In 2014, YVAN awarded me a 4.8.4 Artist Development grant in order to enable me to work on an art project called ‘Glossary’. This was a collaborative artwork created with adults with disabilities at the day centre where I work part time. The grant put a little towards my time, which until then had been voluntary.
Glossary is a piece which looks at our attitudes and understandings about disability. The title of the piece derives from a twofold meaning: ‘to gloss over’ is to ignore, a reflection perhaps on societal attitudes toward disability, and a ‘glossary’ gives us more information about the content of a book in the same way that perhaps those on the margins inform us about our society.
The piece consisted on twelve artist’s books. Six were made by the disabled adults with encouragement, assistance and advise from myself, and six were made by me in response to the process of working with each individual: a book for a book. Individuals were encouraged to use well-known sayings and proverbs that use sight or hearing metaphors as titles for their books; idioms that are embedded in our language without us often noticing the possibility that some of them at least could be seen as offensive.
The project has taken a long time to deliver mainly because of the restrictions of working with adults who need time to conceive and make work, or who have frequent illnesses or limits on their transport and time.
As an artist I have found the process revealing and fascinating. My own prejudices and assumptions were challenged; I also realised that certain living conditions in which disabled adults find themselves could have a limiting effect on their capacity to conceptualise because their social and working arenas do not offer them the opportunities to think cohesively. One artwork that I felt was childish and below the ability range of the individual who made it because she had been ill recently, was the one that touched the most people at the exhibition. As always I have learnt so much from those whom people easily write off in terms of ‘value’ for our society.
The twelve books went on show as part of Saltaire Arts Trail in May 2015. They were given a place in the Saltaire Bookshop, and although thematically the space was obvious, the venue itself left a lot to be desired. We had good footfall and interaction from the public despite this, but I would like to take the show on to a better place if possible. I am considering approaching South Square Thornton as I think their meeting room would be a good size for the collection.