I never have a fixed agenda when I embark on a new piece of work, especially in a new location. My work is informed through conversations and exchanges, be that with people who use the space or the location itself. This is not a process that can be rushed, it is imperative to listen to what you are being told and I employ all my senses in this.
But how do you engage with a building? It is a bit like meeting someone for the first time who you know you are going to be friends with (though you might not necessarily like each other). A lot depends on how things ‘Feel’ for me, this will lead me to the next step or question and I take my lead from there.
This residency was different in that I am familiar with cultural spaces, the gallery, the cafe, the cinema and I understand the language of each those. However, this was a different unfamiliar landscape and the nuances of the language were different. In addition I knew very little about the language of architecture. This was when I realised there was a difference between ‘the space’ and ‘the building’.
The Engage Residencies were focussed on disability and engagement. There are obvious differences between visible disabilities and hidden disabilities. This extends to how people engage, react or think about those who experience the hidden ones. This is further complicated because sometimes those hidden disabilities are more present or visible than others.
From walking through the massive sliding door of DCA I had to ask myself how do I negotiate the space to the front of house desk and beyond. Learning the language of the space and building was not straight forward. DCA as a place is not static. I like to know if a wall is a wall – permanent, still – but in DCA what looks like a wall could quite easily be a closed door – and knowing this affects how I would engage with that space.
Bearing all this in mind – the multi use building, the different cultural and social spaces, the psychology of architecture and urban spaces – I worked in the print room to produce responsive works from my conversations and observations.
Some of the works reference disability directly and others play with the notion of what is acceptable or normal or a disability per se. Similarly, some are more obvious or visible than others.
1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
It’s a constant dilemma but mostly i know where i stand. If someone asks me how i am then i tend to answer truthfully. Mostly i know people aren’t actually remotely interested in ‘how you are’ - it’s a social construct - they just want you to say fine, or good, so you can move on. People (mostly) don’t want to know where you are on your own anxiety scale, or how close to the edge you are, or how well you are coping - well enough to be out but not to fully integrate with the world - well enough to be out and only do the things in your safe zone - well enough to be out but don’t want to be ambushed by new things in an already unsteady and unstable world. I’m sure you get the picture.
Yesterday I was on the well enough to be out as long as i mediate my interactions in the world really really tightly. I was introduced to someone whilst talking to someone else. I was the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. I know the social mores etc - say hello and shake hands - except i didn’t - couldn’t - face that personal contact - and such was my level of anxiety that i couldn’t really engage even on a superficial level. Now my dilemma comes because when asked how i was by the ‘introducer’ i said ok - but that was because i didn’t want to expose myself in front of a complete stranger in a situation where it would be inappropriate to divulge your inner psychological fragilities. But then that lead to the further awkward exchange and me not shaking hands - which makes me appear just a bit rude - not vulnerable. So today i feel i have to go and do some apologising.
So should I have been emotionally honest and exposed myself emotionally in front of a stranger - should i have explained myself - should i have stayed at home? I don’t know. It’s fraught. And i guess it’s has a salience to the residency which is why i am putting it here. Maybe i should think of doing some contextualising rather than apologising and maybe engender a debate around this and similar issues.