Disability Arts: Slaughtering the Sacred Cows : my provocation for a public conference.

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Disability Arts: Slaughtering the Sacred Cows : my provocation for a public conference.

as an artivist who doesn’t always identify as disabled, my work carries an agenda for the marginalised, under-represented and oppressed of this shared (very unequally) world.

The other side

In this blog I share my provocation for the Public Conference – Disability Arts: Slaughtering the Sacred Cows at the Midland’s Art Centre in Birmingham. Anna Berry is an artist and the curator of the exhibition Art and Social Change: The Disability Arts Movement at the Midlands Art Centre. For her DASH Arts Curatorial Residency, Anna curated this event as a public conversation. 

Anna asked panelists to bring a sacred cow of disability arts to the conference for slaughter! As she explained in an email,

‘The idea of the day is to try to create a space where people feel they can think and express their thoughts freely, and be accepting of a multiplicity of opinions, even if it’s not toeing-the-party line when it comes to disability politics.”

My approach was to unpick solidarity to share frustrations about the lack of diversity within disability arts. The conference was super-interesting and…

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Interlocking freedoms

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Ask yourself : how could I really be free whilst so many others remain in chains?
Then tell yourself it is your duty to self liberate in order to demonstrate this quality to others, and thereby enable them to assist the release of the whole suffering world, one life at a time, starting with the heart nearest to them.
Reflect upon the interconnectiveness of systemic oppression, repression and expression, look for evidences of these looping dynamisms, without attachment or fear, and see them in the mirrors around you.

The realisation that my freedom is intimately tied to yours is a kind of liberation, Dom’t you think?
In the same way that pre vegans view our choice as limiting their freedom, then experience an overwhelm of understanding that it is the first step of true liberation, shared and multiplied
is the joy of no longer : being compassionate yet doing harm
is the gift of love returning to its source
is the miracle of unity consciousness

CORONAVIRUS = anagram of CARNIVOROUS

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IF it was vegan practices causing pandemics, antibiotic resistance, species extinction and environmental destruction there would be such an uproar and demands to stop us. BUT because it is the carnistic masses doing these things nobody dares look at the elephant in the room = animal eating that drives such deadly diseases, toxic pollution, land degradation and water wastage leading to desertification and runaway climate change.

am I delusional?

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When your ideation doesn’t match with that of the vast majority of humanity, and you are 100% solid in your beliefs, they have a habit of terming you delusional. In a way this is a compliment, because it signifies they appreciate the sincerity of your views. Lots of people have told me that they respect my views. Only my brother has called me delusional.
Is that because others won’t say it to my face?
I was prompted to ask this because I’m watching “The Messiah” on Netflix. In this series there’s a character who appears and speaks directly, charismatically, and with prophetical authority as a messenger.
The story unfolds and he is discovered to have been previously hospitalised for delusions of being a spokesperson from God : a messiah complex. He is called the Messiah by people and has not given himself that name. Jesus never called himself the Messiah either. He too was a messenger.
The point I wish to make about this is whether or not it is relevant in any way to one’s mission/purpose/destiny how one is regarded. It never troubles me that people might dislike me, as long as they hear me. Even if they start out thinking I’m extreme, before long if they do their own research and due diligant truth seeking they will have to awaken. Thats the whole point of way-showers, oracles and messengers – to shine a greater light upon that which has been concealed, denied and overlooked by the devious trickery of established mores. A long history of calling something ok gives it a superficial veneer of okness. It is borne along and reinforced by authority, habit, and the rule of law, and it is perpetuated by common apathy.
To this day people are murdered for speaking inconvenient truths. They are incarcerated, forcibly medicated and silenced. Indeed, a key means of discerning Truth is the measures some will go to suppress it.
Why do I care so much about the suffering of others? How come I empathise and have compassion for them to the point of risking my safety and comfort?
Because for me it is not possible to feign blindness, fake ignorance, or refuse to bear witness.
IF MY LIFE HAS ANY PURPOSE IT IS NOT TO BE RATIONAL, logical or coldly scientific at the expense of my higher faculties. We humans use a mere fraction of our capacities, and are securely, snugly oblivious to the most important ones.

What is a Necrovore?

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The Key of Immediate Enlightenment

220px-Paul_Watson_portraitCaptain Paul Watson

By Steve from http://vancityveg.com

I came across a term I haven’t heard before and stumbled on a quote by Paul Watson, a Canadian environmentalist, who founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and is known for the show Whale Wars.

Gives a whole new meaning to “zombie apocalypse”

“Humans do not eat like carnivores. Carnivores bring down living prey and eat it raw and most predators target the soft organs leaving much of the muscle for scavengers.

Humans eat dead flesh and rarely eat the organs, preferring the muscle tissue. Most of the beef that people eat has been dead for months and in many cases years. The meat is disguised with bleach and dyes in many cases to hide the decay and the fact the the flesh is putrid. We are closer in our eating habits to vultures and jackals than wolves and lions.

Technically speaking…

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Sublime and Picturesque Sculpture

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The attempt to bisect art into two broad categories, the sublime and the picturesque, simplistic as it is, can bring some clarity to one’s understanding. In this essay I shall attempt to compare two sculptors who use animals as their subjects in strikingly different ways. The two artists I have chosen are Beth Cavener Stichter (b. 1972 Pasadena USA) and Damien Hirst (b. 1965 Bristol UK). I define Stichter’s work as broadly picturesque and Hirst’s as basically sublime. These terms remain as key concepts in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, despite their limitations and their having originated in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Whilst appreciating their general usage to describe expansive landscape paintings as picturesque, and a degree of perceived menace in a given piece of art as sublime, I hope it is acceptable to stretch the meaning to suit the purpose of this comparison.
Looking back at the ways in which animals have traditionally been depicted by artists, we see both objectivisation and anthropomorphism, and scant evidence of autonomy. So animals are shown as food items, subjects to hunt, and as trophies to covet and display. They are referents, wearing projections of human traits. Wealthy people pay for their domesecrated pet possessions to be painted whilst alive and stuffed when dead. “I like the idea of a thing to describe a feeling…You kill things to look at them” says Hirst, as quoted by Gopnik in a 1993 New Yorker article where he coined the term: ‘The High Morbid Manner.'(*a)
Animals are commodified, forcibly bred, confined, bought, sold, mutilated and bet upon, before being summarily killed when their perceived usefulness or value diminishes. The animals own wishes are ignored, they are disrespected, trained to please us and punished for asserting their own preferences.
“The iconic “Mother and Child Divided” (1993) features a cow and calf, each halved lengthways, hovering in four formalin-filled glass cases…the point of these particular pieces : that death is ugly, awful, inevitable, and to doll it up is misguided” Ewan Callaway says of this Hirst piece.(*b)
Even though we know how intelligent animals are we fail to credit them with consciousness, and even though we know they have the same senses and feelings as we do, we do not acknowledge their sentience. Such unwarranted arrogance from the “apex” species who alone has unsustainably trashed and disharmonised the planet all beings have to live on. Such ignoble ignorance from we who have stolen homes, resources, and lives from our own kind as well as every other.”Its amazing what you can do with an E in A level art, a twisted imagination, and a chainsaw” were Hirst’s disingenuous words on accepting the Turner prize in 1995.(*c)
When and where will humans confer sovereignty and rights to the teeming fauna which share this world with us? We use every living thing as a resource for our (ab)use. As Braidotti says in “The Posthuman”: “Since antiquity, animals constituted a sort of zoo-proletariat in a species hierarchy run by humans”.(*d)
What does the viewer see when he looks at Damien Hirst’s crucified sheep, bisected calf or pickled bull’s head? They cannot be described as a celebration of the unique individual creatures they were prior to his treatment of them. Are they then ciphers for something else the artist seeks to convey? If he wishes to court the objective scrutiny of scientific observation he has failed. His crude deflowering of once living beings lacks the skill of butchery and is cheap sensationalism. By contrast Leonardo da Vinci dissected animals with surgical precision in order to understand the mystery of life’s structural complexity. His subsequent drawings display the same awe and respect with which he studied and drew his human subjects. From Hirst’s own words we can see his morbid fascination with death, yet all of his flaying, slicing and cutting can never decode the mystery of life’s cessation. He violates and dehumanises, glorifying the absence of vivacity just for the shock factor.
In sharp contrast I see in Cavener’s work a reification of the unique personhood of her fellow Earthlings. She does not produce cute or anthropomorphised sculptures, nor does she idealise them. Instead she is consummately capable of conveying emotion, feelings and cognition in the creatures she creates. She admits to obsessively studying them, as if from within their own skins, and making countless maquettes in her effort to depict something beyond an image. Her usually life size sculptures possess personalities and transmit sensations with stunning intricacy and subjective intimacy. Cavener takes raw clay and breathes life into it, displayed for others to enjoy. Hirst takes life and submerges it in toxic formaldehyde, imprisoned behind glass. In her artist statement she says: “Both human and animal interactions show patterns of intricate, subliminal gestures that betray intent and motivation…I rely on animal body language in my work as a metaphor for these underlying patterns, transforming the animal subjects into human psychological portraits.
I want to pry at those uncomfortable, awkward edges between animal and human. The figures are feral and uneasy, expressing frustration for their human tendency towards cruelty and lack of understanding. Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures are engaged with the subjects of fear, apathy, violence, and powerlessness. Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions. An invitation and a rebuke.” (*e)
What distinguishes Hirst’s brutally dismembered beasts from abattoir products is their grey flaccidity, drained of scarlet life essence. Who buys these pickled people and where do they keep them? I wonder why he chooses to use mammals which humans describe as food. I question why he mocks them. As a vegan I find it ironic when people find his tanks of fleshly beings disgusting then go home and relish eating another member of that same bovine family for dinner without a hint of connection. Such detachment, such cultivated ignorance of what it takes to convert to bloody muscles the body parts of a 2000lb being who did not want to die.
Whilst there’s an edgy quality to Cavener’s work, her beyond lifelike sculptures have succeeded in capturing but not confining the spirit and essence of her subjects. They are clearly present in the space they occupy. Hirst’s pickled creatures are by contrast robbed of life, dignity and place. Musing upon what each artist intended to convey or invoke, to incite or provoke, forces me to separate my innate appreciation of non human animals from the images before me. Each viewer arrives before a sculpture with so many layers of preconceptions and allusions it is possible that no two people will see the same object. How then does an artist convey a message or slant in their work? How much responsibility does an artist have regarding the effect their work has on viewers? Does it even matter, given that once in the public eye, the work is no longer theirs to control. Artivists such as Kader Attia have a strong intention to awaken or educate their audience. Banksy’s work holds powerful social justice themes. The artist who calls themselves Nomad says: “Artists possess the sensitivity vision and creativity so necessary to birthing humanity through to the transformational world of our ideals. We have the ethics and absurdity required”.(*f)
Personally I admire some of Hirst’s work, and his voluminous imagination and capacious output. How could I see as inherently immoral his preservation in aspic of a few dead animals, given that we live in a society which slaughters them in their billions for food, entertainment and clothing, causing in the process mass extinctions of our remaining global wildlife? Our collective moral compass is warped to the point of depravity, our ethics so conditional and selectively rationalised, that any artist who can cause the glimmer of a stirred conscience has to be welcome. Humanity’s speciesism is so entrenched, our blatant cognitive dissonance so disguised, that Hirst’s ability to shock could be a blessing.
As J.S. Jones has said : “So apart from their beauty, their stellar craftsmanship, the personalities that leap forth from their eyes…what is the ‘real’ gift given to us by Cavener’s sculptures? Empathy. By spending time with her animals, whereby allowing them to enter our psychological domains, we are subtly increasing our empathic connections with other sentient mammals. And in the end, we just might behave ourselves in a more civilised, compassionate manner.” (*g)
Our sense of individual responsibility for the suffering of others is as blunt as our numbed capacity to respond to it. Art could be the thing which saves our sensibility, heightens our sensitivity, and inspires us to transform our lives and life support system for the benefit of all beings everywhere. That is certainly my motivation for producing art. The powerful impact of both Hirst’s and Cavener’s art is tantamount to psychological grenades : wakeup calls to their perceivers slumbering minds. Katherine Stout speaks of “emotional resonance of the sublime subject matter…when you look at them, don’t you want to come up for breath?” (*h)
The accusation of anthropomorphism must be addressed because artists have for too long appropriated the personhood of fellow Earthlings as rhetorical devices, Animals are much more than stand ins for humans or representations of pathos. If Hirst’s work is taken literally as mere anatomised, salaciously violated subjects for our sanitised salivation, because he is considered to be the richest artist alive today, this says something important about our culture’s outlook and values. If Cavener’s work can succeed in awakening a reverence for all life in otherwise stupefied minds we might just be capable of averting our accelerating trajectory over the cataclysmic cataracts of climate catastrophy of our own causing. That would be sublime, as well as a picturesque outcome.

*a) “I like the idea of a thing to describe a feeling…You kill things to look at them” D. Hirst
as quoted by Gopnik in a 1993 New Yorker article where he coined the term ‘The High Morbid Manner’

*b) “The iconic Mother and Child Divided (1993) features a cow and calf, each halved lengthways, hovering in four formalin-filled glass cases…the point of these particular pieces : that death is ugly, awful, inevitable, and to doll it up is misguided”
Ewan Callaway animalinstances.com
Callaway E (2012)Flayed, pickled, plastinated, Nature, 23rd August, pp 456-7

*c) “Its amazing what you can do with an E in A level art, a twisted imagination, and a chainsaw” Hirst on accepting the Turner Prize in 1995.

*d) As Braidotti says in “The Posthuman”: “Since antiquity, animals constituted a sort of zoo-proletariat in a species hierarchy run by humans”.

*e) Beth Cavener Stichter artist statement excerpt : “Both human and animal interactions show patterns of intricate, subliminal gestures that betray intent and motivation…I rely on animal body language in my work as a metaphor for these underlying patterns, transforming the animal subjects into human psychological portraits.
I want to pry at those uncomfortable, awkward edges between animal and human. The figures are feral and uneasy, expressing frustration for there human tendency towards cruelty and lack of understanding. Entangled in their own internal and external struggles, the figures are engaged with the subjects of fear, apathy, violence, and powerlessness. Something conscious and knowing is captured in their gestures and expressions. An invitation and a rebuke”
http://www.followtheblackrabbit.com/statement.htm

*f) Nomad9mfa,org

*g “So apart from their beauty, their stellar craftsmanship, the personalities that leap forth from their eyes…what is the ‘real’ gift given to us by Cavener’s sculptures? Empathy. By spending time with her animals, whereby allowing them to enter our psychological domains, we are subtly increasing our empathic connections with other sentient mammals. And in the end, we just might behave ourselves in a more civilised, compassionate manner.”
Jones J.S.(July 8th 2017) Primal Instincts : The sculpture of Beth Cavener Stichter beautiful bizarre.net
animalinstances.com

*h) “emotional resonance of the sublime subject matter…when you look at them, don’t you want to come up for breath?” Stout K “The Good Drawing”

Actions and consequences. A ‘meal deal’ with a side of honesty .

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excellent article, where rage at these evil injustices and abuses shines through the truth shared. Thank you x

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

At some time in our lives we have all tried to shrug off personal responsibility for our behaviour, and sadly I speak from experience. It’s very difficult to acknowledge failings as our own, but if we are sincerely trying to be the people we think we are already, there comes a time when we each have to face the consequences of actions that we negligently decide upon in the face of plentiful alternatives; disregarding our many choices either because we refuse to educate ourselves about them, or because we dismiss them as too much bother.

‘Saving’ victims by being vegan

To start, here’s something I’d like to get off my chest. I want to address the many claims we read about the number of animals we ‘save’ by being vegan. Here’s a shocker. I have never, ever, seen an accurate estimate of this – not even sure it’s possible –…

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