Activity: Public engagement and outreach › Public speaking engagements
This paper takes as its starting point Aaron Williamson’s sardonically titled Inspiration Archives (2019), which seems to document obscure and extraordinary historical figures who were disabled. Documentary items, such as those representing paraplegic explorer ‘Parachute Susan’ O’Sullivan, have been received by visitors as authentic. In fact, the Inspiration Archives are built around fictional narratives, and actively upset distinctions between the ‘real’ and ‘not real’. The politics of this work are complex: Williamson (who is deaf) forms part of the crip critique of ‘inspiration’ in the reception of disabled people. As in the work of the collective Disabled Avant-Garde, Williamson (now the only surviving member of DAG following the death of Katherine Araniello) yanks away from sincerity in refusal of institutional and capitalist hand-wringing over seriousness and provenance. At the same time, the forgeries, fakeries, and fabulations make for powerful objects of intrigue, seduction, and even (politically and critically contingent) inspiration. As Williamson told me, ‘disability art, historically, has neither achieved much critical attention nor been collected/preserved’ and so in the absence of such archives he ‘decided to make some up’.
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Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) 2021