Thursday, 17 May 2012

Disability Protest Art

Having said the point of this blog is to separate it from my disability politics stuff, I'm going to start with a set of disability protest images I roughed out while away over Christmas. It's a measure of how the year's progressing that it took me until yesterday to get them transferred over to my desktop for final rendering.

For those who are interested, the images are put together using DAZ Studio 4 and standard DAZ/Poser figures (Poser is an alternative software suite with similar capabilities to Studio and able to use (mostly) the same figures). Studio itself is currently free, but the models can be a money pit - fortunately I invested in them while I still had a job. The system works in 3D, so you can pan the camera around and get a shot from any angle, unlike a more traditional form of art. Each of the figures is individually posable, can be morphed into different characters, and can be dressed as appropriate for the scene (though obviously that needs you to own the clothing as well). Poser/Studio work is sometimes dismissed as 'dressing up dolls', mostly by those who don't understand how much work is involved in getting a good image, a better analogy might be the role of a photographer in staging a photograph, or a cinematographer or director framing a shot. Most of my work is more involved than the images here, with complete backgrounds and lighting set-ups, but for the poster format I was able to skip most of that.

The first image is based on a claim by Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, that the financial crisis was brought on not by the banks, but by people claiming benefits. Needless to say disabled people weren't impressed and the image is meant to portray both how ludicrous the statement was and the level of demonisation we are facing from those supposed to be representing our interests.

The next pair of images are driven by the two-faced attitude towards disability in contemporary society, an attitude that is largely generated by the popular (sic) press. Young disabled people are universally lauded as 'brave' (ick!), or 'cute' (double ick!), yet on the flip-side disabled adults are tarred with the persistent allegations that we are all frauds and scroungers (somehow complete strangers are able to instantly detect that my disability is a fraud, while my specialists are still trying to pin down precisely what's wrong 23 years on from my initial accident - clearly they went to the wrong medical schools). The images shine a light on that dichotomy of views by superimposing the traditional views of disabled kids with the language they face as adults. I pushed the 'cute' aspect on the younger child with crutches (and I'm still tempted to add a kitten to go for the traditional media cuteness trifecta of child, kitten and disability), while the older two are right on the cusp of facing that change in attitude from nauseously patronising to aggressively demonising (incidentally the young woman's cane was something I built from scratch for these images, it's simply a bunch of cylinders and a single sphere at the tip).

The next image stays with the 'fakes and fraudsters' aspect. On several occasions I've had people make comments along the lines of 'well you're clearly really disabled, it's just everyone else who are fakes and frauds' (that particular example came from the financial adviser at my bank). I'm just glad that my disability comes with a visible component (crutches) as well as the (far more disabling) invisible one of pain, but even that doesn't seem to stop me from drawing verbal attacks, and friends who are even more obviously disabled have also been abused in the street by complete strangers who think they can judge disability at a glance (sadly this seems to include all of our major political party leaders - yes, Ed Miliband, I mean you and your 'I met a man' speech). What I'd really have liked to use to illustrate this is someone with an invisible disability, but that would a) go completely over the head of the vast majority of society who don't know, or actively deny, that invisible disabilities exist and b) simply doesn't work in visual format, so I went to the other extreme, putting the words in the mouth of someone that not even the most abusive Tory minister could deny is disabled.

The last image comes closer to my normal standard of work in having a complete environment, though I'd normally have gone further with lighting (and probably will at some point). There have been a lot of Tory ministers, PR hacks and attack journalists trying to convince everyone that disability benefits are a 'crutch' that prevent disabled people from achieving their potential. Yes, logic isn't their strong point, but if you call someone a scrounger, fraud and faker often enough then unfortunately it seems to work. That kicking someone's crutch away isn't usually considered a nice thing to do seems to have passed them by (though I guess we aren't dealing with nice people), but it does make for a nice visual image. For any non-Brits, ConDem is the general shorthand for the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition that has been in power since 2010.

Jult 2013: New variant after Paul Maynard MP (disabled himself) branded disability campaigners 'extremists' for wanting a cumulative impact assessment of the disability cuts.

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