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.
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.
Inspired by Spike Milligan, and disgusted by Atos' treatment of disabled people, I created this yesterday.
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.
Sometimes my doodling is just evil.
Please give £3 a month to help these poor creatures
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!
Sometimes we need a little reminder...
art can be created in five minutes, even ones that don't exist.
I have started doing collages, actually there was a compulsion to do a collage of a human being. Maybe I was just feeling all that was wrong with the world, but in my psychosis, human beings were growing shark heads.
Is psychosis a collage of the cutting outs of reality? Dunno. But my source material isn't women's weekly, it is the complex human being.
I get frustrated with people who say humans have fundamental goodness. Tell that to any human being who has died at the hands of someone of his or her own species. It's an insult to them.
No genocide victim will wear that t-shirt, I am afraid. There are both sides to the human. The only thing axiomatic about it is the choice between the two.
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
Dear Poor Lonely CCTV Camera,
Do you ever get the feeling you are missing the point? That the cameras are pointing the wrong way? That the people who enforced your use are the ones who should be scrutinised? Are your circuits infringing our rights willingly, or is your will remote controlled - like ours?
The world isn't black and white. We are not black and white.
Are you sad that you are not watching a flower grow, or the sun setting on an ocean?
You see people laughing, but are ever let in on the joke? You see 1000s people a day, but do you KNOW any of them? Tell me their dreams and aspirations. Tell me what makes them really happy. You can't. You only see their blank, immobile expressions. That is the kind of humans you like to see.
The ones who scream, cry, die and dance gives you big erections. You love people's pain.
Watch my heart break. I know you can see me. Watch my heart break and see nothing.
On September 22nd I will be presenting a paper at the 'In the Mainstream' conference at De Montfort University, Leicester, organised by The MeCCSA Disability Studies Network.
The conference aims to re-visit and re-evaluate the complex issues at stake in contemporary representations of disability and impairment from a variety of critical perspectives, investigating both continuities and new trends in representing disability
My presentation will be on my experience as both a ‘mad’ filmmaker and a ‘mad’ documentary subject. This unique position has made me sensitive to how documentary-makers use ethics and objectivity in their films, because time and time again in broadcast media I have been squashed into a box of their preconceptions and prejudices, and the essence of who I am is lost.
And as a film-maker making films about mental health, where it isn’t to be pitied, feared, or used to alienate, scare, and antagonize, I have come up against ignorance and hostility from commissioners and other film-makers, who think I am exhibiting ‘symptoms’ of mental illness by saying that there are other ways to view mental distress and difference than the medical model. It has definitely been an interesting experience. I would also like to touch upon Mad Culture.
As a mad person, am I one-dimensional, visually different, soulless, with only evil in my heart? Am I person to be feared? To be pitied? To be laughed at? Am I not allowed to be loved? Am I not allowed to be sexy? I want to be represented on the screen as nothing less than who I am. Is it possible?
I actually don't like mind normal people, I just don't like normal fundamentalists. I published this a few years back, and the hatemail I got because of it astounded me. How dare I make fun of normal people, although these labels of 'mad' and 'normal' are invented labels and human being is good enough for everyone. Or that I am satirising the unthinking tenets of what normality seems to be.
What is Mad Culture?
It is a celebration of the creativity of mad people, and pride in our unique way of looking at life, our internal world externalised and shared with others without shame, as a valid way of life.
It is an acknowledgement that we are reacting to a society that is scared of us and will hijack our art and literature once our artists and writers are dead and therefore deemed safe and easy to control, corrupt and capitalise.
Our culture is that we have control of our lives without being brutalised by a psychiatric system that wants us to conform to an ideal of normality that doesn’t exist anyway. It is challenging the idea that madness is something to be hidden; it realises that visibility counts in order to break the stigma that has a stranglehold over every single mad person alive today. Mad Culture is saying, ‘Yes, yes!” to life even if embarrasses the ‘normals’.
Mad Culture is saying: I won’t hold your sanity against you. My reality is good enough. Is yours? Not all mad people are artistic, some are quite happy to be accountants, and I don’t think mad accountants should be discriminated against.
We are already an alienated sector of society, in fact the most alienated sector of society. We are not full members of this society or culture and that is not going to change without us changing it. Because why is it in their interest to change what makes them feel comfortable and superior. So in that sense we need to create our own culture in which we feel comfortable in. Some would argue that leads to separation, but we are separate. Where does madness fit in ‘normal culture’?
We are the untouchables. Only fit enough to work in sheltered workshops, to be cleaners, media scapegoats and to paint multi-million pound masterpieces. Put simply, in this present culture we have victim status; in our culture, we are just ourselves. WE want a culture that doesn’t produce a suicide every 40 seconds.
Why have pride about suffering distress, some may say? It’s not about that. It is pride in our strength to survive that distress and what it teaches us, and not to feel like lesser beings because of it, and to question why we feel lesser beings because of it, to question that madness is an illness and not a human response to a sick society, a sick upbringing.
Can you imagine a world without music, art, dance and drama? It would be an empty, bland place. So why is the world without your music, art, dance and drama? If life is a stage, is yours worth watching? What would make the show better? Can we change the ending? Or make it a better story? Culture is letting us tell the story not them – it is as simple as that.