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Dolly Sen writes about the importance of DAO / 31 December 2012

I got an email from Colin a few weeks ago with a few questions as to what value I got from Disability Arts Online. I typed a few short answers, as I was hyper and couldn't dictate my own voice as it was swallowed up by many others, and poor Colin would have to have decipher it like lost words in a word search.

My brain is a bit calmer so I can give a fuller reply to the importance of DAO 

As a person within the disability arts scene and Mad Pride movement, I question identity and societal discrimination and oppression within my practice, as to why I expected to assume the role of pathetic burden. Instead I laughed at the stupidity of oppressive thinking, by parodying discrimination by turning it back on itself where these views can be shown to be as ridiculous as they are. There is no apology for being myself needed.

A lot of culture and society wants to put us in our place, to fulfil the role as ‘the other’, as tragic, brave, a burden, or ugly. The arts, especially disability arts, is in the best position to question, highlight, critique, or force the issue around the oppression and creating our own identities and agendas. And as an artist myself, it is great opportunity to celebrate my difference. It is the right arena for beautiful subversion, to show how oppression is pathetic, cowardly, and a self-defeating burden to itself.

I see disability arts as an opportunity to develop ways to reclaim identity from a mercenary, judgemental world that has abused it.

Being part of Disability Arts Online, I see a systemic refusal to assimilate into a broken, degrading process. Asking us to be normal is asking too little of us. 

Every political action, personal and social identity development and celebration, needs a history and a voice created by the people living it. As that well-known African proverb states: ‘Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’ DAO is part of that necessary journey, a megaphone for the voice of the lion.

The aim can also be to ask questions, the more awkward the better, and in that way connect some isolated dots on the disability arts landscape. Where is the relationship the strongest, and where is it the weakest? Can disability arts be absorbed into a model? Should it be absorbed into a model? Doesn’t creativity function better as an organic, free process rather than having to bat against the walls of some model? How effective is the affirmation model within the context of disability arts? How effective is disability arts at effecting change, or influencing disability theory? How many people with the disability arts world are aware of disability theory?  What is it about some aspects of disability arts at its most political that doesn’t apologise for being different, and what can be distilled from that to inform disability theory? What power do these artists have within a disabling society?

Hopefully DAO will help inform and inspire what is next in terms of the future of disability theory and disability arts. Identity is fluid, what is the river we are being pushed down, what arrests the flow, where will we end up? We don't know what is around the corner, but I for one, will be its fellow traveller until I finally walk into the sun. 

DAO provides the backing music, we as artists must provide the dancesteps to  make it a graceful union that inspires the world to move into the direction of equality, till our song is the song of humanity and not feeling pushed away from it. 

Keywords: art,art and mental health,artist,disability,disability art,disability equality,disability history,disability pride,disability representation,disabled artist,disabled peoples movement,discrimination,equality,mad creative,mad pride,subversion



22 February 2013


i didnt know that there were others on the same pitch as me were all playing a massive game of football without the ball just stood on the pitch all having a twitch. lets all get together at this time of need, fuck the world and its places and its hunger for greed!!! x

joe kelly

24 January 2013

this is a topic that comes up for me too

about our experience and how we put a value

on it. a friend called derek turner who lives in wales has developed a philosophy

about this called 'school of lived experience'. i once wrote a poem about it called 'university of adversity'

Sophie P.

5 January 2013

Dolly is Coolly!`Nuff Said ;-) x

Colin Hambrook [ED]

5 January 2013

Thanks for your very eloquent blog Dolly. We need to find pride in all aspects of our identity. When disability is a major part of who we are; of our experience of the world, it takes a lot of strength to embrace what that means in a constructive way; and not become a victim to the barriers and difficulties. Even just simply staying alive can be an everyday struggle. DAO is all about being a place where disabled artists can find a platform to express the will to keep thinking creatively and subverting the so-called tragedy of our relative situations.


2 January 2013

Thanks Dolly, I'm glad to know that someone did it so well. I did try too, but didn't get further than:

DAO is where I find out what is happening out there in my ‘mainstream’. Its stuffed full of artists and events that inspire and points of view that challenge - so I’m not stuck, insular in the sticks, when I don’t have enough pain-free energy to get out and about.

It’s a touchstone when the 'regular mainstream’and that other kind of ‘normal’ hit me as irrelevant, cruel or totally unreasonable.

Merry Cross

2 January 2013

I love this - but most of all the line 'Asking us to be normal, is asking too little of us.'

thanks Dolly and I'll be reading it out on next week's show.

richard downes

2 January 2013

There is an idea that disability arts is being swallowed up and not being given the opportunity to prosper as disabled artists move towards inclusion in the main stream.

One possible solution to this would be to develop a disability arts qualification (which of itself rings of mainstreaming). But i beleive it is an idea that is worthy of consideration especially as Dolly puts disability arts and disability theory onto the agenda.

A problem with inclusion into the mainstream is theory is lost to the pursuit of art. Can this be blanced? is it important?

Your comments would be appreciated?

Lynn Harrison

31 December 2012

Being lost in a physical and psychological fog of pain from psychiatric drug withdrawal right now and feeling alienated from many things including myself.. all I can say Dolly is that after reading this, I feel connected and inspired and less alone and more a part of something essential because of it's difference and that of those involved in DAO whether as artists, writers, cartoonists etc or as those of us who feel DAO reflects our experiences of an increasingly alienating and hostile world.

Trish Wheatley

31 December 2012

Thanks for your blog Dolly, I'm so pleased you chose to publish this so that everyone has the chance to see it. It sets the scene for really interesting times ahead. We at DAO look forward to bringing those debates to the fore and encouraging people into the discussions about disability arts. If any lions reading this wish to add your views or are thinking about starting your own blog in the new year do get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

Trish Wheatley (Director, Disability Arts Online)