This concept is all about voices, truth and authenticity. What paralysed people say to non disabled people is not the same as when speaking to each other. You learn pretty quickly when paralysed that many – most – friends fall away after you’re injured. Some people almost block the relationship out as a way to remove having to deal with any challenges that might arise, and those friends that do stay around quickly realise that the physical and attitudinal barriers a wheelchair user faces mean that most of the activities and level of spontaneity that they enjoyed is not now attainable and so activities are much curtailed. And so new connections and communities form based on common experiences.
It was with these thoughts in in mind that I have decided the focus of this project should be about my community and what we say to each other. There is any number of forums devoted to spinal cord injury – see here.
But this project isn’t purely about documenting the collective experience of paralysed people, its more about expressing something of the difficulties we all face though my personal experience and outlook. One of the forums I use quite a lot is here. It’s a good forum because of its wide coverage – so often you can find the information needed on almost any aspect of SCI. I spend quite a lot of time on the forum. It is structured thematically so I could use themes, posts and or titles or actual posts for this project.
I then thought about how I used the forum and it seemed to me that post titles were key as they grabbed my initial attention. Moreover while I used the forum in respect of all sorts of subject matter this project was about how I and others feel and so I focussed on our emotional responses to experiences in terms of what the image was going to say.
I began by collecting cuttings and grading them – so for example putting all the suicide posts into one stack and then grading them. This allowed me to generate a series of themes such as, how people feel; relationships with others; and hopes and fears.
I then needed to consider how many statements or cuttings to use. I could use as many as would fill the frame – but this ignored the fact that some would be larger than others in order to generate aesthetic interest. I then thought about periods of time and decided to begin with 52 comments – symbolising a year.
So I then began experimenting by placing statements in a frame (by layering in Photoshop) and then making some large and some small and looking at the relationships between the statements.
This first image worked really well and I almost stopped the project here. But then I wondered whether the sense of what we feel could be enhanced by making some visual reference to paralysis through imagery associated with the words – imagery symbolising/signalling that we are in the non disabled people’s minds, so I will continue to experiment.
Whatever the outcome I do think this project will form an important part of my body of work and it will broaden the issue from my personal voice to that of my community.