Dis/ability and Walking Art

Dr. Morag Rose

Introduction

This resource is part of an ongoing project that aims to support Disabled walking artists. It also aims to help everyone make their creative walking more accessible to everybody who may wish to take part. It is not perfect, or complete, and I would welcome any comments and contributions. I am always learning how to make things better myself. In the meantime if you need this information in alternative formats I will do my best, please contact me via email mlrose@liverpool.ac.uk

I realised this work was needed through my own experiences. As a Disabled person I have often been “left behind” when engaging with walking art. Sometimes the lead was simply going too fast and didn’t notice anyone was struggling to keep up. Sometimes information I was given about venues was incomplete or inaccurate and the terrain was not physically accessible. I want to help make creative walking / psychogeography accessible for all. I always want to share the work of other Disabled walking artists. My version of walking has always included sticks, wheelchairs, orthotics and other assistive technologies. When I talk about Disabled people I am inclusive of anyone who defines as such, including people who are neurodivergent, have a chronic illness, mental health condition or learning differences as well as physical and sensory impairments. 

You can read more about my approach, and the motivations behind this work in my chapter Access Denied: Disabled People and Walking Art in Walking Bodies Papers, Provocations, Actions edited by Helen Billinghurst, Claire Hind and Phil Smith (Triarchy Press, 2020). I can send you a pdf of my chapter if you can not access the book.

This list includes resources made by, or with, Disabled people. It does not include work made for us without inclusion of Disabled People.

General Principles

I would urge everybody to think creatively and holistically about access and equal rights. My focus here is on disability but there are other aspects of exclusion too of course. As artists increasing and diversifying our audiences can only be a good thing. If possible design in access and inclusion from the  beginning of a project, don’t try and add it on later. Accessible design benefits EVERYONE, for example avoiding upstairs spaces which can only be reached by stairs is useful not just to people who use wheelchairs or have physical impairments. Its good for people with prams or buggies or large bags or temporary injuries or who feel tired.

Be honest and be explicit about the accessibility of your work. Give as much information as you can so people can make an informed decision. Good quality information is so important and can make a huge positive impact I suggest adding something like “This performance takes place on pavements and in public spaces through out the town. There are no steps and we will cross roads only where there are dropped kerbs. The route is 1.5 miles and will take approximately 2 hours without a break. There are toilets and refreshment facilities at the beginning and end of the performance. If you have any particular access needs please contact us at XXXXX and we will do our best to help” or “the gallery is on the second floor and is accessible by lift. There is limited seating available, please let us know if you would like us to reserve you a seat or if you have any questions about access”

Ask people what they need to be able to participate or attend and be prepared to accommodate them as far as possible. Disabled People know what makes them feel welcome – examples could be a quiet space, a free ticket for a PA, information in a specific format or a particular kind of seat.

Support venues that are fully accessible wherever possible. This one goes without saying but again be honest; I’m not the only disabled performer who has been invited onto a stage that I can’t get onto!

If you are facilitating a walk be alert and reflexive to your participants and always move at the pace of the slowest. I’ve been left behind on occasion and no-one even noticed; this was truly horrible. Always try and plan a route with toilets at the beginning and end point and again, be honest about how and where you will be travelling.

If a performance can not be accessible for disabled people think about how you can share it in alternative formats. For example, some work may be on difficult terrain or move at a fast pace; thinking accessibly does not mean you can’t do this but maybe consider how it is recorded.

Remember access is an issue for online events too. For example turn off the chat function during presentations so text readers do not get confused and add captions to videos.

Access Guides

If you want information on how to make your art or event more accessible Shape Arts and We are Unlimited have some excellent oneline resources.

https://www.shapearts.org.uk/pages/news/category/resources

http://weareunlimited.org.uk/resources/

Disability Arts Online also provide a lot of information

https://disabilityarts.online/projects/

If you need bespoke advice please try to contact Disabled Peoples Organisations local to your area for details of consultants. Of course their professional and personal expertise will need resources. It is not fair to expect people to work for free unless they have explicitly offered to volunteer.

Creative Walkers

Thank you to everyone who suggested work via social media. Not all of the works explicitly discuss disability, in keeping with a commitment to self definition. I do not believe this must be central to all the work Disabled artists produce. Please let me know who is missing, or if you believe someone is here in error.

Aidan Moesby https://www.aidanmoesby.co.uk/contact-us/
“an artist curator working at the intersection of art, health and technology. His current work investigates the dual crises of Climate Change and Mental Health”

Alec Finlay https://www.alecfinlay.com/
“An internationally-recognised artist and poet whose work crosses over a range of media and forms…. Recently Finlay’s work has focussed on place-awareness and ecopoetics. He is lead artist on Day of Access https://www.dayofaccess.co.uk/

Carmen Papalia https://carmenpapalia.com/  
“an artist who uses organizing strategies and improvisation to address his access to public space, the art institution, and visual culture. His socially engaged practice is an effort to unlearn visual primacy and resist support options that promote ablest concepts of normalcy.”

Ella Parry-Davies  https://homemakersounds.org
“Go for a walk with sounds made by migrant domestic and care workers Information about access is given with each soundwalk, along with customisable alternatives and transcripts are provided.  

Jane Samuels https://www.jane-samuels.com/
“Currently working as a professional artist from Hare Court Studio and an SpLD tutor in Manchester’s Universities, Samuels continues to develop work grounded in Psychogeography, which challenges the boundaries of legality, public vs. private space, and our relationship with the land”

Lickable Cities https://lickablecities.wordpress.com/about/
“Lickable Cities encourages people of all stripes (and especially those with peppermint stripes) to undertake gustatory investigations of cities. We encourage the use of non-methodological, non-theoretical and impractical interventions to conduct such investigations for this non-emerging research” domain.

Mindy Goose  https://www.mindygoose.co.uk/
“Mindy’s fine art practice looks at walking as art. Inspired by the Bechers typologies, her collections of observations uncover the journeys she takes, the paths she frequently walks, and the flux in which nature exists. She is concerned with how our environments connect to us, and what that means for a person with a disability”

Moira Williams http://www.moira670.com/about
“Disability Culture Activist weaving together “access intimacy”, Disability, Somatic and Ecological Arts”

Morag Rose www.thelrm.org
As well as facilitating The LRM monthly walks I also create bespoke tours, exhibitions and events from giant cake maps to CCTV Bingo. “The Streets Belong to Everyone” and my favourite ways to make this a reality are creative mischief and collective wandering

Raquel Meseguer / Unchartered Collective – A Crash Course in Cloudspotting (the subversive act of horizontality)  
https://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/raquel-meseguer-unchartered-collective-crash-course-cloudspotting-subversive-act-horizontality/?fbclid=IwAR0HVtXP6queiNNTN3TKbS_dHkVbeFptaDdnYCszDqH_MmXYYD12XZXJc-8
An invitation to pause. To listen. To rest. A journey for the ill, infirm and sick. That is all of us. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. An ode to invisible disability and to acts of bravery we don’t see. Part installation, part verbatim theatre, A Crash Course in Cloudspotting (the subversive act of horizontality) tells stories of people who need to rest throughout the day.

Sue Porter and Dee Heddon Walking Interconnections
https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/projects/walking-interconnections-performing-conversations-of-sustainabili  Walking Interconnections recognises and responds to the fact that disabled people’s voices have been largely absent from the sustainability debate. See also Dee Heddon, and Sue Porter. “Walking Interconnections.”  CSPA Quarterly, no. 18, 2017, pp. 18–21. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/90015872

Tony Collier and Kate Green Mind walks http://www.kate-green.co.uk/installation/4594182921
A two-year collaboration with Tony Collier who lived with Motor Neurone Disease. Projecting the images on to objects created the immersive experience that Tony aspired to in his paintings, and enjoys on his Mindwalks, and bought the audience closer to the space that I feel on a physical walk. I worked in a different colour palette and tone for each walk, so that all four Mindwalks had a distinct aesthetic.

Further Reading 

Inclusion London
Inclusion London have a lot of useful resources about the history of Disabled Peoples rights, this short introductory guide explains why language matters and gives a useful overview https://www.inclusionlondon.org.uk/disability-in-london/social-model/the-social-model-of-disability-and-the-cultural-model-of-deafness/

These are some papers and websites which discuss issues around disability, neurodiversity, access, psychogeography and walking art. If you can’t access any of these resources please do get in touch.

Beverley Hood , Chris Speed , Ben Butchart , Janet Dickinson & Julia Hibbert  Locating the Territory (2014)
https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/19596094/HOODSPEEDLocatingtheTerritorySMALL.pdf
A participatory research project creating locative media with people who have learning difficulties

Damien Patrick Williams http://www.afutureworththinkingabout.com/?page_id=4  
“writing, talking, thinking, teaching, and learning about philosophy, comparative religion, magic, artificial intelligence, biotechnological intervention into human and nonhuman bodyminds, pop culture, and how all of these things relate to each other”

Steve Graby  Wandering Minds: Autism, Psychogeography, Public Space and the ICD (2011)
This paper looks at issues around neurodiversity and walking and is free to download here
https://www.academia.edu/8586966/Wandering_Minds_autism_psychogeography_public_space_and_the_ICD_2011_

Something to add? Please email mlrose@liverpool.ac.uk

This version was written in February 2021