If you are in the City of London today (28 May), you will get a chance to see Disability Art in action. At 11:00am, Noëmi Lakmaier will start making her way from Toynbee Studios heading towards one of London's most iconic buildings, The Gherkin. Lakmaier's one mile journey, which is usually a 20 minute stroll, is likely to take hours because she is making the journey on her hands and knees.
She will be smartly dressed in business attire as she crawls through the every-day street life of London until she arrives in the financial heart of London her clothes no doubt filthy and torn to threads by that point.
On behalf of DAO, Marian Cleary asked her, “Why?"
I think the “why” is that you are demonstrating a lot of things about access, visibility, etc. Currently I'm thinking about income and earnings and benefits, the way the City of London is seen as somehow culpable regarding the recession and the way society is increasingly coming down on the “scrounging disabled sponging bastards”. And you will be crawling among those who some see as having created that situation and so fostered those opinions about people with disability.
I don't want to put my gloss on your stuff and misrepresent it. But I think I'm kind of heading in the right direction, no pun intended?
Yes, what you say is part of the “why”, but it's bigger than that in a socio-political context. I'm not sure if this is still totally accurate, but not that long ago Tower Hamlets was statistically the third most deprived area in the European Union.
As a resident of Tower Hamlets, as well as a female and disabled, I see this deprivation and poverty every day. Yet the City of London, where the super-rich - mostly able-bodied white men - play their games is only a short stroll away. These are two different worlds, not one coherent city. I wanted to cross over the border of these worlds in a slow and strenuous way, dressed as Them while clearly being Other, socially, politically, economically and physically.
When I reach The Gherkin, I will not be allowed in. I have been told as much. Even if I enter the square outside on my hands and knees in torn clothes I may be “removed” is what I've been told.
I think there are also less political and more psychological issues in the piece, of subservience, a submissiveness, a role-play with the viewer who is forced into the dominant role through my action, forced to react in one way or another.
It’s not often you get a socio-policitical psychogeographical happening in the heart of the City on a Monday morning. We'll catch up with Noëmi soon to find out how it went.
You will be able to catch Noemi on this route. Let us know if you see her. What do you think? Use the comment form below to let us know.
Her Twitter hashtag for the piece is #omim
Update: 12.00pm - just found out via ArtsAdmin. that Hydar Dewachi will be updating news of Noëmi's journey on her website.
Update: 2.00pm - Noëmi is now 1/3 of the way. The whole event is being recorded but for now there are some excellent pictures on the #omim Twitter hashtag. Follow @catjharrison also for pics and updates. And of course @noemilakmaier herself!
Noëmi Lakmaier was born in Vienna and studied for both her BA (2003) and her MA (2004) in Fine Art at Winchester School of Art. She has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally including Object/Female, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, 2011/2012, We Are For You Because We Are Against Them, The LAB, Dublin 2009, Essence, Beldam Gallery, Brunel University, London 2008, The Works of Others, Whitechapel Gallery Project Space, London 2006, Redundancy, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth 2005. In 2008 she was artist in Residency at Camden Arts Centre, London and from 2008 – 2009 she held a studio residency at the Fire Station Artists’ Studios in Dublin. In 2010 Lakmaier showed her piece We / Them / Other as part of Belfast Festival at Queens 2010. In March 2011 she premiered the living installation at Undress/Redress as part of Access All Areas at the Live Arts Development Agency in London. She has won awards and bursaries including NAN New Collaborations, the Adam Reynolds Bursary, a Fire Station Studio Award, an Arts Council England Grant For The Arts, and an Arts Admin Live Arts Bursary. Lakmaier has guest lectured at the University of Brighton, Brighton, the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, NCAD, Dublin, and Wimbledon School of Art, London.