Fleeing corridors of dark paperwork, out into a sandy grey void, I am tossed in the silence of confused noise, into a maelstrom of tumbling toupees, wigs, and teeth torn from their roots.
The conjuring of the wind exceeds all expectation; toothless heroes of confused origin live and die in its breath. The dirty old man snogs scantily clad fantasies with mouthfuls of sandblasted chips. Cold whistles into motionless bones, and the void consumes fleeting distractions. The lost are torn apart. Wild mocks the words of cluttered mouths.
Tantrum stalks empty promise as stone roses churn in their grave, aching to rise and rehabilitate futile, soulless waves whose sound races to oblivion. The tethered Muse vomits neglect; while power presumes to be torn asunder, eternity and the myth wait: raised are their dripping oars.
Fire falls like a rain-curtain between me and the sea-edge of my nightmare; and one flame for every year of the lord wades into the black lap of the empty bay.
I want to enjoy
these moments of art.
that would speak to me
if I were not so
obsessed with detail.
If I didn't crave
some kind of perfection.
If I didn't need
Arts to be more,
and to be better.
Busy coping with the stress of getting there; the stress of feeling trapped and exposed on a viewing platform; the stress of chilled-to-the-bone induced pain and the frustration of Battle for the Winds apparent lack of professional polish,; the actual live performance of Breathe almost passed me by. But Battle for the Winds came back to haunt my sleep after revisiting Weymouth for 'Creating the Spectacle!' and discovering it's virtual return to grey normality - already.
I hope eventually to appreciate Breathe, with it's brilliant costumes and wild characters, through Diverse City's filmed documentation being presented as part of the London 2012 Festival,
30 August - 9 September
How does it make you feel?
The wheelless man with the microphone nods to his cameraman and leans towards me. I hesitate.
The freedom... he prompts. And I eventually respond.
What I really want to do is commandeer the microphone and turn the tables. You see I already know about the freedom. Being wheelborne is my freedom.
'Creating the Spectacle,' is not to be confined to inspiring the wheelborne, it is very much aimed at changing the attitudes of the wheelless.
It is not about turning the spotlight on 'the brave and inspirational disabled', although having such a splendid role model does me no harm at all.
You are missing the point, I want to shout, the point is how does it make you feel?
And if your gut reaction is to descend on the wheelless because you do not see yourself or other wheelless as 'concerned parties' then you really are missing the point.
And if you do not allow yourself to change, to respond enlightened, then you are denying a great deal of what 'Creating the 'Spectacle!' is about. You are throwing away all that fantastic inspiration, dismissing all that courage and bravery, wasting all that effort and determination.
I am infuriated when you praise me for doing the easy and trivial things on my wheelborne adventure; but your failure to engage with real courage, stunning determination and this brilliantly creative artwork is more than insulting.
And the freedom? 'Creating the Spectacle!' doesn't just allow me to dream, it allows you to dream with me; to open the cage of your imagination and set me free.
oh! I arrive my wheels, I arrive.
I come with the heartbeat, bringing life.
Bringing life, you come with the motion.
We have the energy for laughter.
I arrive my wheels, I arrive
with a slow humiliation.
The elegance I crave, a figment
of my hot imagination
until I rest in your embrace.
until we are one. and we glide.
oh! I arrive my wheels, I arrive
and we are reborn in the morning.
I ease from the upright agony of fire
into your enveloping embrace.
I arrive my wheels, I arrive
with a keen anticipation
to be rescued from the primitive
to our shared configuration.
oh my wheels, I am handicapped
until we are one. And we glide.
The next pool performance is on Friday, on Portland. www.wearefreewheeling.org.uk/freewheeling-performances
As the nation gets back on it's wheels after being knocked down in reverence and awe over those brave and inspirational wheelless and nondisabled heroes, a plan to preserve and protect the MonoLympic legacy is being rolled out. Lynda, the charismatic face of MonoLympic has informed the world, that the flame of Cultural Access Diversity will not be allowed to dim.
Lynda has also issued a statement explaining how it has been possible to award Platinum, best in show, when clearly the MonoLympic is still warming up.
A programme of cut-backs, die-backs, and terminal wilt in the roll-up to CAD, resulted in a series of cost saving initiatives that included implementing some forgone conclusions.
It is expected that, given the amazing success of the MonoLympic, many of these conclusions will be reinterpreted; using advanced techniques of modern think-logic-think, it may be possible to reallocate funding previously diverted to less inspirational diversionary tactics.
The allocation of metallic lumps, symbolic of the competitive phase of CAD, has already been replaced by a rigorous entry procedure which will eliminate unsuccessful candidates before they can be a drain on the public purse; this naturally renders all future awards ceremonies obsolete.
Sit tight, friends, the
rest of the show
is on it's way.
a cup of tea,
while we roll up
those brave, but
get this show
on the road.
It has been pointed out to me that my terminology might possibly be interpreted as offensive, and I have been given this opportunity to apologise.
My superior, a person with six wheels as apposed to my four, has explained that the use of the terms: 'lacking wheels' and 'wheelless' does have less constructive implications.
I must make it plain that I use the term 'wheelless' in a purely descriptive way and similarly the phrase 'lacking wheels' is purely a factual observation.
The negative or derogatory values associated with the words 'less' and 'lacking' should not be assumed to be present in these descriptive clarifications of a person or persons' mobility specification.
I have no wish to offend anyone, indeed some of my best friends manage exceedingly well without wheels and will happily testify that I am in no way mobility prejudiced; confidentially, I'm chair of a charity devoted to improving the self esteem of wheelless people; so before you complain, take a moment to observe those legs that are your unenhanced substitute for wheels.
Take them out for a run, kick a ball with one of them, wriggle your way through a rumba; does that feel offensive? I hope not, I hope you can be proud of your wheelless state and admit honestly and with pride that you do indeed lack wheels.
Epistemology has evolved via Web 2.0 (Wikipedia!) to entertain the departure from the classical perception of what is accepted as knowledge, to a collective perception of a shifting range of possibilities of knowing.
Inching back from my anxieties about social networking, I'm wondering about the positive possibilities it flags up for the whole issue of diversity.
If Diversity is a concept currently shaped by classical ways of knowing, by the human capacity of mind to encompass variations and label categories - to create order and the storage of retrievable information; and this is a task we are increasingly delegating to software programmes (which we currently attempt to construct in our own image), what will happen to our concept of diversity as we build the consensus-based creation that gives equal weight to facts, opinions and values?
What would happen:
If formal education embraced the epistemological changes that new technologies open windows on?
If we could be comfortable without the groups and categories, safe in the knowledge that nothing would get lost, nothing would slip through our fingers?
Would we still feel the same need to create the same hierarchies, impose the same value judgements?
If epistemological developments are allowed to shape our educational resources, increased storage and harvesting capacity could herald changes in the way we perceive and accept one another; in the way we understand or have a need for, the concept of diversity.
And would that concept flourish and evolve or become redundant?
Picking up dropped stitches
we gather the concepts
from our pasts and knit them,
the coat of many colours,
into the garment
that will clothe our future.
Back in 2006 'Bare Boards and Blue Stilettos' was an uncomfortable installation immersing the audience in faulty communication and uncertain access. I began working on it in 2005, it was my first major piece of Disability Art.
Fanny the (animated) wheelchair, never made it beyond BB&BS, but Jessie...
Jessie seeks to be 'People Like You' - she was my first soft sculpture, born out of despair (unlike Kouros and Koure), reaching down into the depths to make her connections. When '(it might be disability, but) it's Still Life' was exhibited at Holton Lee in 2011, Jessie was intended to join Kouros and Koure, lying in the ground beyond them, her searching roots just beginning to show.
I began working on the roots, but somehow it never came together. I had moved far from Jessie's dark despair and I kept wondering if it was all too personal. Would Jessie speak to anyone else? I tried to put her back in storage, but as soon as 'People Like You' began taking shape, Jessie put herself back on the agenda.
Jessie began in the conflict between my personal, private identity and the face I wore in public. Jessie, unable to stand, sought an identity through symbolic roots, roots burrowing into some other state of presence.
Stitching, I am drawn to link the roots I'm now creating with mobile phones (rooted androids, superusers) and social networking. Reaching into our own darkness, roots become symbolic of the search for connectedness and symbols of that never-in-the-present state most people seem to be practicing.
Between posting, pinning, texting and tweeting, my thought for the day is that social networking could be the Borg and we are all being assimilated, willingly. Eagerly assuming that we are each expressing our unique individuality, are we in fact creating one monstrous identity where each one of us is just one more line of code? Or is it something else?
Lying face in the grass
arms reaching out, fingers
rooting into dark earth,
I am aware of life past;
hearts that have rotted away
from disintegrating bones;
breath that still whispers love words,
lust that still moans desire;
reaching out, seeking me, pulling
me down, calling me in.
And I am aware of
the love lifting me back
home, the seismic shift
in my life, my destiny.
'When you are married your husband will tell you what you will think' Downton Abbey passed me by, but these words from a trailer did make a deep impression.
And reminded me of my introduction to Disability Arts.
As an artist waking up to a strange world, I had been silent for a number of years, and being invited to be part of the formation of LinkUpArts was a lifeline. I began reworking a series of architectural drawings through which wandered a skeleton wearing black stockings and stilettos and pushing an empty wheelchair. This was my past linking into my future; the series, begun in the 1980s when my disability was largely invisible, was called the Lovely Bones.
From very woolly beginnings I started to make tentative sense of my own 'disabled gaze' but it was not until I was invited to be part of a Disability Arts project that required all participants to undergo a rigorous programme of Disability Equality Training that I became convinced of it's validity.
We (a group of artists with various disabilities) were being lectured to about using the Social Model as opposed to the Medical Model and one of us declared that there were some aspects of the Social Model that she did not personally find helpful and some in the Medical Model that she did.
Our trainer (disabled, but no artist) paused, and into the shocked silence declared, that when she had finished training us we would all know what to think, and how to think it.
Bare Boards and Blue Stilettos was as much a reaction against the Disability Arts Movement I was being introduced to as it was about the shocking attitudes of so many of the nondisabled people in my life.
awakens the past
and I visit
with a new gaze;
with the confidence
of hindsight; from
a position of
someone at ease
with an evolving
body of work.
Jessie is looking good. Removing her hair was quite traumatic and I pondered the bald skull a while before deciding that it needed a little remodelling.
On the floor, a half-stuffed torso has joined the various body parts, I need more wadding before I can go further with the sculpture; it is hungry on wadding and I ferry the stuff home frequently. Tied to the back of my powerchair it gives a bulky profile that no-one would guess is a new body in the making.
Rooted people grow on the pages that I am so lucky to be able to sit outside and draw. I need to make the most of every good day.
I've just taken a break to Google 'rooted' in my quest for a name for the new man, and discovered rooted androids and superusers. I need to think about that.
Back in 2006 when Jessie lay in mute protest on her platform bed, superusers didn't exist. I had been drawing rooted people since art school, exploring issues of belonging, connecting and self-awareness, but I still left Jessie's seeking and reaching out as something suggested rather than created in 3D. The despair that engulfed me inhibited Jessie too.
At the time, Disability Arts was new to me and while it was giving me back a voice, that voice was very small and frail, I had yet to figure out how to use it.
Disability Arts found me;
held me spellbound in revelation;
poked and prodded at my strength
until my eyes opened in focus;
until my words made no-sounds,
until my fingers drew protests.
And remade the offer that is life.
The paralysing silence
shattered, and I became
When it comes to fancy dress I think I make a pretty good Borg Queen. And if the conversation dries, I can always announce: 'Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated' - which brings me neatly to the question of integration and, whilst I'm stitching sculptures, my current concern: 'Will Integration kill Disability Arts?'
Are we only here for the interim between barbarian past and enlightened future?
Will the real or imagined possibility of being embraced and valued fragment any hopes of recognised cultural diversity?
When the barricades come down will we have anything left to say together?
But are we actually on the brink of this much hyped adventure?
And after Integration will it matter who tells our history?
Who knows? These thoughts wriggle around in my head while I stitch roots.
Have we given enough thought to what we actually do want? Before we get there, we need to have realistically explored the options; we need to have taken responsibility for our Culture and ensured it's visibility and accessibility.
There is no way forward without this: we should be the keepers and curators of our past, present and future. If one day we should morph into Them, we will need to do it on our terms.
Then again, it is possible that we are not actually heading for any kind of Integration at all; that some of us are just trying to hide amongst Them in an attempt to avoid persecution.
Kneel and I will knight you
for services to the
Kneel and I will rest this
edge upon your neck.
Symbol of a less enlightened
past; heavy on my frailty;
it falls to leave your head
rolling in the aisles.
I am totally looking forward to making an official start on my DAO Diverse Perspectives Commission conversations!
After sitting in residence at Salisbury Arts Centre last year and creating my first conversation/ text work they were keen to see me develop the possibilities. Initial talks with the then Director of Salisbury Arts Centre focused on a visual presention and People Like You, the exhibition, began to take shape.
I have already started on the preliminary writing, but it is important to me that words do not dominate my creativity. They leap so instantly into every situation, swamping the slow simmer that, given half a chance, will boil up into something visual, tangible and 3D.
My life-size figures are on such an evolution and for me, essential to the journey. I began creating them in 2006 and they are evolving to express the wordless things that lurk in hidden corners.
Working on them I can choose to fill the silence with music (which inevitably lures me away on parallel paths), or I can listen to the words that peep out of my subconscious to tease and chivvy me with their own need for expression. Here I mull over those persistent issues of equality, diversity and integration, I worry about the future of Disability Arts and, like a homing pigeon, the access issue is constantly returning.
Bodies take shape
under my needle:
sees muscles swell and
contract, inch lower,
shift with the placement
of limbs. Limbs that form
with thoughts; ideas
prompt their creation,
Ideas that by-
pass words; thoughts that
travel the careless route
to a reality
where fact and fantasy
The agapanthus in my green and white garden has never looked more stunning. A jungle of green shades and textures surrounds and inspires my outdoors working. Sun warms my bones and enables these quiet moments when pain takes second place.
Indoors my floor is strewn with body parts.
And Jessie has finally lost her hair. I have been reluctant to remove the long black dreads, but since Kouros, my soft sculpture figures have had no hair; Jessie, who is being worked on from (what were) the toes up, is now ready to go bald.
The new man (as mentioned - just a newer version of the old one, less hair, but that doesn't show) is in pieces. I get a little thrill of excitement anticipating putting him together.
In the garden I work on smaller body parts, it's important to keep them white, and in the heat that can be a challenge. Anticipating two new men, I make extra parts and they line up on the decking. The third man creates interesting questions, so soon I must grab pen and ink and start investigating his options...
from the gentle shade
of my garden-green
nipples for the new
man as the sun slides
I imagine life
doesn't get too much
better than moments
For providing the only logical, long awaited, ultimate-access solution, the platinum metal:
This unique, once-in-lifetime fabulously sensational, interactive brilliance, with a guaranteed 'has to be experienced live' atmosphere from a cast of interdiversity hundreds, has a budget that will bring tears to your soul.
Lynda, our designated access professional has been allocated full powers of authority to determine and design total equality of access and presentation. The results have been acclaimed across the sector and the industry's highest accolades awarded for innovative solutions.
An award-winning director has been signed to record the event and the very latest technologies have been made available to the film crew. Every effort has been made to ensure that wheelless and temporarily nondisabled will not be disadvantaged. A committee has been set up to process all access requests and in the interest of total equality, there will be absolutely no live audience at all.
'Aware of just how difficult and complicated it is to realise universal access' quoted our independent expert, 'we genuinely believe this to be the correct solution.'
Concerns about equality of delivery have prompted a total rewrite of the experience, with responsibility for homogeneity now the sole remit of one universal representative of humanity who may unfortunately be too robustly wheelless to produce the required level of performance in the available window.
To make absolutely certain no-one actually sees a live performance, the filming will be delayed for 24 hours. The current plan is for a robot crew to be shipped in the day after the event has happened. The retrospective digital recording will be documented in total isolation and archived by random computer selection immediately after creation.
And finally, to ensure total equality of access this blog will be erased from your......
For continuing assessment and a truly genuine desire to win gold, the gold metal (colour equality equalised):
This spectacular, one-off event will see people lacking a wide diversity of disabilities performing together from a variety of disciplines. They come together from all over the world to celebrate excellence in a commission especially devised to celebrate the temporarily nondisabled in all their rich diversity.
Unfortunately it has not been possible to secure access for wheelless or temporarily nondisabled to experience the live performance, but every effort will be made to accommodate a limited number of wheelless via an innovative interactive platform on our website. Should you wish to sign up for this experience please contact our helpline for system requirements. A bursary is being considered for qualifying wheelless who may need an upgrade, please see our website for terms and conditions.
Providing a soundtrack has proved a technical challenge, please contact Lynda if you are likely to need an audible orchestra facility.
Those temporarily nondisabled who do not have up to date digital technologies may apply, via our website, for a limited edition postcard issued in honour of the event. Early registration of interest is advised as the issue will be limited to fifty copies and the print run will not be repeated. Each postcard will contain quality speaking descriptions in various formats.
Should you require visual images please contact Lynda.
Should you experience any difficulties accessing this information, please contact Lynda, via our official website. Lynda is our designated access professional, she empathises deeply with all those brave souls who lack disability and she will be working hard to record your comments.
For taking the time to really mull over the access issue and promoting a positive attitude to wheelless and temporarily nondisabled people, the silver metal (colour equality standard):
This commission will honour and celebrate wheelless, temporarily nondisabled, seeing and hearing talents and does include a brave performance from a wheelless father of three from Dorset. It will wheel out for one random night only.
A limited number of protective platforms have been put in place for the wheelless, but unfortunately it has not been possible to provide access to parking in the vicinity. For those wheelless and temporarily nondisabled visitors who do tolerate public transport, a park and ride system will bring them directly to the designated area.
Places need to have been booked, via the link on our website, at least three years in advance. It will be necessary to confirm your booking by telephone; look out for the number, it will be posted on our website as soon as it becomes available.
For those wheelless and temporarily nondisabled with the foresight to have bought accommodation in the area during the past year or so, we have been able to source volunteers who, after a quality five minute training exercise, are qualified to offer unconditional positive regard. A temporary lavatory facility has been sited in the area; for dimensions and a map please email Lynda on Thursday between 8.30 and 9.00. Keys may be purchased from the MonoLympic office, for opening hours please see our website.
Wheelless who require chairs should contact our partner organisation helpingyousit.com/ik. All booking details can be found on their website.
Should you experience any difficulties or need this information explained to you again, please contact Lynda, our designated access professional.