Asia Performing Arts Exchange Project

Singaporean artist/director/producer/performing arts mentor and my collaborator for the last couple of years, Peter Sau, talks about disabled leadership in the Asia Performing Arts Exchange Project. Thank you, Peter. An honour and joy to work with you. You push for excellence and hard work, but you always work hard with heart! Just the way I like it!

some takeaways from Peter…

Can we stop talking about them, stop talking for them, and start to talk with them?

I’m just not yet disabled. (Commenting about age-ing and becoming disabled in old age.)

Why can’t we start to talk with people who know more than us?
We need a co-creation space to make something new which will surprise us, which will teach us something which we cannot teach ourselves.

Accessibility works both ways.

We need something new, refreshing.
We should be thinking about more time, more approaches, more people to come into the picture so that we can co-learn together and let go of what we know.
Letting go of what we know in order to learn new things.
Inclusion is for everyone – disabled artists include the non-disabled and reciprocal learning takes place.

and more vignettes from Peter in the Q&A…

When I first started working with disabled artists, I paid for every single transport for wheelchair users, I paid for a sign language interpreter, I paid the allowance for them to start to respect their art… everything from my savings.

We are the biggest sponsor of our own art. Because we love it, we want it.

We could be bankers, lawyers, medical doctors…

Why are we so stubborn? It’s because we are artists.

We can’t change our ‘DNA’ so what can we do about it?

I taught myself… quiet or go on.

Sponsor or find a sponsor.

Convert people to believe and believe, keep on talking, talk until we go to our grave… keep talking about it until it happens before you die…

It’s a bonus to say “I saw it happen”…

I believe I am just one small part of this ecosystem. I’m so bored with mainstream arts, it taught me nothing.

I am an actor, producer, director, for twenty years, I am so jaded and disappointed with what is out there… especially now with COVID19… it is hurting our mainstream artists already, how about our disabled artists?

We can’t do anything about it except to keep believing. For myself, I train them… up-skilling, second skills… when times are good again … when people / government can see that we are sponsoring ourselves, our lives, they would want to give something… to match up…

it takes a systemic change…

it is going to take a long time, there is no easy short cut…

… talking to (aspiring artists) in a classroom, to parents of disabled children to believe in them, to my boss, to my arts council… to friends from the mainstream… I keep on talking… it’s tiring but I want to do it.

It will have to come from us, and then hopefully the whole world would come on board.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Lucy and I spent the afternoon at Eden Hall with the British High Commissioner Ms Kara Owen CVO, and British Council’s Director of Arts and Creative Industries, Dr Sarah Meisch Lionetto, and theatre maestro and close collaborator Peter Sau.

Lucy Like-a-Charm was there too, in one of her last public work engagements as my assistance dog.

Happy IDPwD, everyone!

neurodivergent world

Clement Space @ Playeum 2019 – Dawn-joy Leong

Seems as if I’ve been involved in quite a few “firsts” in Singapore lately. The most recent was the very first Autism/Neurodivergent-Led, Disabled-Led Art & Design residency, which was support by the National Library’s library@orchard branch, and yesterday saw the soft opening of Singapore’s first Neurodivergent immersive and interactive space – crafted by two autistic artists and two artists with Down syndrome, curated by Esther Joosa and Imran Mohamed for Playeum, a centre for children to discover creativity in multiple ways. Continue reading

Disabled Leadership in practice

In a previous post, I mused about Disabled Leadership, the great divide between theory and practice that many disabled persons face, and suggested one fundamental element that is crucial to recognition of disabled participants in the conversation on disability: payment as a basic mark of respect. Now, in this brief ‘follow-up’ post, I’d like to provide some straight-forward concrete examples of its practice in the arts and film.

I’ve iterated and reiterated before, and now once more, I am no activist – I have an aversion for confrontational activity, but advocacy is something that most disabled professionals are forced to engage in (in some way or other) due to the dominating climate of ableism and stubborn ignorance surrounding the disabled practitioner. In other words, advocacy – sometimes quite vehement and insistent – is made necessary because disabled practitioners need to clear the debris-strewn paths, clogged channels, and polluted waterways so that we can proceed with our practice. Continue reading

Reluctant Advocate

I am not an “Autism Activist” – far from it – so, please do not call me that. Thank you. I do support the work of activists, it is a necessary force when things are woefully wrong and a great deal of vim and vigour is needed to create change for the better. It is just that my natural constitution does not fit well with the vivacity required for effective activism. Sometimes, though, I do engage in advocacy. Well, all right, quite often especially of late, but this is not what I deliberately set out to do. I am, first and foremost, an autistic researcher and multi-artist. Unpacking this further, my research interests include (but are not confined to) autism, autistic sensory idiosyncrasies, alternative and elemental empathic resonance, clement spaces of mind and body, and my material practice reflects this research, employing multiple artistic disciplines. I love my research and multi-art practice, and I adore my beloved Lucy Like-a-Charm, the two represent mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and equilibrium to me. Continue reading

Disabled Leadership in theory & practice

There is increasing talk about Disabled Leadership in the Arts. There are stirrings, positive ones, potentially amazing even, in the arena of the Arts and Disability. (Even in wider fields, for example Autism Research – just reading the Twitter feed coming from IMSAR2018 indicates that level of Actual Autistic participation has increased and that is a cause for hope for a better future in research and practice.)

Excitement and awareness aside, there are still some brass tacks issues to face and tackle head on. Before we can even make that leap into Disabled Leadership, there needs to be some basic concepts of respectful and ethical interactional treatment of disabled people. How do we establish leadership if the non-disabled world cannot even bring themselves to the level of viewing disabled people as human beings worthy of esteem and regard as equal participants in society?

A fundamental topic is that of payment. Yes. Money. And plain simple respect. Let’s start here. Continue reading

bloviation & the sacrificial lamb

My recent casual blog post, musing on Arts and Disability, and the devastating effects of non-disabled colonisation of the disability conversation, theory and practice in any field, with a focus on the arts, simply because this is my field of research and praxis.

“Perhaps it is time to take the entire conversation back and situate it on our own platform – the Actually Autistic / Actually Disabled stage. One that we choose for ourselves, not that which is designed and built by the non-disabled colonising forces. One in which there is no prerequisite social-political posturing of ambiguous, veiled or hushed up mumblings, no copious mists of gas lighting, and no contemptuous slime of condescension. Just honest truth and a light shining onto a path ahead clear of the debris of gurgling bloviation. Is this even a possibility, I wonder?”

bunnyhopscotch

20180512-bunnyhopscotch-bloviation bloviating babble bubbles

I learned this new word from my friend Rick. I like it. It has a robust movement to its physical form, flow and force. It sounds and feels like thick copious slimy globules arising from a pit of bubbling sludge. This word has a sensorial constitution that matches its meaning. Thank you, Rick!

“Bloviation” – such a proliferate and aggressively dominating activity in the field of Autism and Neurodiversity. Autism is a trendy topic these days, isn’t it? Everyone – from the housewife ‘AutismMom’ to the Professor in Psychiatry, and the outright quacks touting ‘cures’ and ‘healing touches’ mushrooming like unbridled viruses in between – seems to be dancing vigorously around the jolly campfire of Autism.The word makes me think of the many (I have lost count now, it is a long and wearying list) instances of having to silently endure protracted lectures, workshops, conversations, discussions, seminars…

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