Disability and Ableism Workshop

On Tuesday the 25th of October this workshop was held at BBC Radio Merseyside as part of the ‘Up for Arts’ program and was well attended by a vibrant group of individuals. The participant were asked a series of questions where they were to note down some answers or to sketch an image as a response. Some of the questions and answers are noted below:

How would you feel if you lost a leg?

Depressed

Legless and helpless

Challenged

How would you feel if your arm was no longer there?

Devastated

Lopsided and unbalanced

Lopsided, lost

Devastated

Horrified, out of balance

Useless, not able to cope, my arms are my voice

How would you feel if you could no longer remember your name?

Relieved, very relieved

Initially afraid, embarrassed

DITTO

Shy, but can play well

Frightened, scared, inward thinking

Confused and unhappy

Horrified, scared, disgusted, could be someone else

How would you feel if you couldn’t get through a door to a cafe because you were wheelchair bound?

Frustrated, alone.

Stressed and not know where to turn to.

Annoyed, Frustrated

I’d rant and rave and get them closed down for equal rights

Frustrated

Frustrated, most doors should be wheelchair friendly

How would you feel if you were not as intelligent as the average 10-year-old child?

Depressed

Silly, Idiot

Stupid at first, but 10-year-olds are taught a lot more than when I was 10.

How would I know

Bloody Stupid

Unknown, wouldn’t know

How would you feel if you could not communicate with people who could not speak sign language?

Patience

Depends on the subject

Inadequate and useless

What stigma’s are there around mental health, what impression do people have of schizophrenics?

Two people

Frightening as we don’t understand

Crazy, will harm, hurt or kill people. Hears voices all the time

Fear and uncertainty but sympathetic

Fear that they might become violent

How would you feel if your mother or daughter was a Bi-polar sufferer leading to excessive promiscuity?

Concerned about safety

Ashamed if I didn’t understand

Fed up of all the different people, hope they are practising safely

Disappointed

Embarrassed then devastated

How would you feel if you found out you had a mental condition and you were going to deteriorate?

Euthanasia

Scared

Horrified, would hide away from others

Frightened

Scared, feel like a burden

Depressed and afraid

How would you feel if you were disfigured so badly that you could not longer recognise yourself?

I’d know myself within

Friends who didn’t know me as me

Alarming to look at but would be different

I wouldn’t notice

The statements were then cut into sectioned and used to fill a clear polythene leg form to make a sculptural piece. A very interesting workshop generating many interesting discussions.

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A Look at Tracey Emin, My Photo Album

my-photo-album

My Photo Album is a Fuel publication comprising of a collection of Photographs of Emin from birth to present day. This is printed to appear as a photo Album similar to one own by her Mother. This was a mass market album with palm trees and a sunset on the cover, conman place in mid-seventies Britain. My Mother had and still has an identical one, my friends Mother has one which was similar. On the front cover, there is a passport style mug shot of Emin around the age of twenty. In this, we are presented with the image of Emin looking directly at you, not pretty, not ugly but a face you will remember. A troubled face with large staring eyes, a face which reflects a life which has not been easy. An awkwardness in the poise of the lips, slightly twisted in their natural position, a person who is uncomfortable in themselves.

The Album read in chronological order starting with images from her early childhood, normal everyday family shots. Some of the images are of a happy child, some of a not so happy child. Lots are with her twin brother Paul and are typical of the era, the ‘Happy-go-Lucky’ seventies and seem to reflect a relativity happy childhood. This seems to change with the teenage years. The ‘Freedom Pass’ is another reminder of the decade, cheap old style British rail passes. Although they were clearly not an affluent family this indicated an engaging bringing when the children were taken on day trips and active parenting. We are then presented with a collection of sultry images: an indication of an unhappy child or simply a teenager who wants to appear to be defiant. We then get a more of the crazy fashions, the Gary Glitter glasses. At 16 we are shown with a confident young woman posing for photo’s, nicely dressed in a dogtooth dress which was the height of fashion in the eighties. Again latter images seem to return to the relationships she has with members of her family, showing a closeness to her mother and her grandmother. Although some of the pictures of her with her father appear to be happy ones, many of those taken in Cyprus seem to reflect an unhappy period in her life.

As an adult we see images of a woman happy to pose for shots again, we are presented with someone who could be a fashion model. Happy to position herself correctly for the shots and exhibiting a strongly poised woman who will be remembered. The early images show how thin Emin has become, later shots in simply a shirt and knickers then only a bikini again indicate that she is clearly underweight. A further image of her weighing herself drawing attention to the fact she is underweight, clearly and ongoing issue with Emin. However, does this suggest an eating disorder which is common with people who have had troubled childhoods? In the vision of Emin this could clearly be a form of anorexia, however, her response to the image’s suggests that it is not a disorder. This she recognises how thin she is drawing attention to the matter with her annotation of the photographs ‘Very very thin’ being mentioned on several occasions showing this she does not have a vision perception problem. The images in the bikini are not glamorised images, she has projected herself in a way which is unpleasant and she is not deluded about herself being underweight. The lack of nourishment would indicate an unhealthy lifestyle, the never ending train of cigarette’s and the ongoing wine fuelled binges. Later images of herself drunk on and falling on the road back up the decadent lifestyle which she leads. However, to some degree they appeared to be poised again, set up in part as opposed to genuine snapshots of a drunken night out. The image that Emin aims to project: of a wine swinging party goer, is so commonly portrayed by the media. In the early years of the turn of the century when she achieved mass fame projecting her to the status of celebrity Artist, she appeared on every chat show and awards ceremony plied with drink, the media fitting her into the niche of ‘Piss’ Artist in all its glory. Emin seems to have grown away from this status, looking more towards making appearances when she holds intelligent discussions during radio broadcasts.

We are presented with a collection of images involving bondage. Again these do not appear to be genuine shots of sexual deviancy, although there is clear evidence of this in her life, but the images are set up. Dramatic poses captured by a professional photographer, although not art photography or pornography either they show no real conviction of genuine Sado-masochism. However, they do present an early confidence in nudity, happy and relaxed when fully exposing her breasts for the photographer and the rest of the world to see. She returns to this ease in nudity later in the Album, briefly worshipping in the sea is Cyprus but more in the beach Hut images. These present genuine artistic works of self-portraiture in this she exposes herself as fully naked to reflect anguish which she is experiencing. In the way of a great artist, she uses negativity in her life to create works of art which draw on this making a positive from a negative.

The ongoing collection of passport photographs runs throughout the publication. The ‘Carl Freedman Shirt’ images being the most intriguing. In this, we seem to get an animated sequence of Emin playing some kind off peek-a-boo game taking the shirt off and hiding behind the striped form. Screwing up her face, the shirt and moving around in the old fashioned style passport booth. Although this action could be considered slightly eccentric and any sensible person would question ‘Why is she doing that?’ they are images which reflect Emin amusing herself, an adult playing some kind of child’s game. The concept of the fun old fashion day trip of the photo both draw on her ongoing relationship with her hometown: Margate. Many of her images are of Margate and place where her routes lie and although now based in London she continues to return to frequently throughout her life. Many of the images show Margate in an unpleasant light, reflecting how many British seaside towns have become derelict and run-down. We are shown almost deserted beaches, near empty amusement parks, a disused high Street and derelict terraced housing. These images reflect a seaside town which has declined since its Victorian heydey, a town which now strives for regeneration, a town which has needle bins in its public toilets.
The order of the photographs indicates a clear change in her life when she beings Art College. There are the happiest of all the photographs which seem to leave the anguish of her teens and very early twenties behind. Showing her happy working on then, her paintings, leading onto studio space and her early days of the Shop with Sarah Lucas. All these images show her gleaming, happy within herself, happy with what she has created and showing strength as an early career Artist. Again more exciting images projecting happiness of her tour of the United States, the chair, the readings and the duvet exclaiming ‘You are good in bed’ However, in true Emin-style they are not pretty images, presenting herself in a T-Shirt exclaiming ‘Have You Wanked Over Me Yet’ another example of her rebelling against society. Later images of her graduating from her PHD reflect a similar defiance exposing her breasts as much as possible for the Official photograph in graduation cap and gown, Emin is a woman who refuses to conform.