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On Reflection (After First meeting at Spike Island) / 24 February 2011

Already there is the possibility of change. My artist is considering ways in which my disability can have a much bigger influence on my work.

I’ve just had a “meltdown” – something remarkably similar to a computer crash. And as usual, on rebooting, I feel as if someone has installed some unfamiliar software while I was switched off. Sometimes I wonder if I still have any access the old software; sometimes I recall something I did in the event horizon of the meltdown, that now seems quite alien and strange, or even downright stupid. I regret not allowing myself to be more aware of the impending crash. We are not talking minutes or hours here, but days. I’m certain that there is a period when I am in denial and equally certain that I know why: I’m trying to hang on to that particular version of me. The private person finds that very important; the artist is actually much more curious.

Who am I? Is there a real me? Is any of the old software integral to the real me? “Corrupted” is it more or less me than the upgraded or the new? Am I nothing more than the hardware – the empty container? Maybe I have some kind of core program or a default setting that gradually reasserts itself.  I have spoken about this before, but never attempted to work visually with it, or even write it down. As a wheelchair user I am incredibly sensitive and protective of the brain-bits-bytes, having been a victim of the effects of NLNB* syndrome on more than one occasion.

I am the raw material for my artist. I have my own unique disabled gaze through which to communicate the issues my artist chooses to work with. My work has always been issue based, but my artist is daring to wonder if while this “meltdown” issue informs everything I do, it should also be a focus in its own right.

Visually I find this daunting. The only place I can think to begin is with a moving, evolving image. When my brain does the equivalent of suddenly acquiring a 10-bit-per-colour workflow, I always make a connection to the kind of time-lapse photography that shows ferns opening or seasons changing. My brain goes through a similar process as I reboot and, as an example, colours emerge and evolve quite as if I am discovering them for the first time. I need to give this seed of an idea some space to germinate…

It occurs to me that maybe I should start at the beginning, but then I wonder if I mean the beginning of the recovery or the beginning of the meltdown.

And while I give these seeds space to grow, I could perhaps try to explain what I mean by saying “this issue informs everything I do.” In my work I make a point of constantly reusing images, both visual and verbal, often updating/upgrading them and exploring how they evolve in different contexts. Sometimes I feel it is necessary to relate how they evolve from previous states – their previous context being too powerful to abandon. If it does not bring borrowed context with it, the context can still remain with the work via documentation, or by exerting an influence via its evolution. On occasion work can be orphaned from its origins, but may later attempt to revert to a previous state. This is my way of framing the issues I work with, with the same kind of context that frames my life.

*NLNB (no legs – no brain) syndrome probably affects 80-95% of non-disabled people who see someone in a wheelchair. It is marginally less insidious than NNNB (not normal – no brain), a worrying condition that for some sections of a population can be indistinguishable from NLNB and not only affects a possible 90-100% of non-disabled people, but also a large percentage of mobility challenged individuals also.

Already there is the possibility of change. My artist is considering ways in which my disability can have a much bigger influence on my work.

I’ve just had a “meltdown” – something remarkably similar to a computer crash. And as usual, on rebooting, I feel as if someone has installed some unfamiliar software while I was switched off. Sometimes I wonder if I still have any access the old software; sometimes I recall something I did in the event horizon of the meltdown, that now seems quite alien and strange, or even downright stupid. I regret not allowing myself to be more aware of the impending crash. We are not talking minutes or hours here, but days. I’m certain that there is a period when I am in denial and equally certain that I know why: I’m trying to hang on to that particular version of me. The private person finds that very important; the artist is actually much more curious. Who am I? Is there a real me? Is any of the old software integral to the real me? “Corrupted” is it more or less me than the upgraded or the new? Am I nothing more than the hardware – the empty container? Maybe I have some kind of core program or a default setting that gradually reasserts itself. I have spoken about this before, but never attempted to work visually with it, or even write it down. As a wheelchair user I am incredibly sensitive and protective of the brain-bits-bytes, having been a victim of the effects of NLNB* syndrome on more than one occasion. I am the raw material for my artist. I have my own unique disabled gaze through which to communicate the issues my artist chooses to work with. My work has always been issue based, but my artist is daring to wonder if while this “meltdown” issue informs everything I do, it should also be a focus in its own right. Visually I find this daunting. The only place I can think to begin is with a moving, evolving image. When my brain does the equivalent of suddenly acquiring a 10-bit-per-colour workflow, I always make a connection to the kind of time-lapse photography that shows ferns opening or seasons changing. My brain goes through a similar process as I reboot and, as an example, colours emerge and evolve quite as if I am discovering them for the first time. I need to give this seed of an idea some space to germinate… It occurs to me that maybe I should start at the beginning, but then I wonder if I mean the beginning of the recovery or the beginning of the meltdown. And while I give these seeds space to grow, I could perhaps try to explain what I mean by saying “this issue informs everything I do.” In my work I make a point of constantly reusing images, both visual and verbal, often updating/upgrading them and exploring how they evolve in different contexts. Sometimes I feel it is necessary to relate how they evolve from previous states – their previous context being too powerful to abandon. If it does not bring borrowed context with it, the context can still remain with the work via documentation, or by exerting an influence via its evolution. On occasion work can be orphaned from its origins, but may later attempt to revert to a previous state. This is my way of framing the issues I work with, with the same kind of context that frames my life.

*NLNB (no legs – no brain) syndrome probably affects 80-95% of non-disabled people who see someone in a wheelchair. It is marginally less insidious than NNNB (not normal – no brain), a worrying condition that for some sections of a population can be indistinguishable from NLNB and not only affects a possible 90-100% of non-disabled people, but also a large percentage of mobility challenged individuals also.