The Relationship Between Art And Disability
Get on Stage fundraiser for Beyond the Square, Riverside Theatres June 2013
Hello and good afternoon,
I want to express my complete and utter gratitude to all of you, for making the time and the effort to come to this fundraiser. I know the landscape of the arts is not a very familiar or comfortable place for many of you, as it’s usually a field without definable goals and measurable outcomes. However, that is what makes it extraordinary, because art, particularly experimental art, is one of the few arenas that embrace uncertainty, uniqueness and creativity. In creating and observing any form of art, people are forced to confront what otherwise is hard to think about. This is why the reality of disability complements the aesthetics of the arts so nicely. Disability exposes the inherent weakness and fallible nature of being human, but also the beauty of vulnerability and the necessary strength that arises from weakness.
I think my passion for the arts arose out of wanting to tell my own stories and to tell them in my own words; and as I got older, I realised just how important this was. Since when you tell stories, you inevitably connect with people and it is by connecting, that ways of thinking can be challenged. Prejudice and social stigma are facts of life for people with disability, and by finding a form of expression and having a creative outlet, people are better equipped, not only to be assertive, but to be resilient as well. There is often discussion about equal access to the practicalities of daily life, such as housing, employment and education. And those things are undoubtedly essential in improving lives of people with disability, but being able to contribute and have a voice in the community is what really consolidates a person’s self-worth.
These things are basic, yes. However, you must understand, when most people think about disability, they think charity and wheelchairs - they focus on the disadvantage. And for me, art is a genuine way of providing people with an alternative viewpoint. Through writing and movement, I have been able to demonstrate just how capable I am, and in the artistic context, my physical body and my lack of speech become strengths, rather than weaknesses.
For example with the Between The Cracks project, it was about issues to do with social invisibility, as well as being visible. In that short film that was just played, I intentionally wanted to show the upset caused by disability, but also the humour and the liberation in accepting your shortcomings. I think of art as being an antidote to life somehow. It provides a necessary reprieve from semantic battles we fight on a daily basis. Performance art forces us into a world where feeling and experiencing are given greater weight than the ability to rationalise and speak logically.
So as you can see, although Beyond the Square creates opportunities for people with disability to express and explore themselves, it isn’t just about recreation and it certainly, and absolutely is not about therapy. Its programs encourage people to imagine, share, give and create, and they reframe the way we view disability. Since everyone’s opinion matters and every onehas something to express, the programs allow the time and the space for everybody to contribute and create.
Beyond the Square, is the first disability-oriented arts organisation to be situated within a mainstream theatre company, which I find mighty impressive. This means that in its very existence, it increases people’s exposure and access to the arts.
Thank you for listening
And thank you once again for being here