Sunday, November 20, 2016

There is no such thing as dis-ability ...

... if you take the dis out of dis-ability. [views expressed are in connection with the group who are part of the exhibition]

Today I visited the Dis-ability… This Ability exhibition in Tramore. I wanted to see it in my own time, to take in the energy around the exhibits; to really look at the work, the location, the story behind it. And to explore my own story within it all.

haning of the Dis-Ability ... This Ability  exhibition Tramore co. Waterford
Ann O'Grady and Karen organising the puppets

It is just about a week ago that I travelled to Tramore with Artist Anna Moore to set up the exhibition. It took us and fellow IWA member Ann O’Grady and her sister Karen over two and a half hours. We divided up the tasks between the hanging of the prints and paper art, the display of the puppets, and the various books, notebooks and postcards. Pleased, but exhausted, we departed to meet again at the launch the following day.                        

I stayed at a hotel that night, I'm so glad I didn't have far to travel! My back felt like it had about 6 twists in it. My legs, in serious pain, were close to being put up for adoption, and I was totally exhausted. But we were all very pleased with what we had achieved! 

The way Ann and Karen displayed the puppets from the puppet - project  all tell a story: A story of music, fun, and traveling abroad by plane, or on a butterfly. Of life, and being a proud Irish citizen. The story of being a reporter but also of stillness and even flirting!
Biker and Baker from the puppet-project,
by Mark Foley and Sarah Lennon
They show the story of our lives, lived with illness or disability - by stepping out of the Box to share the story of our Ability! The paper art, books, cards, poetry, knitwear and paintings on sale all tell the same story- just through other forms. 

I am so immensely proud of all the work that has been created. Proud of my fellow IWA members - proud how they all jumped into the deep end with me all those months ago to create these puppets, to create a story, to create such amazing works, way beyond anyone's expectations. I am honoured of the trust they endowed me with. The trust that I could guide them through this eight-month period: from handling the first piece of clay to the filming and sharing of our story.
I feel deeply privileged to have had this opportunity. To realize that, with the help of the IWA staff, I could teach again. It had been 17 years since I led my last official workshop - in a group home with teenagers. I still think about that workshop which I had to abandon because of sudden illness. I still want to go back there and finish the puppets with them. But knowing that 17 years has passed, these young lads and lasses probably have kids of their own right now…

Anyway, back to the present.
I had doubts in my physical ability to curate/run this exhibition. After my solo exhibition in July my health was badly challenged. I was concerned this would happen again. But, it has been a week since the exhibition opening, and I am reasonably okay. I was able to sit in a car, to meet a friend at the gallery, and to write! I did have support at the IWA for this exhibition, and I didn’t had to create any new work, other than the notebooks, but a lot of organising and overseeing still came down to me. 

Listening to the speech by Grace O’Sullivan last week  (see youtube link below), and talking to other visitors to the exhibition, I realised how this exhibition is actually a logical step in my own journey:
To bring awareness that we are more than wheelchairs, we are more than our illnesses. We still own our personalities from before illness or disability changed our lives. And even if our personality changed because of an acquired brain injury, we still have our place in the world. Yes, we don’t occupy the same ‘space’ in society as before, but does that make us any less equal?
For those who have a disability from birth, they have as valuable a space in our society as anybody else. Unfortunately, this is not how we are often treated.

People talk over our heads. Decisions are made for us. Not by us. We are at times treated as toddlers. This saddens me beyond words.

Ann and Corina Duyn after setting up the Dis-ability ... This Ability exhibition
Ann and Corina after setting up the exhibition 
In my own case, yes I use a wheelchair, or a mobility scooter, or walking sticks. Sometimes I can walk for a  short distance. I wobble when I walk. Sometimes am I well, sometimes I am not.
But I am still the person who worked as a volunteer in a cultural centre as a teenager; studied and worked as a nurse, as social care worker and as self-employed artist. And who, years after becoming ill, had several solo exhibitions and published four books; as well as completing a year of disability studies, and guiding the Life Outside the Box Puppet Project. All while living with limited energy, dealing with several challenging conditions within my body, use speech-to-text software to write, a brain does not always function as I would like it to be… And that is just the tip of iceberg of living with M.E.
But I am still me!

Last week Grace O’Sullivan said - while looking me straight into my face - that I don’t accept my dis-ability: “You are absolutely motivated and have a strength of character, and are on everyone on case … you are setting the bar high. We as a nation in Ireland, are a bit of ‘cap-in-hand’. You won’t settle for that. Keep pushing the barrier!”
Grace also raised the point about the need to have people with disabilities visible in the community. “Everyone in our community is the richer for it if we can live in harmony with each other … as shown here, there is no such thing as dis-ability.”

So, with this exhibition, with Grace’s talk, with the encouragements from visitors to the exhibition and through social media, to readers of my books and blog, friends new and old, I am catapulted into trusting that I am on the right track within my own development.

That I have to keep on traveling and exploring the road life’s circumstances has brought me on: to share my views about life with illness/disability with the wider public. To speak up for others who might not have this capability. To highlight our Abilities!  For the way I see it, we have many!

Thank you for coming along on my exciting journey.

Now I will rest, and I hope you will take a few minutes to listen to Grace O'Sullivan, and that you will visit or share the exhibition.

Best wishes to you all.

Anna, Ann and Karen pleased to be finished setting up the show.

See Puppet Blog for more images and abstract of talk etc.
See my website for My art and books and SHOP.


Therese Doherty said...

It is amazing that you have achieved so much despite your illness, Corina. It is inspirational to know that it is possible. It makes me want to do more too, because we should not remain silent and unseen.

Corina Duyn said...

That lifts my heart Therese. Thank you! It helps me to continue on my quest to bring invisible illness and disability into the light...