Identity-Quality, Oct 30 2016 GDLP x ZM

 

In August, we were commissioned by disability led arts organisation and charity Shape to write about their Unlimited commission - to review the artworks that were produced through that and shown in Unlimited Festival. The work was great, and we enjoyed good rainy adventures in London and Glasgow. We had long conversations about art and disability on the bus and the train, wherever,,,speculative, tentative, articulating reaction. And this is what we do whenever we confront art together - talk until our words settle. We were starting to do this in the gallery in Tramway when a guy came over to speak to us. He was working for Shape, and it was his job to measure the demographics of the visitors, check how they’d heard about Unlimited ~ and discuss whether their expectations of disabled artists had changed through their visit to the festival. We told him we were also working for Shape and he asked what we were doing. When we said we were writers, he said,

 

*’Oh, are you writing about the quality of the art?’*

 

  • -  we looked at each other. Note it wasn’t, ‘Oh do you like the art in this space? What did you think about last night’s performances?’

/

The thoughts and ideas we’d been swimming in, that water fell down onto the floor around us. This guy’s framing was stable, and also obvious and essential - because of course Shape would be (self) conscious of the quality of the art they help to produce. Art People avoid exhibitions of work by disabled artists because they do not think they will be as good as those by (no qualifier here) artists. They also might think art by disabled artists is made only for others who share that identity - and while sometimes speaking exclusively to youse and yours is empowering, the ability to speak universally shouldn’t be the privilege of those with ~neutral~ ~no qualifier~ ~identities~.

 

To be clear, any accusation that art by disabled artists is of a lesser quality is just wrong. Some art by disabled artists is not good, as with any group; but where art is qualified by the identity of its artist, the quality of the work itself becomes abject. White cishet able-bodied middle class e t c men enjoy a neutrality for their artwork that assumes a pure and confident quality. For everyone else, the quality of their work is tied to whatever their announced, admitted, or framed identity is - and as Other identities face respective degrees of prejudice and pushback, so does their art and its literal and critical reception. By abject, I mean the art is grabbed, scrutinised, with cameras pushed in its face. It is sad but: is this art in the exhibition because of its quality, or because of the token identity of its maker? Idk but I know that with this question the art is flung onto a cold metal table with a slapping sound. It is handled in a way the White Cishet Able-Bodied Middle Class Man Art never has to fear.

 

And I wonder: is the myth that art by disabled artists is of a lesser quality due in part to its lack of critical attention? Shape were in touch with us because they recognise that writing about art has value. I gotta lot of issue with the type of broadsheet criticism that pretends its super objective power develops, historicises, and legitimises the art it writes about. I spoke to an artist recently who praised the content value of The White Pube specifically because she said we write about how it actually feels to be with art, to be in its presence, and to walk around and spend time with it. She said the artist never gets a real record of that. I guess the quality of a critical text, then, also counts on the context of the writer, and artists should be careful to remember that (and be sure to reject the voices that do not deserve a hand in their practice). I wondered if any of the artists we wrote about under our Unlimited commission would reject our texts for this reason, for our being able-bodied and thus unlike them. It would have been okay.

 

We have a lot more questions and sentences but they are echoing, going on and on without resolve, like: critics should demand quality of all artists, that should be a flat standard. / Is it okay to ever neg art when you don’t understand its specific context? Do critics avoid some exhibitions because of this; and scary - do curators ever include an Other identity to critic-proof their exhibition? V E R Y sensitive. When art has a sense of self, the critic can truly be violent. Identity Artists are clustered and expanded with a shared sense of self - in spite of themselves. Each intersection is burdened with representative responsibility. And how can you honour an imposed responsibility like this when below you, like a rough, pothole ground, identity and quality are hyphenated. How can you walk straight? How can you move confidently? How can you feel safe?

b͓̽e͓̽s͓̽t͓̽ ͓̽v͓̽i͓̽e͓̽w͓̽e͓̽d͓̽ ͓̽i͓̽n͓̽ ͓̽l͓̽a͓̽n͓̽d͓̽s͓̽c͓̽a͓̽p͓̽e͓̽
͓̽o͓̽r͓̽ ͓̽o͓̽n͓̽ ͓̽a͓̽ ͓̽d͓̽e͓̽s͓̽k͓̽t͓̽o͓̽p͓̽

{ 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔬𝔫𝔩𝔶 𝔯𝔢𝔞𝔰𝔬𝔫 𝔗𝔥𝔢 𝔚𝔥𝔦𝔱𝔢 𝔓𝔲𝔟𝔢 𝔠𝔞𝔫 𝔰𝔱𝔦𝔩𝔩 𝔢𝔵𝔦𝔰𝔱 𝔦𝔰 𝔟𝔢𝔠𝔞𝔲𝔰𝔢 𝔰𝔬𝔪𝔢 𝔬𝔣 𝔬𝔲𝔯 𝔯𝔢𝔞𝔡𝔢𝔯𝔰 𝔠𝔥𝔬𝔬𝔰𝔢 𝔱𝔬 𝔰𝔲𝔭𝔭𝔬𝔯𝔱 𝔲𝔰 𝔢𝔞𝔠𝔥 𝔪𝔬𝔫𝔱𝔥 𝔳𝔦𝔞 𝔓𝔞𝔱𝔯𝔢𝔬𝔫. 𝔚𝔢 𝔰𝔬𝔪𝔢𝔱𝔦𝔪𝔢𝔰 𝔡𝔬 𝔱𝔞𝔩𝔨𝔰 𝔞𝔫𝔡 𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔢𝔯 𝔧𝔬𝔟𝔰 𝔟𝔲𝔱 𝔓𝔞𝔱𝔯𝔢𝔬𝔫 𝔦𝔰 𝔥𝔬𝔴 𝔴𝔢 𝔤𝔢𝔱 𝔭𝔞𝔦𝔡 𝔣𝔬𝔯 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔞𝔠𝔱𝔲𝔞𝔩 𝔴𝔯𝔦𝔱𝔦𝔫𝔤 𝔥𝔢𝔯𝔢 - 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔯𝔢𝔳𝔦𝔢𝔴𝔰 𝔫 𝔞𝔯𝔱 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲𝔤𝔥𝔱𝔰 𝔞𝔫𝔡 𝔰𝔬 𝔬𝔫. 𝔄𝔫𝔡 𝔦𝔱'𝔰 𝔰𝔬 𝔦𝔪𝔭𝔬𝔯𝔱𝔞𝔫𝔱 𝔱𝔬 𝔲𝔰 2 𝔱𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔴𝔢 𝔠𝔞𝔫 𝔰𝔱𝔞𝔶 𝔦𝔫𝔡𝔢𝔭𝔢𝔫𝔡𝔢𝔫𝔱 𝔠𝔯𝔦𝔱𝔦𝔠𝔰 𝔴𝔦𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲𝔱 𝔱𝔦𝔢𝔰 𝔱𝔬 𝔟𝔦𝔤 𝔣𝔲𝔫𝔡𝔢𝔯𝔰 𝔬𝔯 𝔦𝔫𝔰𝔱𝔦𝔱𝔲𝔱𝔦𝔬𝔫𝔰, 𝔭𝔲𝔟𝔩𝔦𝔠 𝔬𝔯 𝔭𝔯𝔦𝔳𝔞𝔱𝔢. 𝔗𝔥𝔞𝔫𝔨 𝔶𝔬𝔲 𝔣𝔬𝔯 𝔟𝔢𝔦𝔫𝔤 𝔬𝔲𝔯 𝔬𝔩𝔡 𝔱𝔦𝔪𝔢𝔶 𝔭𝔞𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔰 - 𝔴𝔢'𝔩𝔩 𝔡𝔬 𝔬𝔲𝔯 𝔟𝔢𝔰𝔱 𝔱𝔬 𝔭𝔯𝔬𝔡𝔲𝔠𝔢 𝔮𝔲𝔞𝔩𝔦𝔱𝔶 𝔬𝔲𝔱𝔭𝔲𝔱; 𝔴𝔯𝔦𝔱𝔢 𝔰𝔱𝔲𝔣𝔣 𝔱𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔦𝔰 𝔱𝔥𝔬𝔲𝔤𝔥𝔱𝔣𝔲𝔩 𝔞𝔫𝔡 𝔰𝔦𝔫𝔠𝔢𝔯𝔢. }

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