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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.


Joseph McConnell

6 June 2010

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR RAISING THIS ISSUE COLIN. I am really saddened by how little our community of disabled artists and their supporters seem to be engaging with this. Where is the solidarity with a whole people disabled by our Western society's attitude? No funding opportunities there I suppose. It's sickening.

This silence is shameful, especially at a time when the State of Israel is pulling out all stops to REBRAND itself through recent cultural productions. The movies 'Waltz with Bashir' and 'Lebanon' clearly attempt to rewrite history by portraying the helplessness and sensitivity of Israeli soldiers who happen to be involved in needless massacre. This sensitivity may or may not exist, but these brilliantly made films succeed in completely decontextualising the soldiers' situation. In the west, we have consistently ignored the reality of people living in places like Lebanon and Gaza. Even the images of recent massacres seem to leave us indifferent. Imagine if this was happening in our own country? Or anywhere else in Western Europe.

The ignorance and indifference about the Middle East has a lot to do with the interests of those who dominate the media. How many people in Britain and Europe know who Moshe Dayan was and what he did? Do single iconic images such as the pretty postage stamp encourage them to inform themselves?

Thanks again Colin. We don't deserve you. Your honesty and integrity are living proof that no one could ever suspect you of being in Disability Arts for the money, schmoozing, fame and glory. It would be an honour to be burned at the stake with you. Maybe we could join the next flotilla together.

All of this draws me further away from the DA establishment and all their obsession with funderability and towards a wider Outsider community, towards people who really know what it's like to live out in the cold.

Yves Sharonsky

6 June 2010

This is really interesting. It is so important that in all these debates someone informs people that there is a world of a difference between Judaism and Zionism. It's parallel to the difference between Christianity and Nazism. Loved your recent interview with Maysoon Zayid. She's a living example of how a disabled artist can be radically political without resorting to hate. Let's have more of this. Possibly from both sides? Up to you guys.


11 June 2010

I'd recommend a study called Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the museum. Edited by Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. Published by Routledge

It contains 19 essays - many are provocative. Ghosts in the War Museum by Ana Carden-Coyne is an in-depth study of the context within which Museums of war, conflict and genocide operate. She looks at a range of Museums in Rwanda, US, Cambodia, Viet-Nam and the UK commenting on the ways that cultural representations of disability have been either written out of the narratives on display or are sterotyped to embody archetypal victims or heroes. There is a different set of medical model narratives that inform the way disabled people are perceived (or are written out) of the context of war.

Joeseph McConnell

11 June 2010

Went to a great launch event at Amnesty Intetnational last night. It was for 'Against the Wall : Resistance art from Palestine' - a book covering the art on the 'wall of hate' encircling the West Bank. It was a magical evening and it's really a great book. Published by Pluto - they've made it really low price and there was a great diatribe against the 'Art World' and its love of money.

One of the speakers shared a great quote from Picasso:

"While living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, Picasso suffered harassment from the Gestapo. One officer allegedly asked him, upon seeing a photo of GUERNICA in his apartment, 'Did you do that?' Picasso responded, 'No, you did.' "

Joseph McConnell

11 June 2010

Against the Wall

The Art of Resistance in Palestine

Author : William Parry

Published by : Pluto Press

ISBN: 9780745329178

Extent: 192pp

Release Date: 10 Jun 2010