I have an invisible disability (chronic pain), and I need to lie down (a lot). It is difficult to be out in the world unless I lie down and rest when I need to: on trains, in galleries, on benches. Sometimes I get kick back, and sometimes I get moved on.
Only yesterday I was at a theatre supporting my Unlimited commission. As they have invited me in the past to lie down on the sofa’s and use their theatre bar ‘as office space’, I took up the offer and lay down between meetings.
This was the first time I have laid down at this venue, and with comedic timing: it also happened to be a posh funders event that I was unaware of. I did notice the staff were wearing particularly nice dresses and high heels as well as the big glass of wine that most people arriving in the theatre bar were given. I had a sense that something was up, so I checked in with the bar staff who said it was a private function.
So I left the theatre bar, and thought I’d continue working on the sofa in the corridor outside the studio space. Picture this: I had made myself comfortable, laid down with my shoes off and legs crossed wearing, particularly bright coloured socks, on the phone to my designer, when the whole cohort came around the corner for a building tour (with their big glasses of wine)!
I’d like to pause at this moment, for although amusing, I was shame-ridden:
- I knew I looked like I was taking the piss
- I knew I looked like a loafer
- I knew there was no way in that moment to explain myself with any dignity (interrupting the tour felt like I dig an even deeper hole), so because my disability is invisible, there was no context for my actions
- But I also knew that I didn’t want to back down
When a second group came round the corner armed with glasses of wine, and I had finally cottoned on to what was going, I felt a little defiant about not wanting to act differently and hide my needs away from the funders: if I am an artist in residence and this is a public building, then am I welcome or not?
Although I know people with physical challenges who don’t identity as disabled, I personally felt hugely empowered when I read the Social Model of Disability. I felt relieved to realise I am able, but I am also disabled by a built environment and vertical culture that is simply not designed for me (which is why I identify as a Cloudspotter, my euphemism for the fatigue and horizontal needs of someone with chronic pain). A fellow Coudspotter recently said:
“there is literally no where I can go to socialise when I am in a flare up: all social activities involve sitting down, and it is just too painful. So I am confined to lying down at home or in other people’s homes”.
Wouldn’t it be neat if there were resting spaces around the city, we could use as pit stops or places to socialise? A network of public spaces that welcome horizontality which we could use to map our days travelling through our cities?
Watching children in venues, or performance at festivals, I am struck by the different rules for different groups, and in different contexts. It reminds me that they are made up, fluid and changeable. Theatres are spaces busy at night, but often virtually empty for much of the day. Could these be the perfect spaces to co-opt for a public resting network?
Unchartered Collective’s A Crash Course in Cloudspotting installation will question the etiquette of our public spaces, and attempt to create a resting space within a larger public space.
To do this, we’d like find out more about how people with invisible disabilities rest and how they use their public spaces.
If you complete the Survey you can be entered into a prize draw for a £50 Neil’s Yard Voucher so please take part as we would love for your thoughts on rest to be heard: https://uncharteredcollective.com/dreams-of-resting-spaces/
To find out more or to share thoughts on this article please email Raquel through the contact page at: www.uncharteredcollective.com