Should disability arts reflect society? Hegemony

This heading was a question posed by Colin Hambrook on the Disability Arts Website here. Colin made several points: about how the art came about from our experience of exclusion and discrimination and reflected our experience and identities (I interpreted this to be in regard of both self defined and ascribed identities)  and how disability arts has changed as it reflects younger people’s experience and identities.

But he questions the ability of disabled artists to work in such hostile cultural environments. Do we ignore it? he asks, and then answers his own question by asserting that “for the arts to be in any way meaningful they surely have to reflect the realities of the society in which they’re produced? If not, what’s the point?”[1]

This is indeed just the point. Art is born out of experience and experience is born out of politics – the way societies organise themselves, as this has the effect to include/exclude people. Thus large parts of our very identity is socially constructed and mediated rather than genetically determined. For example, the fact I can’t walk doesn’t stop me getting into places with stairs. The design of stairs exclude people who can’t walk. I can’t change the fact that I can’t walk but designers can offer alternatives to stairs.

Disabled people’s art reflects their experience – either shining a light on unseen aspects of society – or offering alterative views. But we can make distinctions between impairment and disability only if we are ourselves conscious of it. So it does not surprise me when I see disabled people’s art that I would class as oppressive as it reflects the hegemony[2] that we live under. However, this only addresses the issue of the art maker whereas the central problem for me is not the artist but the viewer. Non disabled people (and many non politicized disabled people) are also often blind to such visual discourses because their  culture makes our issues invisible to them apart from in a very few limited circumstances.


This is what Project 1 was about in regard of the built environment and Project 2 in regard of the domestic sphere. How obvious does the discourse have to be?


[1] Colin Hambrook,, 2014 [accessed 02/10/2014]

[2] R Williams, Keywords, Published by Fontana Paperbacks 1976 (1981 edn)


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
This entry was posted in Project 2: Domestic Landscape and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s