Tuesday, September 18, 2018

You get proud by practicing, by Laura Hershey

I recently posted on Facbook a photo of myself pasting up a poem on the Disability Pride mural in Footscray, 'You get proud by practicing' by Laura Hershey. And a few people have since asked me about it, so I thought I would post it here for you to read. This is the fourth time I have pasted up this poem in public space. Discovering this poem a few years back, was one of the things that led me to undertake leading a Disability Pride Mural. 

Laura Hershey was a writer poet and disability rights activist in the USA. 

You get proud by practicing by Laura Hershey

If you are not proud

For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop

To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing

With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.

You can get proud.

You do not need

A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.

To be proud.

You do not need

A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.

You do not need

To be able to walk, or see, or hear,

Or use big, complicated words,

Or do any of those things that you just can’t do

To be proud. A caseworker

Cannot make you proud,

Or a doctor.

You only need more practice.

You get proud by practicing.

There are many many ways to get proud.

You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,

Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried

Either way.

You can show

Something you’ve made

To someone you respect

And be happy with it no matter

What they say.

You can say

What you think, though you know

Other people do not think the same way, and you can

keep saying it, even if they tell you

You are crazy.

You can add your voice

All night to the voices

Of a hundred and fifty others

In a circle

Around a jailhouse

Where your brothers and sisters are being held

For blocking buses with no lifts,

Or you can be one of the ones

Inside the jailhouse,

Knowing of the circle outside.

You can speak your love

To a friend

Without fear.

You can find someone who will listen to you

Without judging you or doubting you or being

Afraid of you

And let you hear yourself perhaps

For the very first time.

These are all ways

Of getting proud.

None of them

Are easy, but all of them

Are possible.
You can do all of these things,

Or just one of them again and again.

You get proud

By practicing.

Power makes you proud, and power

Comes in many fine forms

Supple and rich as butterfly wings.

It is music
when you practice opening your mouth

And liking what you hear

Because it is the sound of your own

True voice.

It is sunlight

When you practice seeing

Strength and beauty in everyone,

Including yourself.

It is dance
 when you practice knowing

That what you do

And the way you do it

Is the right way for you

And cannot be called wrong.

All these hold

More power than weapons or money

Or lies.

All these practices bring power, and power

Makes you proud.

You get proud

By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one

Who made you ashamed,

But you are the one

Who can make you proud.

Just practice,

Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,

Keep practicing so you won’t forget.

You get proud

By practicing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Disability Pride is Back! at the Melbourne Fringe Festival!

I am so very proud and excited to announce that the Disability Pride Mural is going to be reinstalled as an arts event as part of this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, September 13-30!

Disability Pride is Back!
Announcing the proud reinstallation of Melbourne’s first Disability Pride mural, bigger and better than it was before. 

This live art installation/performance brings together some of Melbourne's best known disability artists and activists to reinstall a collaborative paste up mural that celebrates the diverse, rich, but often hidden culture of Melbourne’s disabled community. This Disability Pride mural also challenges narrow stereotypes of disability, reclaims public space and makes a stand that joins with the International Disability Pride movement.

Disability Pride is Back! is led and produced by visual artist and disability activist Larissa MacFarlane, already known for exploring her own disability culture through her handstand paste-ups across Melbourne’s streets. In talking about what led her to create this community artwork, Larissa says:
'I live with 19 year old brain injury and this journey of acquiring and learning to live with a disability has had incredible highs and lows. And it is a journey that I want to be proud of. But in a society that doesn’t value disability, I have often found myself silenced and shamed. After learning about the International Disability Pride movement, with a 30 year history of worldwide parades and marches, I wanted to bring some of that joy here, to Melbourne. I wanted to create a public space for people to explore and share the power of identifying as disabled, and to tell our stories, together, in public, with pride. This mural will be a day of celebrating our disabilities and madness.’

Disability Pride is about reclaiming our identities and bodies as our own. It seeks to change the way people think about and define disability, to break down and end the internalised shame among people with disabilities, and to promote the idea that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which we can take pride. Disability Pride also aligns with the Social Model of Disability that sees disability as caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. 

Between 11 and 4 on September 20th Larissa will be joined by diverse members of Melbourne’s disabled community in a mass paste up party, to install the artwork of over 40 people with disability.

It will be a great display of the often hidden culture of disability. People with disabilities represent 20% of the population, and yet we are practically invisible in employment, public life, civic participation and our media. 

This event is leading the way forward in being disability led and produced. We hope to see many more disability led art projects in this country into the future. This Disability Pride mural is the first of many more to come.

Artwork installation will take place during the first week of the Fringe Festival (13-20) with a mass paste up party on Thursday 20th September 11-4. 

People with disability are welcome to join us to help install the mural. 
This event is wheelchair accessible, with Auslan interpreters and audio describers.

Join us for the grand launch at 3pm, Thursday 20th September.

Location: Footscray Exchange Building, 201 Nicholson St, Footscray 

This mural artwork can then be viewed in its entirely for the rest of the Fringe Festival and beyond.!!

For more info, contact Larissa MacFarlane, 0490 188 762/ 9687 3231 larissalice@gmail.com

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Overwintering Project

My printmaking practice has slowed down heaps since I started work on a big new project at Brain Injury Matters in May (more about that in another post). 

I am also currently working very hard to organise the Disability Pride is Back! community art project. Please see my last post to find out more. 

And I am really missing the thinking, experimenting and creating time that goes into making new print works, that can be so nourishing.

But somehow, I recently found the time, in snatches, to create a new linocut.

Kate Gorringe-Smith is the amazing organiser of The Overwintering Project. And I really wanted to contribute. 

So here's the result. It's a 2 block linocut. A 3rd block was planned but I ran out of time. So I kept it simple. Two of the prints of the edition of 7 have been donated to the project, to support the building of awareness of the importance of migratory birds and wetlands.
A Summer Stint in the Jaw Bone, linocut, edition of 7

"I feel lucky to live not far from some amazing wetlands in Williamstown and Altona, including the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary. Due to its history as a Rifle Range, it has been fenced off for over 80 years, protecting a distinctive and wide biodiversity, that is also home to the only remaining site of mangroves that grow on a basalt plain in Victoria. And I am grateful to all the people who have worked so hard over so many years to protect such coastal lands, as well as the ongoing work of people across the world to protect wetlands that keep not just the free global passage of migratory birds, but keep our planet alive." Larissa MacFarlane 2018

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Disability Pride is Back!

It's finally happening again!

The Disability Pride collaborative paste up mural will be going back up on the wall of the Footscray Exchange Building in the coming months! 

And there will be an awesome paste up party to come along to and celebrate our disability culture!

Stay tuned for dates and details.

Me at the Disability Pride wall, November 2017

Meanwhile, here's a bit of the history...

In late 2017, I co-ordinated a community project to create a paste up mural in my hometown inner city suburb of Footscray to celebrate Disability Culture and Pride.

It culminated in a night time event, as part of a bigger local arts festival, One Night in Footscray, on November 24. 

Over 40 disabled artists and activists, came together on a hot summer's evening, at the base of the Footscray Telstra Exchange building, to install a mural that had taken weeks to prepare, and that celebrated our culture and community.

It was an amazing night. 

Disability Pride is not a common occurrence in Australia, unlike other parts of the world. Whilst the USA has been holding annual Disability Pride marches for almost 30 years, there has only been a tiny smattering of Disability Pride events in Australia. So this really was an amazing night!

November 24, 2017, Mural installation party

But just over a week later, the morning after International Day of People with Disability, on December 4, the mural was erroneously removed by the local council's graffiti clean up team. 

It was supposed to have stayed there indefinitely. It had all the right permissions. It had also been partially funded by both the building owners, Telstra, and the local Maribyrnong City Council.

It was a shocking, heartbreaking moment for many of us. For some of the participating artists, it was their first time publicly identifying with disability and erasure of their stories hit hard. For other more seasoned disability activists, it came as little surprise to have our voice silenced yet again.

For the length of Australia's white history, disabled people have been marginalised, institutionalised, dismissed and denied basic human rights such as access to decent housing, education, employment, health care and civic participation. Disabled people are often pitied, viewed as a tragedy or if they are seen to exceed the low expectations placed upon them, they are then viewed as inspirational. 

Disability Pride is about reclaiming our identities and bodies as our own. It is about changing the way people think about and define disability, to break down and end the internalized shame among people with disabilities, and to promote the belief in society that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with disabilities can take pride. 

Disability Pride also seeks a different understanding of ‘disability’ beyond the medical model, which sees disability as a problem of the person, requiring sustained medical care. Instead I want people to realize the issue of ‘disability’ as a socially created problem. Management within the social model of disability requires social action and cultural, individual, community, and large-scale change.

As a woman with an acquired disability of almost 20 years, it has taken me a long time to recognise my own internalised ableism and understand the value in practicing disability pride. Which is why I was motivated to take on such a big project. 

When the mural was destroyed after only a week in place, the disabled community rose up to make this a media issue. My initial Facebook post was shared over 200 times. And the mural destruction was covered in many mainstream media. Here's some links. The Age. ABC Online The Star. The issue also got on the National TV ABC news, where I was interviewed alongside disability activist Carly Findlay.
And then I fell in a very big heap!
And for the past 6 months I have seriously struggled to know how to move forward, and put Disability Pride back on the wall. It has been truly miserable. The way forward seemed obvious - if I had done it before, then I could do it again. And of course, I am well aware of the silver lining of the whole debacle -the media coverage of the mural's destruction, has meant that the concept of Disability Pride has probably reached a far greater audience than if it had stayed on the building.
But I have remained immobilised. And there has been so much shame around my immobility, that I haven't been able to even speak up or share. Until now! Because today I acknowledge, that this isn't just an artwork. This is about identity. This is about my identity. This is about Rights. This is about the lack of respect that disabled people have in Australia, the real daily struggle that people face, and the very real fear of being marginalised once again. This is stuff that is rarely talked about outside the disability community and it is just too easy for the mainstream to dismiss.

Onwards and upwards!
Disability Pride is coming!

INK MASTERS Print exhibition 2018

Pretty chuffed to have two of my etchings included in this years' biennial Inkmasters Print exhibition, in Cairns, Queensland. 
The exhibition opens July 27 and runs until August 19, at the Tanks Art Centre. 
I won't be going, but if you can go, then please do, and let me know how it is.

Here's my 2 works.

Managing the day in the light and the dark, 2016, Etching, 21cm x 26cm

Marking the Anniversary with Vitruvius, 2016/7, etching, 26cm 35cm

This second work, in particular is very significant. It was made in 2016 to mark the 18th anniversary of my accident, although it took some time for me to feel ready to share it with the world. Here's some words that I have previously written.

Marking the anniversary with Vitruvius, etching, 2016/17
Eighteen years ago, my life was turned upside down by a brain injury, requiring me to rebuild a life based on a person who thought, felt, saw and heard the world differently to the one I had known for 29 years. I also found myself with a new birth date, an anniversary that each year presents me with a confusing dilemma of celebratory survival and deeply felt loss.  
My 18th anniversary found me taking comfort in the studies of Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci: both scholars, separated by 14 centuries, and fascinated by the relationship of the body to the universe. 
Taking my lead from da Vinci’s 1490 drawing, Vitruvian Man, using the same dimensions, body proportions and mirror writing that he used, I created my own manifesto to mark my entry into adulthood, using my extensive studies of the body in pain and exploring my 12 yearlong ritual of handstanding

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I was interviewed by ABC Radio National!!!


Last year, 2017, was a bit of a whirlwind year. A lot happened.

The year started with my health at a very, very low point but then with some new drugs, by April, things had turned around.

With new found energy and thinking clarity, I found myself undertaking all sorts of new challenges related to my art practice and disability activism.

I hope to share some of the amazing opportunities I had, as well as some of the more dramatic and challenging outcomes.

But it might take some time. After all, I do live with chronic illness, mostly associated with my brain injury. So not only is my time and energy limited, but my ability to be online and use computers is also significantly restricted (due to the ABI nausea).

Photos by ABC radio journalist Hannah Reich on the day of the interview, at Footscray Community Arts Centre

But a friend of a friend recently posted on Facebook a link to an interview I did with the ABC Radio in November last year. To be truthful, I had almost forgotten about this. It took place at the time when I was a little overwhelmed. I was in the middle of an amazing arts residency at Footscray Community Arts Centre, which included my biggest so far solo gallery show, as well as preparing for two community and public murals about Disability Pride...and I was yet to discover what it is like to be at the centre of a little media storm (more about that in another post!).

And being interviewed on the Books and Arts Show on ABC RN, was something I had dreamed might happen to me one day, but certainly not now. I was super nervous.

But it actually was a great experience. 

And so I invite you to have a listen or a read of this interview,

How a traumatic brain injury birthed an artist (and a passion for handstands)

about an important aspect of my artwork that explores my handstand practice and its relevance to disability culture. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

COMPACT PRINTS International exhibition and exchange 2018

Since 2012, I have been participating in Compact Prints.

This is the North Queensland's Umbrella Studio's biennial printmaking exhibition and exchange, showcasing local, national, and international artists.

This year I am submitting three entries.

These 3 small linocuts (12 x12cm) are part of my ongoing series of works using images of train tracks. These are informed by my own life living with disability, and use the metaphor of train journeys, to investigate how we navigate life’s encounters, discover new meanings for life, find places to belong to, as well as propose ways that can celebrate what we have in the here and now. 

Here's images of this years entries.

Journeys and Crossings I, linocut, edition of 10, 12x12cm

Journeys and Crossings II, linocut, edition of 10, 12x12cm

Journeys and Crossings III, linocut, 12x12cm, edition of 10

If you would like to see my past entries to earlier Compact Prints exhibitions, please click on the relevant year.