Colin Hambrook comments on Outside Centre's 'Stamps of Disability' website / 3 June 2010
Outside Centre is a disability arts oganisation, working within the Social Model of Disability, whose primary objective is to celebrate and promote disability and disabled people through arts and culture.
They have produced Stamps of Disability - an online collection of postage stamps from across the world that depict disability. Searchable by theme and by country they cover everything from Beethoven to Princess Diana's Anti-land Mine Campaign.
In many ways postage stamps play a similar role to the flag - as cultural objects. Primarily, obviously, they are a means of payment for postal services.
They commemorate; celebrate; confer meaning with less prescriptive meanings and provoke a much more variable sense of the value of the territorial rights of nation states.
As with all images - their meaning is always tailored by the context in which the viewer finds them. There are some interesting debates raging on Outside Centre's Facebook Group - primarily in response to a postage stamp of Moshe Dyan posted onto the Outside Centre FB site.
Especially at this time when protests against Israel are mounting after the recent attack on the aid ship, destined to provide relief for Palestinian refugees, a postage stamp of Moshe Dyan seems at best to be encouraging a counter-productive idea of disability arts as an artistic activity that challenges in order to 'celebrate and promote disability and disabled people through arts and culture.'
Paul Darke says "the stamps are a perfect record of the socio-political and cultural oppression of disabled people in a small perferated form. That is, for me, is what makes them so fascinating." But isn't there something missing here; something that's been missing through the relatively small history of disability arts - an awareness of the fact that more people are disabled through war than any other human activity.
The disability arts movement has worked religiously to overturn and subvert the oppressive, cultural accepted association of 'disability' with 'suffering' - as a cipher. But somehow disability arts has never got to grips with what disability means in the context of war.
Whoever makes or breaks war; and whatever the arguments for justification - it doesn't happen without human suffering. In the process of celebrating war or war-makers, there will always be a sense of furthering the notion of disability as synonymous with suffering.