Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Disability Artist?

Steven Brown of the University of Hawaii has thrown out the question, “What is Disability Art?” He also provides an answer. His answer is that it is art whose central theme expresses the lived experience of disability. Brown extends the meaning of lived disability to include those who are relatives or caretakers of a person with the issue of disability constantly. When asked if he is a disability artist, Brown replies that he is always an artist with a disability regardless of the topic, but he is a disability artist only when his writing has directly to do with disability.

While Brown’s answer may appear at a quick glance to provide straight some straight forward answers, on closer inspection, it may raise more questions than it answers. The first is a question of degree. As Kuusisto points out (see last post), blindness is not necessarily just a dark or light proposition. Even ignoring social context for the moment, how limited does a person’s sight need to be for it to be a disability. If he is an artist, at what point does he become an artist with a disability?

A second question that arises is whether a writer like Kuusisto or Jim Ferris (see previous post) is really only a disability writer producing disability art when they intend to do so. By analogy does a writer who is African-American or a woman or gay only produce African-American, feminist or queer art when they consciously make otherness a central theme of their work? Certainly, not all of Kuusisto’s poems in Only Bread, Only Light deal with the topic of physical vision, yet a good case could be made that it affects his vision as an artist in all of his work.

Finally, what about Brown’s laudable – from my point of view – attempt to make the definition of disability art broader by including those on whom disability has had a profound affect. Certainly, Barbara Crooker’s poetry exploring autism after twenty years of raising an autistic son (see previous post) would seem to qualify her work as disability art and Brown’s definition provides for that. On the other hand, can a straight, white, male ever be said to produce queer, African American or feminist art, regardless of the subject?

Brown’s definitions provoke these questions and while one may feels this is counting angels on the head of a pen, if anyone is to claim that there is a poetry of disability or that poets with disability deserve consideration in the same way as other minority groups in the United States, they are questions that need addressing.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Rodolfo Manfredi said...

I think that disability implicate difficulty to live, which creates a possibility of stress or of more attention to the life, both for attach more ourselves to it, both for sublime it:an evolutionary passibility in more that it is able to be cause of a positive turn on, if someone is ready to this.
With my art I want to tell and to share the so called "disability" from this point of view.
Regards.
From one site of mine:

http://disability-in-art-virtual-museum.blogspot.com/

December 14, 2007  

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