I got an email from Colin a few weeks ago with a few questions as to what value I got from Disability Arts Online. I typed a few short answers, as I was hyper and couldn't dictate my own voice as it was swallowed up by many others, and poor Colin would have to have decipher it like lost words in a word search.
My brain is a bit calmer so I can give a fuller reply to the importance of DAO
As a person within the disability arts scene and Mad Pride movement, I question identity and societal discrimination and oppression within my practice, as to why I expected to assume the role of pathetic burden. Instead I laughed at the stupidity of oppressive thinking, by parodying discrimination by turning it back on itself where these views can be shown to be as ridiculous as they are. There is no apology for being myself needed.
A lot of culture and society wants to put us in our place, to fulfil the role as ‘the other’, as tragic, brave, a burden, or ugly. The arts, especially disability arts, is in the best position to question, highlight, critique, or force the issue around the oppression and creating our own identities and agendas. And as an artist myself, it is great opportunity to celebrate my difference. It is the right arena for beautiful subversion, to show how oppression is pathetic, cowardly, and a self-defeating burden to itself.
I see disability arts as an opportunity to develop ways to reclaim identity from a mercenary, judgemental world that has abused it.
Being part of Disability Arts Online, I see a systemic refusal to assimilate into a broken, degrading process. Asking us to be normal is asking too little of us.
Every political action, personal and social identity development and celebration, needs a history and a voice created by the people living it. As that well-known African proverb states: ‘Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’ DAO is part of that necessary journey, a megaphone for the voice of the lion.
The aim can also be to ask questions, the more awkward the better, and in that way connect some isolated dots on the disability arts landscape. Where is the relationship the strongest, and where is it the weakest? Can disability arts be absorbed into a model? Should it be absorbed into a model? Doesn’t creativity function better as an organic, free process rather than having to bat against the walls of some model? How effective is the affirmation model within the context of disability arts? How effective is disability arts at effecting change, or influencing disability theory? How many people with the disability arts world are aware of disability theory? What is it about some aspects of disability arts at its most political that doesn’t apologise for being different, and what can be distilled from that to inform disability theory? What power do these artists have within a disabling society?
Hopefully DAO will help inform and inspire what is next in terms of the future of disability theory and disability arts. Identity is fluid, what is the river we are being pushed down, what arrests the flow, where will we end up? We don't know what is around the corner, but I for one, will be its fellow traveller until I finally walk into the sun.
DAO provides the backing music, we as artists must provide the dancesteps to make it a graceful union that inspires the world to move into the direction of equality, till our song is the song of humanity and not feeling pushed away from it.
My mind is sunshine distilled through a bed of nails, shining but hard to hold, especially also when the skin feels like shifting sands, and the soul and its perceptions seem like a mirage.
What is grounding me and connecting me to the world are lots of artistic projects. There is a new one on the horizon: I will be part of a project, still in its infancy, that hopes to explore unusual mental states and film, which will be launched in March 2013 at the Barbican, where one of my films will be shown.
But the thing at the moment that is stroking and calming my amphetamised wings is making this film of Portugal Prints for Diverse Perspectives, commissioned by DAO and the Royal Academy.
When I researched the film, I went to visit Portugal Prints at one of their bases in Soho. The first thing that hits you is the warmth of the place, you are instantly accepted as family. So I decided to make a film exploring the heart of Portugal Prints. I am very near the end of making the film, just two more days of filming next week. I have already filmed their haiku event at the Tate Modern; I have interviewed Kate Horbury, the ex-access officer of the Royal Academy, about her love affair with Portugal Prints; and I have filmed a linocut printing workshop at the Royal Academy, run by the artist Phil Baird and the amazingly named Becky Jelly, which was attended by Portugal Print members who created some beautiful stuff.
The crux of the film though will be the filming next week, where I will film at the Soho base and interview members about art, mental health, and the heart, which for so many has been told to shrink, but where at Portugal Prints, you see the greenhouse of hearts grow.
I was asked by Creative Futures to guest speak at a blogging workshop run by our very own Colin Hambrook. I don't claim to be a blogging expert, but I enjoy it and have learned over the years its power and its lessons. I am glad I was asked because it made me think about my process, and why I like it so much. I distilled most of what I discovered about blogging into a powerpoint presentation. I think it is self explanatory. Except for maybe the pic of Lux, my dog. I try to slip my muse into everything, and have managed to slip her into every powerpoint I have done in the last few years, see my subversive powerpoint, as an example. Although when I am teaching psychiatrists, they see it as a symptom of my madness, I see them not getting it as a symptom of theirs. I do hope when lux does a powerpoint, she slips in a photo of me!
Note from Lux the dog: I do plan to do a powerpoint on doggy creativity and the tyranny of humanism in art. I might slip in a photo of Dolly, it depends.
Pallant House Gallery will be hosting a few Outsider Art Exhibitions over the autumn months this year. I became involved with Pallant through their Step Up Programme, which trained marginalised artists to be workshop leaders, and was very happy to be asked to provide poetic responses to several well known - and some lesser known - outsider artists, as part of an audio trail for one of their exhibitions. I went into the studio on September 17th to record these poems for the audio trail.
This is in response to Peter Howson's 'Suspicious Boy':
A quiet hand
Linked to a screaming heart
The flotsam gaze
In a savage sea
Of drowned children
Art needs to know
Needs to show
The broken mind
Under bright skin
Needs to dig into the lines
That tears the soul
And show the heart
Coming apart at the dreams.
It needs to know the suspicion,
The hate needed to breathe
It needs to know that survival
does not save you
It saves itself
Life cannot be beautiful
I received the good news that one of my pieces was accepted for the Perceptions of Balance Exhibition at Shape Arts. My piece is called ‘Balanced Mind’
I have been labeled ‘mad’ by society, so therefore seen as unbalanced. Society’s way of redressing that is not to help me make sense of the childhood trauma that triggered my psychosis, nor to tackle inequality and discrimination in society because of that label. Its way was to medicate me into submission. For decades I was on antipsychotic medication. I did not laugh or cry on these meds. Is this well balanced? It took away my symptoms but my life too. Is that a fair payoff, a balanced payoff?
A tablet does not cure abuse, isolation, or stigma. But I was sedated, out of society’s hair. They said the tablets would make me feel better. Please define better when I have lost my soul. Maybe you don’t need a soul nowadays.
The message: don’t speak your mind. Your silence and submission are signs of being well-balanced.
So my art shows that the medication weighs heavier, and the promise of peace of mind, of having my life back is an empty promise, not worth the prescription pad it is written on.
I have given up the meds and regained my life. Some may say that shows I am unbalanced. I say it makes perfect sense.
There is a private view of the exhibition on the 20th Sept.
Date: Thursday 20th September
Location: Shape. Deane House Studios, 27 Grenwood Place, London NW5 1LB
Please RSVP to email@example.com and let us know if you have any access requirements.
Here is my itty-bitty contribution to Channel 4 Goes Mad season. 4Thought asked the question: 'What is Madness?' I could have talked for hours on the subject, but if fact the producer didn't want me to answer it but tell my story in a minute and a half. I would have liked longer to qualify some of what I said, but here it is www.4thought.tv/themes/what-is-madness/dolly-sen.
What has been interesting about the 4thought this week, when it poses that question is the debate it has brought up amongst people who use mental health services themselves. Earlier on in the 4thought week there was a woman who talked about angels, and some people who use services didn't like it, that it showed hearing voices as a positive thing. What is really shocking is that so many people who hear voices and stuck in the system don't know that most voice hearers are not in the system. Romme and Esher did a study on it and they found the difference between the two groups was that those not in mental health services felt they were in control of their voices, whilst those who use the mental health sytem didn't feel in control.
Here is the angel lady's contribution www.4thought.tv/themes/what-is-madness/rosemarie-moore--2
I know this slot of the lady talking about angels would be very useful in my training around mental health to explore: What is mental health? Because this woman is probably mentally healthier than most people, in that she may be happy, contented, and feel connected to the world. It would start a discussion around hearing voices, and the fact most people don't know that most voice hearers are not in the mental health system, and most voice hearers have helpful, supportive voices. So when is the point that mh professionals deem it pathological? Because the evidence shows pathologising it is a sure way of people suffering more because of it. In societies where voice hearing is acceptable, it has a higher 'recovery' rate. It also opens up the question: what is delusion? Because a Gallup poll in 1995 found 70% people believe in aliens and 31% believed in ghosts. This is an unusual belief but a socially acceptable belief, which brings up the question: how much of psychiatry is based on judgment and social policing than on 'illness'. Believers of God think atheists are deluded, and it is true the other way round. The discussions out of that minute and a half clip can inexorably change and make people questions their beliefs around mental health. And that is a good thing.
Inspired by Spike Milligan, and disgusted by Atos' treatment of disabled people, I created this yesterday.
On friday 18th May 2012 I will be taking to the helm of Resonance Radio's disability slot 'Technical Difficulties' to explore the difficult subject of suicide. I could do a whole series on the subject, but this Friday's show is an introduction to the subject, where I hope to do some myth busting, explain what the warning signs are, and what resources are available.
You can listen to it on Resonance Radio 104.4 or through http://resonancefm.com/ at 3.30 on 18/05/2012
More info on the show in general at http://www.lightchronicles.info/