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Disability Arts Online

December 2007 / 18 December 2007

Digital image by Colin Hambrook

Digital image by Colin Hambrook

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Okay we're heading for the end of 2007. It's been a monumental year for us at DAO, having finally got some recognition from Arts Council that we have something worth investing in. I have been a passionate advocate of Disability Arts for many years now and strongly believe that it has a place within the arts landscape which is worth taking note of ... I guess there is no telling how things will shift over the next few years. Certainly there has been much change during recent years, with more of an emphasis on "mainstreaming disabled artists." This kind of language might sound akin to an enema or some kind of drug usage ... but believe me it is everyday jargon for us arts development bods tackling the disability arts coalface.

The great LDAF (London Disability Arts Forum) debate at The Tate Modern was clearly a very social affair - akin to the great LDAF AGM's of the 90's which always had a great mix of debate and cabaret attached to them. And this time the event took place in a very fancy setting and with Melvyn Bragg - a high profile arts buff to lend some gravitas. Unfortunately my energy levels took a nose-dive, which always leaves me prone to being very ill for weeks to come - so I opted not to go.

I missed the get-together, but it sounds as if the debate queston - on whether or not Disability Arts should be dead and buried in the 21st Century, was as I thought - a bit of a non-starter. It seemed pretty obvious to me that everyone there would be singing the same tune, with regards to whether or not Disability Arts should have any credibility attached to it. What was needed was a motion that would bring out some of the contradictory and contentious aspects within our movement.

However, it sounded as if there were some very useful moments - Yinka Shonibare talking about the need for Disability Arts to pursue the avant-garde - and referencing Aaron Williamson and Katherine Araniello, who have paved the way in taking Disability Arts into new dimensions with their film and performance work. For a preview of a trailer for shown at the Beaconsfield Gallery last September, have a look at The Way Out. You can also see a series of slow slapsticks made by Aaron on YouTube

Ju Gosling is always very eloquent in these situations and came closest to talking about Disability Arts in the 21st Century - she sent me a copy of her speech, which is a superb rallying cry citing the need for us to commend our achievements as a movement. What we need now is to consider what our vision is? How do we slough off the community arts image once and forever? How do we develop a critical dialogue within our movement that gives us the freedom to be able to say it like it is - and to learn to take it? How do we address the massive differences between different impairment groups? How do we attract new blood into our movement?

Apparently Paddy Masefield suggested developing a think-tank. Not a new idea - but still a good one - I would suggest dao is a good place to start cultivating!