Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Disabilty Pride Mural

So, this blog post has been a long time in the making…9 months. I guess that some art making and documenting is harder than others!  This post documents the final day of installation of the Disability Pride mural. It is also a bit of a long post.

We did it!
On a lovely sunny but cool, early Spring day in Footscray in Naarm/Melbourne, on 20 September 2018, heaps of people turned out to take part in and to witness the final day of re-installation of Australia’s first Disability Pride Mural.

It was an amazing day. A huge thanks to the many people who turned up to help cut out, colour in and paste up their own and other people’s artworks. And thanks to all the people who turned out to watch, listen and learn. Maybe 200 people attended in all.

 About 50 peoples’ voices are represented on this wall. People of all different disabilities, telling stories about their lives, and highlighting the wide cultural diversity that is Disabled Culture.

This mural is 16 metres wide by approximately 7 metres high. That is pretty big!! The actual installation of this work took place over a week. 

On day 1 we used a scissors lift to install the large lettered artworks that spell out Disability Pride, as well as other artworks high up on the wall. 
We had the weekend to rest, and then Day 2 we installed the letters of Disabled Culture along the bottom and some other larger pieces of art. 
Then another 2 days to catch our breath, before the final day of our mass paste up party!

And after a beautiful and wild day of conversations and mural art making, the mural was formally launched at 3pm. 

Jane Rosengrave, a proud Indigenous woman and legendary disability self-advocate, gave us an Acknowledgment of Country.

We heard a fantastic speech from the great Caroline Bowditch, recently returned to Australia to head up Arts Access Victoria, after a decade of working in the disability arts in UK.

And I spoke some emotional words! 

We also heard some songs from Steph Yianakelis on her ukulele.

And there was food and drink. And lots of laughter and tears. And lots of photographs and selfies with the mural.

After the murals very unfortunate destruction late last year, it has been a very tough emotional 9 months to get the mural reinstalled. But we did it.

There are so many people to thank…

I especially want to thank all those disabled people for their courage in joining with me, back in November 2017, to install the first Disability Pride mural. There is a lot of stigma around disability, and this stigma varies depending on disability type. And if our disability is invisible (as the majority are) we may often choose not to disclose. But since total secrecy of disability is usually not possible, most of us know that disclosure can lead to ableism and discrimination. So, it is a brave thing to disclose in public space, to stand up and proudly proclaim part of your identity. Given that Australia has never before had a Disability Pride mural, it was hard to predict what would happen. So I want to honour your brave stand, almost into the unknown, that you all took.

I also want to thank all the people who contributed artwork, especially those who made artwork specifically for this mural.

Adam Knapper, Ali Pain, Amber Whitlow, Annabelle Leve, Ann Hutchinson, Barbara Smith, Brent Alford, Brainstrength, Carly Findlay, Charlie Park, Chelsea Michelle, Christian Astorian, Colin Jones, Esther Tuddenham, Eva Sifis, Fiona Prendergast, Fox Smoulder, Fran Lee, Guler Shaw, Hannah Morphy Walsh, Heidi Everett, Helen Caliguri, Interact Arts, Jane Rosengrave, Janet Curtain, Jax Jacki Brown, Jeff Ward, Jenny Hickinbotham, Jessica Ibacache, Judy Wolff, Kath Duncan, Kira Young, Kelvin Lim, Marina Perkovich, Megan Hunter, Naomi Chainey, Peta Ferguson, Peter Davis, Prue Stevenson, Quippings Troupe, Raphael Kaleb, Reinforce, Rich McLean, Ross Cottee, Ross de Vent, Steph Yianakelis, Steven Tran, Trudy Ryall, Troy Huggins, Warren Loorham, Anonymous

I especially thank Hannah Morphy Walsh and Raphael Kaleb, for their very hard and dedicated work supporting the installation in the final week, and for keeping the vision of Disability Pride alive throughout the year. Special thanks also to Charlie Park. 

Thanks to Anna Madden for the awesome photos.

Thanks to Naomi Chainey for filming and documenting this Mural as it took place. Stay tuned for more about this…

Thanks to Arts Access Victoria, for project support and funding Auslan Interpreters. Special thanks to Fiona Cook. Thanks to Will McRostie for Audio Description.

Thanks to Telstra, especially Marcus Swinburne, for letting us use their great building for our mural. And for turning up on the day to support our work and providing shade and food.

 Thanks to Melbourne Fringe Festival and particularly Carly Findlay for support.

Thanks to Christie (for facilitating the food, loan of the scaffolding and emotional support), 
Thanks to Liz (for being the best ally), 
Thanks to Jacqui Ward and co, for great logistical support on the day (as well as great mentorship over many years!)
Thanks to SARU, the Self Advocacy Resource Unit, for the long loan of the badge maker, so that I could make and distribute hundreds of Disability Pride badges throughout the year. 

Thanks to Jax Jackie Brown and Stella Young and so many others for your education about Disability Pride. And the late Michael Fleming for introducing me to Mad Pride, long before that.

Thanks to Footscray Community Arts Centre, for the loan of the tables, chairs, and brushes. FCAC also gets a special mention for providing me with an Artist Residency in 2017, which supported the development of my Disability Pride arts practice.

Thanks to Maribyrnong City Council for providing funding.

I am sure that there are many other people that I should thank, so my biggest apologies if I have missed you. (Please let me know too.)

I finally want to acknowledge all the disability activists and self-advocates who have come before us and who have been fighting for Disability Rights for many generations. Much of our history is unknown and undocumented, but I do know that this mural is built on years of knowledge, hard work and courage. 

This mural is a paste up. That means it is made of paper, pasted up with a wheat paste glue. As a result, it is an ephemeral work, meaning that with time it will disintegrate. This might sound sad, but one advantage, is the possibility that we get to do it again. And that more disabled voices can be brought out into the open. Disability Pride is also something that we need to practice. As the late great US disability activist, Laura Hershey wrote, You get proud by practicing. Disability Pride is also a little like a journey and our individual relationship with it changes over time. And until we live in a world where we all have access, regardless of our impairments, race, gender and sexual orientation, we will always need to practice Disability Pride.

My main hope for creating this wall, was to create a public space for disabled people to feel belonging, to raise awareness of and kick start a Disability Pride movement in Australia, as well as build the spirit of the Disabled community and the idea of a unique Disabled culture. 

The Mural's unfortunate demise in 2017, after only a week in place, threw the issue into the news and certainly raised its profile. They say that ‘all publicity is good publicity’. However, the struggle to reinstall the mural, has taken a personal toll on myself. 
The mural destruction is also symbolic of the way that disability is viewed in this country - as not of value. It further points to the ways in which the medical model of disability is so deeply entrenched, that very idea of Disability Pride is difficult to grasp. The destruction and the resulting drama also created further challenges to reinstall this artwork in a way that honoured our stories and kept a culturally safe space. The fact that we did indeed return to this site and recreate a mural, bigger and better than before, is extraordinary.

There was some great media coverage of the Mural that was really respectful of Disabled culture. You can listen to two interviews here. A big shout out to Independent Media everywhere.

Women on the Line, broadcast on 3CR and nationally, via the Community Radio Network. Thanks Amy McMurtrie for the interview.

Fringe 2018 podcast series, episode 2, where I speak alongside Disabled artists, Rachel Edmonds, Claire Barnier and Leisa Prowd about Disability identity.

Finally, congratulations everyone, who joined me on this journey. May there be many more expressions of Disability Pride into the future.

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!