Review of projects 13 and 14
Projects 13 and 14 have been as much about curation than creation in that it triggered me into looking at many photographs of myself and also adapting lots to new ends. So I would categorise my images for these projects thus:
- Project 13 Alter egos – digitally collaged faces
- Project 14 Elements of paralysis – digitally collaged scars
One of the problems with the face and body is that working with it is so seductive. It would be too easy to get caught up in this area and to forget about other aspects of impairment and the social experience. I think the range of images created so far will give me enough to work with when I come onto planning my larger body of work and so for now will end this project here.
Focus of the body of work
One of things this project work made me think about was the focus and edges of my body of work and specifically the question of whether my focus should be wholly on Disability or on my experience of paralysis. The implications of making a choice are as follows:
- If I focus on disability: I would not include references to my body and the subject becomes one more about the cultural expression of disability.
- If I focus on my experience of paralysis: the focus here can be more personal, can include impairment and the cultural expression of my experience.
Right now my inclination is to focus on the latter – but I don’t have to make any firm decision yet and so will answer this when I begin work on Unit 2.
When considering what the focus should be I came up with an example of a project focus that is personal and so illustrates why I think my focus should be on paralysis rather than disability more generally. That subject is movement.
Movement is central to my experience: I can’t feel my body or control my muscles and so move voluntarily below my nipples. Thus I rely on a wheelchair mostly and using my arms to transfer to and from beds, toilets, cars for example. I think this project needs to include movement for three reasons. It is a central physiological experience of paralysis; it’s a social activity; its an aspiration that can never be achieved.
A central physiological experience of paralysis
My paralysed body does move. My paralysed muscles twitch and spasm uncontrollably and especially at particular times such as when I first get into bed as my legs have been bent all day and so when I first straighten them they spasm and twitch for a hour or so.
A social activity
We all move about in a physical and social world but I do so in one that largely ignores my needs. This kills spontaneity. For example, if I want to see a show or go to many organised events, or travel on ferries I need to phone “special” phones lines to book “special” tickets.
Above all is the aspiration to move freely: to run until my lungs feel like bursting; to step out of bed in an instant; to stretch every sinew of my body to reach something. Thus, to ignore this central aspect of my life would be wrong.
Others such as Sue Austin have taken approaches to this subject – see here– though juxtaposition of a wheelchair user in a wheelchair in unusual situations.
Austin’s approach creates spectacular images but omits movement when a social or collective activity – the majority of her imagery presents her alone under the sea. But the work gives a lot a food for thought.