Danger Thin Ice
"Danger Thin Ice' - beyond is deep summer,
a block of flats rise from the top of a willow tree,
fish lie on the path,
three women and three attendants talk.
"We had to wade in and get an up-ended park bench out last week."
Sitting in my powered chair I take photographs.
Last November I did a live art piece not really my first, how could it be I'm a disabled woman - stares comments, questions, the negotiations with strangers, aren't these live art? A manually operated lift and each time the doors open we're faced with a brick wall. Two buses traveling in opposite directions and, unseen in my wheelchair, I'm trapped between them, all to avoid kerbs. A powered chair tipping and spilling as it goes down too steep a kerb. Rising out of a powered chair, standing, trying to operate it down a step - miraculous cure, no, just coping with a disabling environment. Aren't these performances? And what of the role play with doctors and officials - 'who are we today then and just who does own this body'?
Is it (live) art because I say so or not (live) art because you say so?
Would automatic doors, situated in an exposed north west midlands town, with a red notice stating they don't work if it's cold or windy, constitute the surreal? Or a taxi service who 'take many wheelchairs?' Do the wheelchairs phone and book them I wonder, perhaps they wait, unoccupied at the kerb side?
Am I surreal because I'm invisible but seen everywhere, because no culture, no country, no family wants? Am I the undead then, waiting neither dead nor alive? No? I'm treated this way though.
Writers are the ones usually asked who they think their audience is but who is my audience? My work as been largely unseen until now. I say. "It is my witness, maybe into the void but no one can ever claim ignorance now." Do I expect them then to come to my door with telepathic knowing? Or do I create just in case, no matter how extreme my isolation, hoping there might be some point to it sometime when - or perhaps it's absurd but 'keeps me occupied,' as I'm often told.
And what is my work, well being is my work, surviving, undocumented daily performances, (Undocumented? What are all those forms and 'official' files) evocative, spell-casting abstractions - paintings, sculptures, wearables (these are my miracles, done with scant facilities and assistance, miracles aren't done to us, who wants them anyway but disabled people PERFORM miracles everyday) and political, issue based work employing hangings, photography, computers, drawings, lately faxes, widgets and myself, time pain, tiredness.
I don't have to seek out experience to work on - a disabled artist, female, working class, is deep enough but the discrimination disabled people endure is so crude, so coarse can I be anything but obvious in revealing it. However, I need, I live the subtle, the multi-layered and complex, the paradox and mystery, the not known, the undefined yet my work must never reinforce this greatest of unacknowledged oppression, how do I deal with this and so the questioning of myself goes on and on. In art disabled people have been used as the surreal, the odd, the metaphor, for me the emphasis definitely moves to the non-disabled and the strange place they've made of our world, the world which disables me. I sense through pain and my body is re-formed therefore my experience is different, only I know this experience, only I can express it, only I can own it and share it, only if I want to.
(An Article in DAM)