, I am tempted to question my desire for a 'perfect' wheelchair.
And that longing for the one thing we do not have? The one thing that would make a difference... Is my hope of independent mobility a reasonable human right, or evidence that I too, am on the treadmill?
Am I seeking without, the things that should be within?
No, even as that thought occurs, I reject it. Too long I have sought solutions within myself for circumstances that require other input and mobility is certainly one of those.
Nobody covets a wheeled chair, No
amount of universal design has
made this symbol of disability
desirable to anyone who
doesn't need to be wheelborne.
But the desire to be more, to be
faster, stronger, tireless, could make us
all equal in a powersuit; provided of course
disabled people can afford them.
I'm planning my next trip to Japan and I hope this time to be bringing back my very own skinny-wheeled chair. Will it actually make a difference to my life?
Being in Japan opened my eyes to the realisation that I have accepted too many restrictions without questions; shouldered the burden of inequality as if I deserved it and run out of energy to care.
When I acquired my first manual wheelchair, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The gift of mobility was magical and although it took months to get it set up so that I could use it for more than 15 minutes without pain, I was immensely grateful to have it.
I was never able to go far in the manual chair, my shoulder joints are not really up to the roll, so when I became the owner of a powerchair, I was suddenly faced with the wonderful and terrifying prospect of going out alone.
I've never managed to afford the kind of vehicle that could transport the powerchair, so even when I am out alone, I'm never that far from home.
When I began as the paid coordinator for linkuparts, I tried to get access to work assistance to remedy the situation, but was told that any help that enabled me to be more independent for work was open to abuse - in that I might also use it in my free time.
With the Japanese chair, things could change and I'm actually scared.
Scared that they will and scared that they won't...
The London underground map
and the symbolic wheeled chair,
iconic part-truths to make life
easier. But while the map
harms no-one, not so the chair.
shorthand for all and every
disability, the chair is
all embracing and, for the horde
who only ever see the chair,
I too become synonymous
with every disability
known, imagined and unknown;
regardless of me and all
Irrelevant to other
disabilities, this symbol
is a trap prejudicial to
my perceived identity.
I want out, I want free.
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.
Sitting in Residence at Salisbury Arts Centre, talking to loads of interesting people is fascinating. I wanted people to be honest with their personal responses and gut reactions, and have been frequently taken by surprise at just how much honesty I'm getting.
I had this conversation with a young person as we were surrounded by Martin Bruch's Bruchlandungen:
How I relate to this is
Like, these are the important bits of your life, yeh?
And these are the bits I throw away, y'know?
The pictures that don't work,
I only keep the good ones.
I don't want to say your life is rubbish, but
its making me think...
The View from Here is at Salisbury Arts Centre from 10 Nov to 23 Dec 2011
My intervention is going well. My approach is proactive and flexible which has allowed the project scope to expand. Very few of the visitors to the Arts Centre feel they have a journey which relates to the exhibition, but probably about 80% of them are happy to contribute their words and thoughts to this fast growing body of work.
Striking! Noticed it at once.
Had to bend down; its child height.
Then I saw the wheelchair
and had the revelation:
a disabled artist.
good pictures. I’ve got
children myself, don’t
actually have time
to stop and look.
I’ve written two blogs since day out in Chichester and not posted either of them, my self-preservation instinct over-riding everything. I need to overcome this paranoia.
My fear is real, but what about the threat? The instinct to hide is a relic from my “dinosaur brain”. Threatened, like the wounded animal, I seek isolation, and I am so easily made complicit in my own marginalisation.
Integrate. Hide. They shout
from behind the barricade
of “Normal.” Is this progress?
Or an offer of safety
until the war is over?
Except this isn’t war.
This financial instability
merely an excuse to mask
the poverty of aspiration
that sees a generation
overwhelmed by its
complexity of knowledge
and its poverty
Times are hard; as a consumer of fringe products, I discover my choices are slowly being eroded by the decisions people are making in order to survive this financial turbulence.
As a disabled person I notice my needs are more openly ignored as people struggle for their own existence.
The hard times are actually the times when I really do need recognition and support, but I am dismayed to find the so called “New Thinking” that is designed to enable the arts to at least tread water, actually offers disabled people nothing except the encouragement to hide.