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Video: Collaborating on Togetherness and Futurity in Disability Arts.

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Acton, Kelsie, Christiane Czymoch, and Tony McCaffrey. “Video: Collaborating on Togetherness and Futurity in Disability Arts.” Global Performance Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 2021. https://doi.org/10.33303/gpsv4n2a10

Kelsie Acton, Christiane Czymoch and Tony McCaffrey

Researching and modelling new ways of being together, Kelsie Acton, Christiane Czymoch and Tony McCaffrey met through the Performance and Disability Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research in July 2020. The conference was online, the original, in-person conference in Galway disrupted by the COVID 19 pandemic. Over the past six months, the three of us have continued to talk over Zoom. These conversations inform the video that is our contribution to this special issue of Global Performance Studies. We have reached no conclusions. Rather, what we offer is collaborative thinking in-process, drawing upon theorists as diverse as Mingus (2011), Puar (2009), Yergeau (2017), Bowditch and Vissicaro (2017) and Māori concepts of koha (gift) and mana (honour, respect, right to personhood) as applied to performance. Exploring how we can be together is an essential question for Disability Arts and performance more broadly.

Being together is messy and complicated, particularly in this moment of global crisis. We should note here that language for disability is difficult, varying depending on location and often signalling specific understandings of disability. Our language here draws on the social model of disability, which does not locate disability in the body. Instead, people are disabled by their physical, social and political environment (Shakespeare). To reflect this, we use the phrase disabled people.

Access is one of the ways in which disability arts brings people together. Therefore, this video models audio description and captioning. Audio description is the practice of representing the visual through words (Snyder), providing access to Blind, low vision and neurodivergent people, whose brains function in ways that are outside society definitions of normal (Walker). Captioning interprets sounds, including language, through written words, providing access to Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing and neurodivergent people by making sound visual (Zdenek). In doing so, we hope to share some of the ways access can bring people together.

Kelsie Acton’s research engaged in an arts-based participatory process with seven dancers/researchers from Edmonton (Canada). This inquiry focused on the accessibility of practices of timing in integrated dance rehearsals, understood through Mingus’ (2011) access intimacy. Christiane Czymoch’s research currently engages with the intersections of aesthetics and the political in Michael Turinsky’s Reverberations. In rehearsals, a bodily communication emerged among the dancers and the choreographer, allowing connection between the diverse body minds in the studio space and communication across language barriers. Tony McCaffrey is the artistic director of Different Light Theatre, an ensemble of learning-disabled artists and co-researchers from Christchurch, New Zealand. McCaffrey understands learning-disabled performance as constantly shifting between being together and being untogether. Being untogether pushes against individualistic and capitalist assumptions of what it means to be human (Manning).

We all come from very different parts of the world and very different disability arts contexts. But we find ourselves asking similar questions about being together. How can we be together? What are the dangers of togetherness? Can we be together in a socially distanced world or do we need physical proximity? What is the future for disabled artists all disabled people in a world where the pandemic has heightened the threat a eugenic, ableist society poses for disabled people? How might imagining the future, a future where we are imperfectly together, resist these eugenic and ableist forces? This video dialogue does not provide complete answers to these questions. Rather, it traces our, at times collective, at other times contradictive, meandering through, around, and with them towards said future.

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Collaborating on Togetherness and Futurity in Disability Arts (Video):

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Works Cited

Manning, Erin. For a Pragmatics of the Useless: Thought in the Act. Duke University Press, 2020.

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Mingus, Mia. “Access Intimacy: The Missing Link,” Leaving Evidence. 5 May 2011, https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/05/05/access-intimacy-the-missing-link.

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Performing Utopia. Edited by Rachel Bowditch and Pegge Vissicaro, Seagull Books, 2017.

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Puar, Jasbir. “Prognosis Time: Towards a Geopolitics of Affect, Debility and Capacity,” Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. 19, 2009: 161-172.

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Shakespeare, Tom. Disability Rights and Wrongs. Routledge, 2006.

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Snyder, Joel. The Visual Made Verbal. Dog Ear Publishing, 2014.

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Walker, Nick “Neurodiversity: Some Basic Terms and Definitions.” Neurocosmopolitian. n.d., 2014: https://neurocosmopolitanism.com/neurodiversity-some-basic-terms-definitions.

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Yergeau, M. Remi Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness. Duke University Press, 2017.

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Zdenek, Sean. Which Sounds are Significant? Towards a Rhetoric of Closed Captioning. Disability Studies Quarterly. Vol. 31, no. 3, 2011. https://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1667/1604

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