Dangerous art


by guest
21st November, 2009 at 10:14 am    

This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

I’m never one to argue with anyone who tries to raise awareness of any DisAbility. Until now, that is. A dancer, who happens to have epilepsy, has come up with a rather… erm… original way to raise awareness of the condition. Rita Marcalo plans to try to induce a seizure on stage at The Bradford Playhouse as part of the 24-hour Involuntary Dances event on 11 December, which will also include dance and poetry readings. The audience will be invited to film the event on mobile phones. Ms Marcalo has stopped taking her medication ahead of the event.

Arts Council England, which is funding the performance, said it aimed to raise awareness about the condition. The organisation has provided about £2000, which they say includes £932 for medical risk assessment and support.

Their spokesperson, Diane Horton, said: “This project raises awareness of a disability through the artist’s personal experience of epilepsy and we support this. We have made sure that a full risk assessment of the project took place, including medical advice, and that appropriate medical support is available during the performance. Rita is an important artist whose work deserves to be seen and the Arts Council both respects the creative decisions she makes in her work and supports her right as a disabled person to be heard.”

However, Ms Marcalo has been criticised by the epilepsy charity Epilepsy Action. Their deputy Chief Executive, Simon Wigglesworth, urged her to reconsider the idea, saying that she will put herself at risk, and that she may also put at risk other people with epilepsy who may wish to copy her behaviour. He added that: “Throwing away seizure control treatment trivialises the condition and does not respect the fact that some people have spent time trying to get it under control.” As I said earlier, I certainly think the idea is original. However, I’m really not sure about the safety of intentionally stopping medication for that long. From the little I know of epilepsy I would say that is a very dangerous thing to do.


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  1. Halima — on 21st November, 2009 at 4:12 am  

    Interesting post and an interesting perspective on the right of all of us to protest or raise awareness on an issue that we feel passionately about. The fact that there is disagreement about whether this is sensible or not a bad thing – after all, we shouldn't expect agreement and homogeneity on issues relating to DisAbility. The bottom line on the issue should be safety and duty of care. But for me it raises issues around the artist's right to practice her art in a way she considers relevant and political. I am no artist, but generally they tend to be absorbed in their art in a completely different way to how other people experience life – there's more intimacy to their world and its issues around them and they tend to live life as art. It does raise quite challenging reactions in my mind – around danger and risks, but on the other hand, I wonder how many times in the past we will have silenced people with disabilities , by actions, sanctions and institutional correction. I do have relatives with epilepsy and what is most debilitating isn’t the epilepsy but people’s reactions and inability to accept it as a normal part of our lives. The same goes for many other forms of disabilities I think. What I would say is, though, it takes courage to pull off a statement like this.

  2. Binky — on 21st November, 2009 at 4:15 am  

    This is the stuff of late-night Japanese TV.

    What does the BMA say about this; THEIR opinion would be worth knowing!

  3. Sarah — on 21st November, 2009 at 5:37 am  

    Thank you both for your comments. You both make good and interesting points.

  4. Rumbold — on 21st November, 2009 at 6:05 am  

    Apart from Binky.

    Good piece Sarah. The artist is brave and it is her choice, but if she sought my advice, I would say don't do it.

  5. douglas clark — on 21st November, 2009 at 6:37 am  

    Yes.

    As you appear to be on-line, can I ask you why I am prohibited from taking Graham to task?

    It seems to me that I am being restricted, either because you guys think I should be or because of some technical glitch. I'd like to know which it is.

    On that thread, and on that thread only, there is nowhere for me to comment.

    Anyway, enough off topic stuff.

  6. David O'Keefe — on 21st November, 2009 at 7:34 am  

    Dougie, Just drop it, your taking it too far. Leave it alone and come back to it another day, as HP's conduct will probably be up for discussion again in the future.

    Its turning to an obsession, heed my advice please.

  7. douglas clark — on 21st November, 2009 at 8:01 am  

    David O'Keefe, I take your point about me and Harry's Place. I really do. But leaving Graham with the last word is quite aggravating. It really is. If this is a fault in Disqus or summat, I can live with that. I suspect it is.

    There are enormous faults with this system. Sometimes it holds my details, and sometimes it doesn't. This, for instance, was my second attempt to reply to you. First time around I was Mr Anonymous. If it was consistent, then that'd be OK.

    But finding you can't post on a thread you'd like to, because you suspect it is a technological SNAFU, is quote annoying.

    You try it. Can you post to the thread headed:

    Digging deeper into a hole of stupidity

    I'd be interested in your reply. It might get us nearer an explanation.

    I am not completely mad, despite what Graham says….

  8. KB Player — on 21st November, 2009 at 8:50 am  

    I've seen footage of people having seizures and it seemed terribly intrusive to watch it, same as, say, watching someone having a heart attack. In fact I'd say “gawp” rather than “watch”. Unless you're helping them, watching someone in such a state is voyeuristic, like rubbernecking at an accident.

    I had a boyfriend who was epileptic and of course if he had a fit, I'd be doing what I could to help him, trying to get him out of the way of things that might hurt him. He had a fit once on a step and broke a couple of ribs. I can't say I'd want to view this kind of thing as an artwork. If I knew someone was acting it, it would be different.

    Douglas – leaving Graham with the last word is the human condition. He never gives up nor backs down.

    Have I mentioned that this new commenting system is a bit annoying? I liked the old one better.

  9. douglas clark — on 21st November, 2009 at 9:07 am  

    KB Player,

    If you know me, you'll know I don't back down either. Unless, of course the technology lets me down.

    Which, I suspect, is what has happened.

    And I completely agree with you about the new commenting system. It doesn't appear to work. Hence Graham getting the last word..

    Which is a bit shit.

    Can you comment on that thread? It's the one headed:

    Digging deeper into a hole of stupidity

    I am just interested. I have no idea what the outcome might be.

  10. Don — on 21st November, 2009 at 9:16 am  

    Douglas,

    Nope, nowhere to comment. It ain't just you. Thread must be closed, probably just as well.

  11. douglas clark — on 21st November, 2009 at 10:25 am  

    Don,

    Thanks.

    Though I doubt it was deliberate. That is not how Sunny runs this web site.

    I suspect the aforementioned SNAFU.

    Can I just say thanks for listening to me? You have set my mind at rest.

  12. dave bones — on 21st November, 2009 at 12:14 pm  

    From the little I know of epilepsy I would say that is a very dangerous thing to do.

    Dangerous, and interesting. same as tight rope walking. A friend of mine used to do a show worldwide nailing his fore skin and the skin of his balls to a piece of wood and crucifying himself. Was he / is he suffering from some sort of condition? I would guess so. There is an honourable tradition of brave souls who push the extremes in art isn't there.

  13. douglas clark — on 21st November, 2009 at 12:45 pm  

    Dave Bones,

    No, not exactly.

    It is a bit shit.

    Much like most folk that get tattos. That is pretty stupid too.

    Along with piercing and shit.

    But what the hell do I know.?

  14. dave bones — on 21st November, 2009 at 1:00 pm  

    No worries Doug. I don't do blokes anyway.

  15. Laban — on 21st November, 2009 at 3:40 pm  

    Is she charging for admission ?

  16. persephone — on 21st November, 2009 at 3:46 pm  

    Lets take aside the DisAbility and treat her first and foremost as an artist who wants freedom of expression.

    As a piece of art it is meant to depict & invoke a reaction from the viewer. As with all good art that reaction is individual and could be a mix of empathy, shock, embarassment, curiosity, fear and a feeling of helplessness. Which is probably some of what she has felt as a sufferer of epilepsy. In fact the public are already feeling some of these emotions without having seen it. It will be out of the comfort zone of many and I suspect that is the aim.

    Perhaps she sees it as her right to have a (temporary) release from the dependency of the medication & let the audience share in the experience rather than it be hidden as something too uncomfortable for us so called 'able' bodied to cope with.

  17. Binky — on 21st November, 2009 at 7:59 pm  

    Dave Bones tale of cock-and-balls self mutilation reminds that a horrid [but well-focussed and well-exposed and well-developed and well-printed] snap of precisely THAT was in the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition I saw in Boston years ago.

    Brits were obliged to see a sanitized version due to the fearless intervention of a woman with enormous teeth, who believes she has a duty to shield Brits from photos of which she dissaproves …

    NEZTNAR REHTSE
    REHTSE

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