Tagged: Art

Difference on Display: Diversity in Art, Science and Society

Difference on Display Front Cover
The front cover of ‘Difference on Display: Diversity in Art, Science and Society’. Audio description of the artwork depicted and other artworks from the exhibition is available to download via the DaDaFest webpages.

This week I received news that my review of Ine Gever’s book Difference on Display: Diversity in Art, Science and Society has just been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (vol 6.3).

Here’s the opening gambit:

In 2002 Tom Shakespeare and Nick Watson declared disability to be the “quintessential postmodern concept”; it defies classification because it is “so complex, so variable, so contingent, so situated” (19). Difference on Display: Diversity in Art, Science and Society exalts this postmodern view, offering the reader a complex and varied response to the shifting frontier between disabled and non-disabled. The book was devised to accompany Niet Normaal: Difference on Display, an exhibition of new and existing artworks by international and contemporary disabled and non-disabled artists, designers, film-makers, and their collaborators. Niet Normaal was conceived in the Netherlands, originally exhibiting in Amsterdam. The exhibition came to the UK in Liverpool as part of the DaDa Fest and the Olympic Games Cultural Programme for London 2012. The result is a book that is part exhibition catalogue and part visual treatise on the ambiguity of the human condition in high modernity. Importantly, the book is also an artefact, a physical object evidencing a world at the margins of media and discourses. As Editor-in-Chief, the activist and curator Ine Gevers states that the artworks depicted express a “visual and non-discursive discourse” (24). This “non-discursive discourse” identifies the process of manifesting what is unsaid in its “brute being” (Foucault 131). Accordingly, diverse cultural products that examine normalcy are gathered to establish a new perspective on the self in society. In this way, Difference on Display asks “what is normal” and “who decides this” from a variety of angles, supplying a welcome resource to viewers/readers across disability studies and related disciplines…

The article is available to academic readers who are registered with Athens. However, for wider audiences the paper is not currently available. In the short term, a substantial extract is available on the articles page in lieu of an abstract.

In the longer term, I will be making a pre-edited draft version available via Pure, the new King’s College London repository. As King’s is currently testing Pure, contents are not externally available, however as soon as this position changes, I will upload my copy to the repository. Ultimately, this will mean that all readers can access an earlier version of the review (prior to editorial input and revisions) in keeping with the Journal’s copyright. I’ll be sure to post here as soon as this version becomes available!

In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out:

Full reference: Lewthwaite, S. (2012) Review: Ine Gevers, “Difference on Display: Diversity in Art, Science and Society”Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability StudiesVol 6. Issue 3. pp. 348 – 351.

The Impossible Prison

At the end of October I went to the opening of the Impossible Prison, an exhibition curated by Alex Farquharson,  Director of Nottingham Contemporary. The exhibition is located within the Galleries of Justice Police Station, Nottingham, an atmospheric and provocative space in its own right.

16 international artists become ‘inmates’ in the Impossible Prison, inspired by Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucault. The exhibition explores power, control and surveillance, increasingly a part of all our lives. The exhibition is free and runs until the 14th of December and comes highly recommended!

Those of you who scrutinise this blog regularly may recall a short piece I wrote about Mona Hatoum’s “Wheelchair” sculpture, a photo of which was used for the front cover of Tom Shakespeare’s book “Disability Rights and Wrongs”.  If you are interested in seeing Hatoum’s work first hand the Impossible Prison is a must. Her 1993 piece “Incommunicado” is exhibited in one of the Impossible Prison’s claustrophobic cells.  As with “Wheelchair” – this work attends to the institutional furniture of the hospital and home. To paraphrase the Tate (where an image of the sculpture can also be viewed):

“Incommunicado” is a bare steel sculpture made of an infant’s cot. The springs have been replaced by tautly stretched, fine cheese wire. The cold, hard, metal form of the cot has been honed down to its most bare and chilling structure. The potentially lethal wires anticipate acute pain. “Incommunicado” is a place where speech is no longer possible, a reminder of an infant’s inability to articulate its needs by any means other than a scream. It is also a metaphor for the plight of many political prisoners who are incarcerated and tortured in places where their voices cannot be heard. Here a relationship of ‘parent’ state to citizen-‘child’ is presented as cruel and abusive rather than warm and loving, murderous rather than nurturing.

I found this work and many others within the Impossible Prison very powerful. And, given the current turmoil surrounding the forthcoming extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States, this exhibition will have strong resonance for some within Disability Studies.

A series of free Talks and Seminars have also been organised in conjunction with the exhibition.

  • Today (Monday 24th November 6 – 8 pm) Ken Starkey delivers the third talk in the series organised by Nottingham Contemporary – ‘Stranger in a Strange Land: Michel Foucault in the Business School’.
  • On Monday 3rd December, 6pm – 8pm, Eyal Weizman will talk about ‘The Architecture of Occupation in Israel.Palistine’.  Both talks will be given at Biocity, Nottingham.
  • Finally, Erwin James will talk about ‘Prison Today’ on Monday 8th of December at the Galleries of Justice themselves.

To book a place and to find out more about these events go to: www.nottinghamcontemporary.org.