AB2 - Review

A review of Awkward Bastards ABSENCE by Poppy Noor.

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When I arrive at the Awkward Bastards second symposium I am not sure what to expect. The event, hosting radical artists across two days promises to be one filled with diversity and difference. But as a non-white woman who spent my teenage years living in homeless hostels, I never know what to expect when people say the word 'diversity' anymore. It feels like a word that's always said to me – normally by someone who is middle-class, white, and probably male. But I don't feel like a particularly 'diverse' person, I just feel that I am normal and I want to be represented.

Lewis Davey, an artist who stands for a 5-minute rant at the end of the day, sums this feeling up perfectly and with brilliant humour. He is talking about an American Footballer, who was criticised in the States for not standing when the National Anthem was played,

"It's just some guy's favourite song.” He retorts. "Trap Queen by Fetty Wap is my favourite song. Imagine if I asked you to stand every time I played it!"

The line is funny because, for those of you who don't know, Fetty Wap is an African-American rapper who is blind in one eye, has tattoos on his face, and sings about "getting high with [his] baby, and "getting fly with [his] baby." Just thinking about all of the people that I so frequently see at galleries, with their knee-length skirts and stiff-upper lips having to stand to that song makes me equal measures giddy and uneasy. But of course, he has a broader point: this is what being forced to try to appreciate art that wasn't made for you is like.

It's something that Frances Morris, who refers to the Tate as “warm” and “safe” in her keynote speech could do with remembering. When artist Jamila Johnson-Small calls out these comments in a panel discussion for performing  â€œillusory false empathy, which perpetuates erasure” she reminds me that a lack of diversity is about so much more than just being underrepresented. When I go to the Tate, I don't just feel underrepresented: I feel as if my culture, and the people I grew up around simply didn't exist at all. The panel brings to light how discussion around diversity in these spaces is so often more than just complacent – it also sustains the narratives that prevent inclusivity from happening.

Diverse art means the ability to inform and educate. It draws us away from seeing people, multi-faceted as they are, in the singular boxes which mainly act to undermine those who do not fit into the pre-packaged, heterosexual, able-bodied, white form of 'normal' that we are constantly fed. But at Awkward Bastards, I realise how we can all too easily fall into the trap of viewing art through the lenses of familiarity and privilege. When artists take to the stage to lament the lack of disabled artists' works displayed across the country, I realise how little I have questioned the fact that rarely have I seen such art displayed outside of hospital walls and school hallways. “My art is not therapy" says Sarah Watson, a multi-media artist with a learning disability, â€œIf it was therapy, I'd be paying for it. This is my job."

Trite arguments about simply choosing “the best” artists are ripped to shreds by panellists on the day. One ranter scorns the official artwork commissioned for the Paralympic Games, a colourful drawing of Big Ben by an able-bodied artist from the States. “What does it even represent?” she asks. What's most shocking about this is how much good quality art could have been commissioned in its place. When I see Sue Austin's "Deep Sea Diving" installation about life in a wheelchair, it isn't magical because she's in a wheelchair. It's magical because Austin conjures up emotions, insights and sensations in me that I could have never brought up myself. When she presents on how 3D technology could meaningfully bring art to audiences otherwise unable to access it, it is innovative because she speaks from a place of understanding what it is like to have that access so frequently blocked from your life. It's not the checkbox of diversity that feels good about the event, it is how diversity is facilitating me to understand and think about things in a way that I hadn't before. Isn't that what art is supposed to be about, after all?

At the end of the symposium, I think about how I have felt most validated at times when I have felt reflected in art and broader culture. It feels like being written into a story that you long knew you should have been a part of. But reflecting on the performances which came from experiences most different to mine, I realise that reading someone else's story can, in the end, be so much more interesting than reading your own.

Extra-ordinary bodies

Coming to Telford this August!

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The active and creative communities team are looking to recruit 24 local people aged 18+ to create two groups of 12 participants who will each spend three days working with extra-ordinary bodies.

www.extraordinarybodies.org.uk

We are looking to recruit an even split of both people with a recognised disability and  those who do not perceive themselves as having any specific needs. Also on our radar are people who may have ended up isolated through circumstances life has thrown at them. 

The theme being explored through circus and conversation  is what does it means to be alive in 2017.

This  project is running across the country with one of the UKs strongest outdoor theatre companies who are seeking to inform a show they are developing for 2018. The project will also highlight what the talents and aspirations are of those who take part. We were approached  in part because of record in community arts, events and our track record in engaging creatively with people with disabilities.

We are seeking people from all walks of life to take part and would like a 50/50 split of those with and without  disability.

Shape Arts

Updates from Shape Arts recent mailing, including new grants!

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Brand New R&D Grants from NDACA!

Applications are now open for the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA)'s new Research and Development mentoring grants for emerging disabled artists!

NDACA, the Disability Arts Movement heritage project delivered by ourselves, is inviting UK-based emerging disabled artists to apply for one of four Research and Development Grants, which include mentoring by a key artist involved in the 'Golden Age' of the Disability Arts Movement. Applications are open to artists working in any art form, and they do not have to match the practice of their selected mentor.

Artists are invited to submit a personal statement about their artistic practice and a proposal of how they wish to make use of the grant award to us by 30 June 2017. 

For further information on how to apply, please visit: www.shapearts.org.uk/news/ndaca-rnd-applications

 

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary: Oliver MacDonald at Turner Contemporary:

Join us for a free artist talk by our Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary (ARMB) recipient Oliver MacDonald in the Clore Learning Studio. On his penultimate day at Turner Contemporary, Oliver will be discussing his ongoing artistic practice and work, and reflecting on his three month residency, followed by an audience Q&A session. 

Tickets are free, but places are limited so please click here to let us know you're coming.

You can also introduce yourself to Oliver's work by reading our five minute Q&A blog with him at: www.shapearts.org.uk/blog/five-minutes-oliver-macdonald

 

Artist profile - Aidan Moesby:

Aidan Moesby is a visual artist and curator whose work increasingly explores civic and personal wellbeing. His practice is based around research and response, much of which is underpinned through conversations. These may be real, overheard, visual, imaginary or even virtual. He works extensively within arts and health, especially where art, technology and wellbeing intersect.

Moesby is fascinated by how we communicate and connect with ourselves, each other and the worlds we inhabit - He produces responsive interventions in which the works serve as the catalyst for a personal or communal exploration through an internal or socially active/engaged conversation.

Click here to read Aidan's profile in full.

 

We are seeking a Project Manager for NDACA:

The National Disability Arts Collection & Archive is a Heritage Lottery Fund project, delivered by Shape Arts, which will bring to life the heritage story of the Disability Arts Movement, a radical arts movement in which a group of disabled people and their allies broke barriers, helped change the law and made great culture about those struggles.

We are currently looking for the right Project Manager to deliver NDACA - click here for a more detailed read & apply by 8 May.

Time to get registered

Register, vote - and have your say!

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#CripTheVote is "geared towards both engaging the disability community in discussing the policies and politics that will most impact our lives but also to use our collective power to amplify the community's voice on these issues."

Click here to view the latest email newsletter from Shaping Our Lives, which explores the forthcoming General Election.

Kickstart for print run of 'DSM 69'

Taking a subversive look at psychiatry...

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My publisher Eleusinian Press-  http://www.eleusinianpress.co.uk/ - is publishing a book of my writings and art, taking a subversive look at psychiatry, called 'DSM 69'.

It is a small press and they have started a kickstarter for a print run.

I would appreciate support of the project, either in donating or sharing the kickstarter page on your networks: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1203601213/dsm-69-a-subversive-look-at-psychiatry-by-dolly-se

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, and all the very best,

Dolly Sen

http://www.dollysentraining.com & dollysen.com

March/April newsletter

There's lots of project updates in the latest DASH newsletter!

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Click here to access the March/April 2017 newsletter from DASH - with updates on the INSIDE project, reflections on Awkward Bastards ABsence - and details of our next Audio Description Training event in Cardiff, taking place on Wednesday 10th May.

UNIT(e) 2017

An invitation for submissions...

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UNIT(e). Every year we transform g39 into a space for production, research, critical discussions, film screenings, socials, lectures, and more. Taking its model from various independent art schools and summer schools, the gallery becomes a busy studio hub for the participating artists. Once a week we invite the public in to see artists' work in progress, the background noise, the often unseen studio activity of their practice.

We also have a rich and varied programme of visiting artists and curators who deliver talks, workshops and one-to-one sessions with studio holders. The season concludes with an open studio event.

For further information, please download the file below.

Sky Arts Artist of the Year

Sky Arts are looking for participants for the new series!

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Storyvault Films, the TV company who produce 'Portrait Artist of the Year' for Sky Arts, are currently looking for artists to take part in the new series.

The competition is open to both professional and amateur artists and all mediums are welcome (apart from digital artwork).

Here is a link to our website with access to the online application form: http://www.skyartsartistoftheyear.tv/.

We are also accepting applications for Landscape Artist of the Year - which we will be filming later in the summer.

Portrait Artist is an internationally acclaimed series and one of Sky Arts top rating shows. For the  artists who appear in it,  it's a great opportunity to show their work off to a wider audience and a chance to win a £10,000 commission. 

Here's a link to a show, the password is 'st0ryvault' https://vimeo.com/199689059

Below are some links that might be helpful to pass onto anyone you think might be interested.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StoryvaultFilmsTV/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StoryvaultFilms

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/skyartsartistoftheyear/?hl=en

We are a small team and really want to reach out to as many people as possible.

British Paraorchestra

British Paraorchestra performing in Birmingham on February 18th...

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The British Paraorchestra is making their Birmingham debut in Symphony Hall this Saturday, February 18th.

They have been programmed as part of a core classical season for the first time, and they've been partnered with members of the CBSO for this date.

More information about the event can be found here and here.

Guiding Lights 9

Guiding Lights is now Open for applications!

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Guiding Lights 9 - call for applications - deadline: 5pm, Monday 13th March 2017.

Guiding Lights is the UK's leading film mentoring scheme, managed by Lighthouse and majority funded by Creative Skillset.

Now open for applications the scheme is looking for writers, directors and producers who would benefit from the support of a high-level industry mentor to help them progress to the next stage in their careers.  

Selected participants will benefit from 9 months of one-to-one mentor support from a leading professional in their field. The programme also includes a trip to Galway Film Fleadh, and a range of industry training events, networking and informal get-togethers. 

Previous mentors on the scheme have included Danny Boyle, Barbara Broccoli, Tessa Ross, Walter Murch, Alex Garland, Abi Morgan, Kenneth Branagh, Clio Barnard, Lenny Abrahamson and Sam Mendes.

Read more about Guiding Lights 9.

Guiding Lights is supported by Creative Skillset's Film Fund, which is backed by the British Film Institute (BFI) and National Lottery's Film Forever Fund.