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> > > Anne Teahan: Sharing Cultures: Disability and Visibility

‘Sharing Cultures: Disability and Visibility’ is a project by Anne Teahan, researching disability arts in reference to an exhibition inspired by participation in VSA's 'Revealing Culture' - an international disability arts exhibition of 55 artists, which was on show at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington from 8 June - 29 August 2010. Her blog is a reflection on each day of a week spent in Washington and is the starting point for the research.

Anne Teahan's last reflections on seeing 'Revealing Culture' in Washington DC.

14 July 2010

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Chuck Close portriat of a woman

With only the afternoon left in Washington, I decide to cram everything I can into my last day, push through the tiredness and accept the inevitable energy crash later. I dip into the National Gallery and the Hirshorn: I see Yves Klein on fuzzy black and white 1960s film, still dragging his naked-women paintbrushes across canvas on an endless loop. I get diverted by a room of Alexander Calder mobiles, exquisitely lit and spaced and find that an hour has gone by and I am still watching the...

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Anne Teahan reflects on 'Revealing Culture' and differences between American and British thinking about Art & Disability.

14 July 2010

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photo of a display in a room in the institute dedicated to benefactors

On my last morning in Washington I meet Ellen Dorn, Director of Special exhibitions for the Smithsonian Institution. I will ask her how ‘Revealing Culture’ came about, and gain some understanding of the Smithsonian approach to Arts and Disability. I also hope to get a feel for the American approach to this territory.   How will it compare with Britain? The Smithsonian covers a huge complex of 19 museums and galleries spanning Art, Culture, Science, American History and much...

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Anne Teahan explores the work of Washington-based artist Gwynneth VanLaven in Revealing Culture at the Smithsonian and interviews her about waiting rooms and ‘Wellness’

13 July 2010

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A black and white photo of a young woman with a line running through it titled 'misunderstood'

Gwynneth VanLaven’s installation ‘Please Wait’, in ‘Revealing Culture’ is deceptive. From a distance, it looks like a nice little space in the middle of the exhibition, where the tired visitor can sit down and rest. Inside, you find yourself in a waiting room – but not some well-used NHS space where people have paced and fretted. This one is pristine with pure white walls, three identical chairs, a square coffee table (with no rings) and an unworn carpet....

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Anne Teahan reflects on a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and finds common themes in ‘Revealing Culture’ the Disability Arts exhibition at the Smithsonian

12 July 2010

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a series of words laid out graphically in turqoise, pink and yellow

One of my aims in visiting ‘Revealing Culture’ in Washington is to see how the art relates to surrounding mainstream spaces. The Holocaust Memorial Museum is purpose-built. From outside, the white stone façade echoes the nearby Washington monuments and Smithsonian Galleries. The arched entrance has a feeling of permanence, weight and solidity. But inside, everything changes … The entrance or Hall of Witness combines glass, metal and stone. Colours are grim...

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Anne Teahan visits the Kennedy Center to interview artist Michelle Lisa Herman.

12 July 2010

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photo of an installation with test tubes set out on a table in the middle of a gallery with turqoise walls

Sue and I are standing inside the Hall of Nations entrance to the Kennedy Center, looking up.  High above our heads hang parallel rows of national flags; under our feet a long red carpet recedes into a distant vanishing point.  Is there a throne somewhere at the end? I have come to interview Washington-based artist Michelle Lisa Herman, who works here for ArtsEdge as a media designer.  But Sue and I are early and have a little time to explore the building.  There is hardly...

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Anne Teahan further reflects on work in VSA’s ‘Revealing Culture’ at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Gallery in Washington DC and finds contrasting approaches to themes of Art, Disability and the Body in artists’ films

11 July 2010

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Photo of the Fountain outside the Hirschhorn Museum

Another Washington morning – hot and humid. I have been resting my voice (which really means avoiding people) for a couple of days. And voice-rest is a mixed blessing. When dryness and Laryngeal Dystonia are at their worst, every spoken word is a strain, and silence offers relief. However it doesn’t take long for a kind of isolation to set in and the desire to communicate becomes intense. So I am doubly pleased that my friend Sue has at last made it through all the security checks...

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Anne Teahan begins the task of reflection on the idea of a 'disability aesethetic' from her first visit to 'Revealing Culture' at the Smithsonian Institute

10 July 2010

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photo of two large abstract paintings against a white curtain

The Smithsonian’s International gallery is a surprise. Above ground it looks like an elegant version of the kiosks on the National Mall. But most of the building exists underground. The visible part is merely an entrance area. To find ‘Revealing Culture’ I must take the lift 3 floors down into the earth and follow the signs through an eclectic mix of exhibitions ranging from contemporary prints to children’s paintings from Haitian earthquake survivors. The question I...

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Anne Teahan's first morning in Washington DC

10 July 2010

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Photo of the flags surrounding the Washington Monument

This is my first Washington morning. I am almost comatose from travel but excited at the prospect of seeing the Smithsonian. This morning I will make my first visit to ‘Revealing Culture’ in their International Gallery with a rare opportunity for immersion in the work of 54 artists, all of them exploring the experience of disability. I will see my own work in this context and the exhibition within the vast 19-gallery Smithsonian complex. But a series of obstacles are slowing me...

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Anne Teahan gives an account of her journey through US customs on the way to the Smithonian Institute, Washington DC

9 July 2010

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photo of the White House

I have never been to America before. I am in a stationary queue at Charlotte Carolina airport, somewhere in-between planes and layers of security, waiting to be processed. One official looks stern and disapproving; she patrols the queue; she inspects us all. She is unimpressed. Another official walks alongside the queue and says ‘Hi, welcome to Charlotte and where’re you from?’ to every single passenger in turn. In a friendly but efficient way he conducts a high-speed...

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Anne Teahan describes her preparations for visiting the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC in summer 2010

9 July 2010

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image of artists' work on show at revealing culture exhibition

In April 2010, I started tackling an Arts Council application on ‘Revealing Culture’ an international disability arts exhibition on show at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington DC from 8 June - 29 August 2010. I had work accepted along with 54 other artists. I aimed to turn the experience into a research project for DAO, but there were many obstacles between me and my desired goal. Globally – there was volcanic ash, nationally there were strikes at...

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