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Richard Downes on the Unlimited discussion: 'Art On The Edge' / 2 September 2012

Jo Verrent, Katherine Aroniello, Noemi Lakmaier, Simon McKeown and Janice Parker talked about Art and Artists Pushing Boundaries

For me, this panel was not as successful as others I attended. My third of the day... maybe I was too tired. Maybe the panel was mismatched or maybe the chair felt as I did.

Regardless it became difficult to say where or what the edge was. Some panelists wouldn't accept there was one, others would say if there is, it's not within me but, the beholder. Maybe artists don't have boundaries. Perhaps the challenge to push is not recognised internally. Is it not the case we just work, do what we want to do.

Simon sat in front of a window hosting his sculpture of Mat Fraser.  He couldn't accept parameters due to an absence of fear and wisdom in taking things on. It reflected the way that he had lived, his response to impairment. Later he would admit to an interest in meeting new challenges through contexts, through things that he had not before, operating in spaces that were new to him. But this was not an edge. Just something to do.

Flu struck Noemi, similarly, has an interest in environment and how her body reacts to it. She is an exponent of working within a new term fo me - the psycho-geographic. What will happen to her body within a space if she does this, how will the environment and the things within it react to her. Its not an edge. Just an internal world.

Katherine is more old school. She understands the social model well, the discrimination that non observance of the model brings. Understanding these areas enables her to subvert ideas that surround and confound her. Maybe she is less interested in that than she is in the moment and what it brings. Between anger and laugher she mocks stimulus. She knows it is there but is it an edge? 

Janice Parker, a non disabled artist who facilitates the work of people with learning disabilities in a mixed group prefers to take an interest in those things that are not happening yet. She recognises a glass ceiling that is hard to see but through which learning disabled people do not pass. She shares a sense of anger with Katherine based on the patronisation of her group by everyone.

Penny Pepper, audience member, wonders if there is no edge can we say there are still taboos to break. She wants to know what they are, what breaking them might mean to Disability Arts. There are no taboos. There is no edge. No one responds to the second part of the question. It is predicated on the notion that there is an 'edge'. For Katherine the important thing is to stay alive and from life to generate more work. Though she is an opponent of assisted dying she doesn't recognise this increasingly loud call for the death of disabled people as an 'edge'. Only a stimulus for work.

Each and everyone of these artists are exciting artists. They cause confusion with the challenges they set their audiences but Unlimited miscalculated if they intended to locate an 'edge'. Maybe they simply proved that even if looking at some of the more extreme works of disabled artists, the edge remains in the response of the audience. There are no internal barriers preventing us from exploring our work. What's edgey? Is it just you mr and mrs audience member who finds it edgey. We don't.

Keywords: artonthe edge,unlimited