Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013: Gordon Peteran speaks.

Gordon Peteran saw an old cane out of the corner of his eye and felt a connection. If this sounds like a song you’ve heard before, you’re right. People have been restoring, reinterpreting and repurposing found objects for ever. For what purpose? Well, you may just wanna have fun. Or you just can’t afford the real thing- if you are a person with a disability, you have heard that one before.

And artists? “Sometimes artists follow a hunch into an unknown territory recklessly chasing an unjustifiable intuition.”

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Peteran knew that the cane he found and restored meant more to him than beauty or memory or mobility.

Petarans thoughts run along a philosophical line, connecting self awareness and societal pressures to the ‘designed ideal’, “each of us is probably overcoming a perceived inadequate . . that often requires some form of prosthetic.”

Struggling with your body or parts of your body can be a source of strength. Peteran explains, “sometimes we mistake disability as a disadvantage and the best thing to do is to work with your resistance, not against it.” He has a real life example: “my grandma capitalized on a perceived weakness – she taught at school with polio and wooden crutches.”

His grandmother’s example made Peteran realize that sometimes trying to help gets in the way of people moving along with their life. His grandmother didn’t need fixing, she did not have a ‘wrong body’, what she needed was to teach children.

His motto? Don’t try to fix people. And make a u-turn: consider the disruption of the assumed condition.

Look at it this way, Peteran says, “everyone’s redeeming quality comes from their weakest point.” Being disabled helped his grandmother be a better teacher, a better person, made her someone who had unique and valuable insights on living, on adversity, on the built environment. Insights that the kids she taught would not have been able to profit from had she not been their teacher.Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 11.33.17 AM

In response to what he will do with the cane now Peteran says it will end up being his cane, “it has a bolt right on the curve of the handle that presses in the palm of my hand, and I like that.”

A restored cane that brings its owner pleasure. No fixing or nothing. It’s a good feeling.

— Thanks to Sarah Crosskey for the quotations. Any misinterpretation of the artist’s intention is the responsibility of Freddie Arps.

Film ‘Broken Speech’ by Tony Diamanti: A strong and clear voice.

photo-7Tony Diamanti speaks through a digital and human intermediary. He himself taps on a keyboard with a extension hung from his head like the lamp of a lamp fish. Figuratively speaking the extension illuminates his thoughts, but instead of functioning as a lure to gobble up other fish, Diamanti uses his interrupted voice to establish a connection with others that leads to an uncovering, a construction of himself as a living and visible man. The connection means a choice between existing and oblivion, because,”at first people don’t see me at all. I’m invisible.” His lamp does draw people in, “Their curiosity keeps [me] alive.”

“Don’t shy away,” would be the first words, Diamanti says, that he would utter if he could use his own voice box.photo-8

On stage, in a two man play, a third person carries his voice loud and smoothly and quickly. Because we recognize our own thoughts in his’, we connect with Diamanti. Is it his thoughts or does the third person’s voice connect us to him directly. Do we stop seeing his disability? Or do we finally just see him? Is it problematic that we connect to Diamanti more fully when his speech is like our own? Or is it our initial unfamiliarity with this particular form of speech that shapes the gap between him and us and is it our growing familiarity that gradually allows us to hear him as the person he is? Does the increasing familiarity mean that the play is about him or maybe turns into a play about him? Is it about us accepting a representation of Diamanti that is real or a representation of a person Diamanti wants us to see? This is an important question. This question follows, I think, directly from the earlier thoughts about representation, and is one that we ask of every actor, every memoirist, everyone who talks about themselves.

Ultimately then we see Diamanti as an actor.

It takes us longer, the first time. Our brain goes through the interrupted speech slowly, then faster, and ends up allowing the intermediate stops to completely disappear.

Diamanti calls this process ‘the politics of representation’. He insists, “Don’t just hear my words, listen to them, then see me. If you see me first, you might not listen to me.” He is wrong. We see him alright. And we want to hear more.

Human Writes by Jan Derbyshire.

“One of the saddest things in life is that we have this alphabet, 26 letters in spoken english, we have this alphabet and we are afraid to use it,” Jan Derbyshire starts the workshop with a piece of white paper and the letters of the alphabet.

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She adds ‘mind, rearrange and BEGIN’ to the board and leads the group through three rounds of spoken words. First Derbyshire asks them to hold a squooshy ball and describe what they can pretend it is. Then she asks them to give it a funny voice and let it say something… anything.

The third round has people talking about what drives them mad. And that is what they start writing about. The thing that makes it easier to write for ten minutes without stopping and without allowing the editor from within to stop your voice from appearing on paper is that you are not writing from your own point of view. You keep that quiet. You write from the point of view of an object in your house that you have identified earlier. For some it is a stick, for others it is flowers or a part of their wheelchair.

The continuous writing proves to be cathartic. The group feels safe enough for people to be angry, to cry and to be funny about very private things. Derbyshire explains that in a longer workshop she would help the writers put together from the pages of unfinished sentences, cut-off words and a dearth of punctuation, a monologue that can be performed or read in quiet. Something to show that we can all write.

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Something to show that when you silence the editor within and write out your thoughts without hesitation, that when you throw 90 percent away, what is left is something that you haven’t said before or not in that particular way and that it will be something that connects people to yourself. Something that will stick people to you like the sticky papers a different group stuck to the floor in the earlier workshop; the workshop about what connects people to each other. These fresh thoughts compel the listener to immerse themselves in the world that the writer’s imagination calls forth.

These hands were made for speaking.

Artist, designers and public- look at their hands. photo 1-2

We use them to elucidate a point, comfort each other when the installation breaks down, ask for room for our wheelchair and to speak to each other in ASL.

Tonight, at the Inclusive Design Institute we see more hand gestures than ever.

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Some installations are all about user interface design, others beg to be touched. And at this exhibition you can.

Accessibility is not a word that OCADU only throws around in its second year Inclusive Design class.

Although we need more of it in every class, you can see on a night like tonight that the designers and artists of OCADU start thinking about their project with Access as a starting point.

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Not something dropped in when your project is done, but something without which your project can’t get off the ground at all.

At OCADU students- people with disabilities- design.

They are the ones making us question the constructs around disabilities.

And they have done it with humour, with electronics, with sadness, anger, with pencils, with wood, with metal and with the cool, clear knowledge that they are unique, excellent designers and artists whose disabilities and experience are a terrific source of inspiration. photo 5-1

How to make communication work: salsa and blinds.

32 Pigeons has devised a system that would be ideal for lovers living in buildings opposite each other or for spies trying to outfox James Bond. photo 4-1

Too bad the Cold War is over.

Then again, pandas notwithstanding, the Economic Red War is just starting.

Keep you eyes open, Panda! Romeo and Julia: don’t worry about climbing the vines. Here you have the ideal language.

Another thing about communication. We never stop.

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And we navigate an exhibition with our fingers on the keys of our I-Phones and our gaze alternates between the woman on the wall, the artist explaining her work and the organizer interpreting the student’s body language. Meta if you ever encountered it.

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Eye gesture based communication

Alexei Vella’s ‘Vessel’ suspended in air. This young man couldn’t leave the installation.

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An eye gesture based communication system. Sit in front of it and let your eyes guide the keys on the keyboard. The verbalized equivalent of Toronto’s Eagle-eyes eye gesture based painting.photo 2-1