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.
Who to hand this to, apart from psychiatrists and ATOS?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Anyone who knows about the Nazi's Disability Euthanasia Programme Action T4, will see unsettling parallels to what is happening to disabled people now. The current demonisation and persecuting of disabled people , the media hype over disabled people being burdens and scroungers, an ecomonic strain to society, is following the Nazi Euthansia's To Do list to the letter.
I left my last job in April due to stress, which triggered psychosis and depression (which is one of the reasons this blog has been so neglected), and knew the letter from ATOS would be soon on its merry way. And it came, as you can see from the photo I took. Forget the polite language, how I recreated it is how I should have received it. Too many people see us through these lenses of false labels, which will magnify discrimation and hatred, while the person behind it shrinks.
Fortunately - or unfortunately - I was actually psychotic when I filled in the atos form, and thought I was Jesus, and filled it in accordingly. Someone reassessed the form and decided I needn't go to the atos interview. Give it a few months and I will be asked again to go. As stress is a trigger for psychosis, I may think I am Jesus again and try to cast the demon out of the atos assessor. Or heal the sick, who are the people who work there. Because despite over 1000 people being deemed fit to work dying after their assessment, according to atos and the government, there aren't any ill people about.
Hold on a minute, maybe we have got it the wrong way round and atos are healing people through a patronising and demeaning interview.
Why I have religious convictions when I am an agnotistic, I have no idea.
Is normality the real thing?
Is it full of artificial sweeteners, sentimental but not compassionate?Fucking people over, but a good ad campaign can tell you the opposite.Is the strean of consciousness chlorinated, santised for public use? Is the society we are living in aiming for soul zero?
Powerpoint is probably one of the most unsubversive mediums around, it is used 40,000 times a day to tell people what to do, I thought I would reverse the trend a tiny bit by creating a subversive powerpoint.
It all came about when I was part of the Sync Leadership www.syncleadership.com and coaching scheme. It really helped me find my focus regarding my arts practice. I was asked to do a presentation at a conference on my subversive career, and Sarah Pickthall, my coach, loved the idea of the powerpoint to accompany it, because she knew I would think it my moral duty to subvert such a dull medium, so here it is!
Well, have been away a while, but this is the year my soul felt like it was dying. By virtue of having a job and the expectation of me to be 'normal', when normality feels like a barbed-wire enema, is sucking the soul out of me. It just grinds on my values. Of course, not all mad people are sensitive, free-thinking people, but I think quite a few are and are being punished for their reactions to a venal, judgemental world. To me, someone yelling to people in a bank that they won't find their souls in there isn't cause for a Section 136; it is a truth people don't want to look at, lest they go mad.
So to counteract that world, I have come up with an alternative set of commandments. There was no burning bush to inspire, but some burnt toast as an outcome of scribbling this down.
The Mad 10 Commandments
1. Thou shalt not kill free thought
2. Do not worship the ratrace
3. Keep Black Sabbath on your turntable
4. Do not make meds your idol
5. Do not fuck people over
6. Honour your soul and the souls of others
7. Do not steal these commandments; they are copyrighted ;-)
8. Do not lose your sense of humour
9. Do not covet normality
10. Do not follow commandments
Dolly Sen is a visual artist, writer, film-maker, and performer interested in non-consensual reality, outsidership, empathy, authenticity and absurdity.You can find her website at http://www.dollysen.com