Through the Looking Glass: Questioning Dis/Ability
A graphic representation of a person conjoined to a skull sporting flowers. The skull speaks to the person through a speech bubble that reads, ‘Knew who I was this morning. But I’ve changed a few times since then.’
The two figures are conjoined at the bottom to wheels. Text on the left of the panel reads, ‘At what point did you realize you are abled?’
A comic representation of the Alice in Wonderland caterpillar sitting on a wheelchair on a mushroom throne while smoking a pipe. It is asking, ‘Who are you?’ to the outline of a figure holding an umbrella on the right.
There are flowers, petals, and heart signs drawn across the panel. Text above the art reads, ‘How do you cope with not standing out in a crowd?’
The Alice in Wonderland rabbit dressed in a suit and carrying a pocket watch points towards a stage curtain and asks a figure to the right, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’ The figure to the right — Madhatter dressed in jester clothes, carrying a key, thinks to self, ‘What’s the hatter with me?’
Text above the art reads, ‘Does it worry you that abled speech and behavior are stigmatized as boring and routine?’
On the right is the Alice in Wonderland queen wearing a regal gown and carrying a card with a heart drawn on it. She points to the head of a figure situated on the left of the panel and screams, ‘Off with his head!’ portrayed using a speech bubble and electric bolt and exclamation marks drawn around it.
The figure on the left has its head inside a glass container. It says, ‘How do you deal with the pressure of constantly appearing sane?’
REFLECTIONS ON AN ABLED NORM
We aspire to an elusive ‘Abled norm’ — an assumed uniformity of fitness, independence, autonomy and rationality. This is reflected in the way bodies are read and represented.
These questions are a way to challenge our deeply held beliefs. What if the society we live in is based on Disability as the universal norm? What if those who claim to be Abled had to respond to biases that the Disabled norm creates towards them?
We invite you to open your mind to a deeply personal encounter with Disability in its myriad forms. Disability calls on us to reach deep within and look beyond the myth of independence and possessive individualism to see the inter-dependence that enables life and living.
Art by Reshma Valliappan (Val Resh), who is ‘The Schizophrenist’: ‘I practice schizophrenistry — the art of turning multiple realities into words, pictures, and actions without any social constraints to enable those with lesser realities an access into mine.’ (re-quoted from Todd Murphy)
Text by Janet Price, Niluka Gunawardena, Nidhi Goyal, Rupsa Mallik and Reshma Valliappan (the working group for the disability track at reconference 2019).
Panel design by Sherna Dastur.
Original source: Illustrated panels; disability curated space. CREA reconference 2019. The curated space included art, performance, live graffiti, films and conversations.
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