As part of an Arts Council’s Catalyst funded programme arts professionals were invited to The Point, Eastleigh on July 10th 2015, to discuss through provocation, debate and performance ‘Shaping a Diverse Future’. Here is Trish Wheatley’s provocation on the future of the arts, which was delivered at the event.
I’m reminded of a speech from Lennard Davis at the recent Dance and Normality symposium in Geneva in which he questioned society’s notion of what diverse actually means. He spoke about the celebration of diversity taking over use of the word normal and that the diversity we see in contemporary visual culture is merely the acceptable face of diversity.
He said that “diversity doesn’t include a lot. It doesn’t include disabled people. It also doesn’t include obese people, anorexic people, people with depression, homeless people, comatose people, women who are beaten, addicts and so on.” So before we ask how to shape a diverse future, we need to ask what is a diverse future and what does it look like?
Today we announce Viewfinder, DAO’s most ambitious project to date; encompassing individual artist commissions, a new video channel of curated content focussed on promoting disability arts practice to broad audiences, Wikimedia UK editathons to create Wikipedia entries about UK-based disabled artists and proactively encouraging mainstream venues to appreciate and employ more disabled arts practitioners. So that’s our future, and we’d like you to be part of it so do get in touch and keep an eye out for opportunities.
We can’t think about the future without an element of realism. We have to understand the difficulties that austerity measures, changes in policy, and fewer funding streams causes. We need to keep fighting the fight and work as a cohesive community to campaign, connect and collaborate with gatekeepers that hold the key to our futures.
Without working together we will recede into invisibility and lose the hard work that has gone before us. For a future we must be involved, doing as much as we can within the context of impairment and whatever barriers we are faced with.
But, realism risks a dark future without optimism and I think there is a lot to be optimistic about. Having worked with disabled artists for approaching a decade, I never fail to be impressed and, yes, I’m going to risk using the word, inspired, by the creativity, wit, quality and ability of disabled artists to cause people to rethink about the world and society in which we live.
There are opportunities about, it’s not all doom and gloom. Aside from our own project Viewfinder that includes partnership commissions with SPILL Festival, Sick! Festival, Goldsmiths, Carousel, and New Wolsey Theatre, there are other future opportunities such as the Arts Council’s confirmed commitment to another Unlimited program, the British Council advocating disabled artists internationally, DaDaFest continuing to programme exciting work and discussion events, and a growing number of art centres such as Salisbury Art Centre and here at The Point are committed to showing work by disabled artists.
So my provocation to you as artists is to make use of those opportunities, make connections and make thought-provoking, gritty, funny, entertaining, amazing work. My provocation to funders, allies, programmers and anyone else in the room is to have a curious mind, listen to these artists and do everything you can to help them succeed and ensure that diverse actually means diverse.
First and foremost we must all keep in mind why we are creating this work in the first place, what is motivating us and what impact we want to have. What does the future look like? That’s up to all of us.