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Disability Art + Culture Project Call for Performers

Here’s the latest news from the one and only Disability Art and Culture Project:
Disability Art and Culture Project (DACP) is seeking performers for our Disability Pride Art and Culture Festival 6, this May 16-24 in Portland! We are interested in working with and supporting performers from any marginalized community, whether you have a disability or not. Performances can be dance, poetry, prose, video, performance art, or just about anything that you can do in 8 minutes or less! Please read over the audition form found on the Disability Art and Culture Project website and contact us with any questions at disabilityartculture@gmail.com or 503-238-0723!
Performances are May 23rd and 24th, held in the accessible venue Zoomtopia, Studio 2. A small stipend will be offered for each performance piece selected.
Download your audition form TODAY and return it to DACP by April 11, 2014! This is a new, extended deadline.
Read more about the festival, and find the audition form here. And visit our Facebook page for posts and pictures about our work in the community with inclusion and furthering the artistic expression of people with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. 
Last but not least, don’t forget to watch this awesome video created by DACP and Storyminders!

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Caitlin on BBC’s Ouch!

If you’ve been reading Where’s Lulu for awhile, you know that our favorite podcast, disability-related or not, is the BBC’s Ouch! We were pretty much obsessed upon first listen.

So we’ve been ecstatically texting back and forth, because we just heard that the public service announcement Caitlin, Andrew, and (friend and recent Where’s Lulu interviewee) Cheryl Green made last year, Your Daily Dosage of Inspiration, was featured on the latest show!


Image description: Cell phone texts from Caitlin read: Omg they played the inspiration psa on the latest ouch podcast!! / Toshio responds: Omg that’s amazing I gotta listen!!! / Caitlin: I havent listened yet but will soon. Cheryl called me in tears she was so excited / Toshio: Awww, kind of a big deal / Caitlin: I know. Im stoked

Here’s the PSA, again, in case you missed it:

As per usual, the whole podcast is worth listening to, but the “inspirational” segment starts around the 38-minute mark if you JUST CAN’T WAIT. Listen here: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-ouch-26532955



Crip Talk: Cheryl Green Talks Film, Brain Injury and Disability Culture


[Image Description: Cheryl Green on a Tarot Deck for ‘the fool’ card. She wears a flowing green dress, standing against a sunny backdrop of Portland buildings and signs. A small white dog gazes up at her. ]

First and foremost, how do you define disability? 

Defining disability is a complex task, and I like that. Capitalism and the medical model would like to think they’ve got a good definition: someone who’s broken, who’s not as productive or valuable as a “normal” or “typical” person and therefore needs fixing (or pity and charity!). I kind of reject that. They’re not really worthwhile ways to look at something that many people see as a meaningful part of their identity.

Something like a traumatic brain injury where you suddenly become disabled is its own ball of wax. If you’ve lived in a certain way, and then you lose a lot of skills (and your friends, job, income, housing, motivation, purpose), it’s clear why disability might be seen as a really negative thing. Our society greatly values intelligence, staying in control of your emotions, and being able to hold a respectable job. Because many people think a brain injury reduces your intelligence (it doesn’t) and it does often affect the way we socialize and communicate, we are a highly undervalued community. I think a lot of discrimination is based in myth, lack of understanding and fear. 
You’re currently working on a feature-length documentary, Who Am I To Stop It, following three artists in the Pacific Northwest with TBIs. What was the impetus behind making the film? 
 I feel like practicing art gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I was at a time when I couldn’t work because of my impairments. My life revolved around attempting to rest and going to rehab. That’s a lonely time where you spend much of your energy thinking about all the things that are wrong with you and how your main job in life is to fix them. Very black and white. And it’s very easy to become disenchanted, see yourself as little more than a mistake-making machine, and think there’s never going to be an end to all of it. In 2011, I got involved with Impetus Arts‘ “No One Wants to See the Wires,” which changed my life. I was no longer the weirdo or outcast like I had felt with my friends and family as the only one experiencing an impairment. In this group, I was one of many people with various impairments and rich life experiences that have been informed by living with those impairments. Instantly, I made friends, which blew my mind- because people with TBIs are supposed to be notorious at not being able to make friends. I was validated and appreciated. And as much as rehab was not my goal or focus, I definitely learned some excellent strategies for improving my social skills, communication skills, and organizational abilities simply by being in this arts and performance group. I kind of felt saved, not because I was “getting better” but because I was no longer feeling isolated or misunderstood. It was here that I began writing films. When it turned out that my first, very simple-hearted comedy film started up really intense dialogue about what it means to live with a brain injury, I was hooked on filmmaking. I wanted to know whether anyone else with a TBI felt saved by art. So I got to work inventing this documentary film. 
What are you hoping to accomplish with the project?
I have a few specific goals with the film. I want to highlight the reality of social isolation that too many of us are trapped in. I also want to give these artists the space to share about how their art creates a bridge to their community, to possible larger communities, and to their own sense of pride and worth. Plus, they’re artists, and they all make outstanding art. I think people should soak up their art and recognize it as art, not as rehab as it’s often dismissed as. Another thing we’re capturing is that this is a group of very funny people with wonderful senses of humor. It’s not all doom and gloom, sadness and a sense of loss. There are lots of laughs to be had. And because the brain injury community and the disability community are fairly separate, I want to make a piece that is appealing and inviting to the larger, disability community working in social justice arenas. I believe some of the brain injury documentaries out there are made in ways that would alienate disabled people who don’t have a traumatic origin to their disability. I certainly feel alienated by some of them.
How is “Who Am I To Stop It” different from other brain injury documentaries? 
First off, I aspire to make a film like “Marwencol,” where Mark Hogencamp’s personality, injury story, and day to day life unfold in the film in a slow, ponderous, careful way. The film spends significant time observing Mark instead of probing him for details to satisfy our curiosity about “the other.” What happens in most depictions of brain injury in the media is they launch in immediately with “Hello, my name is Cheryl. I had a bike wreck in 2010. I went to the ER strapped to a board with a brace around my neck….” Insert as many disgusting or painful details as possible. Proceed next to a list of deficits. By showing this over and over, it encourages people to approach us and demand personal, vulnerable details with no offer to reciprocate or to provide supports and compassion. I feel like we’re zoo exhibits. People say that these films are positive for raising brain injury awareness. But awareness should be considered the lowest goal possible, one so obvious that it never needs to be mentioned instead of the topic of a month worth of events each March.
There are several very well done documentaries that are crafted specifically to show the depth of experiences each person has from a range of perspectives. I like that. But you won’t hear a single story of how the people in my film got injured. Because I do not wish to fill audiences with gory details so they can feel pain vicariously. It’s too sensationalizing and overly dramatic. I want you to meet them now, years after rehab has ended, as they navigate their worlds and each pursue their own personal goals.
Where does the title of the film come from?
The title used to be a very melancholy and hackneyed sounding “The Art of Brain Injury.” I thought it was cute because it’s about art made by people with brain injury and it’s about the art of living with a brain injury. But people jumped to assuming it was an educational film, which it’s certainly not. (Not all media about life with disability has to be educational.) Also, the title really became rather boring and unrelated to the intensely interesting and dynamic people we’re filming. Art made by a person with a brain injury is still art made by a person. It’s perhaps informed by the brain injury, but not made by it. Right around the time we dropped the name, I decided I would secretly leave it up to the people being filmed to figure out the name. We went to film Kris Haas who has a lot of strong convictions about the importance of survivors inspiring one another to set powerful goals and achieve them. Part of being that inspiration to others means you must be that inspiration to yourself. Your life is happening now, and you should not be so critical of your current self that you stifle your own creativity. Kris paraphrased a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille and said “who are you to stop your own creativity? If you don’t create your art, the world will lose out for not having experienced your spark of genius.” 
I ran into the other room and scribbled “who are you to stop your own creativity?” right under some notes about zombie shows Kris had recommended a few minutes earlier. The question haunted me for weeks. At our next interview with Kris, I suggested casually “What about ‘Who Am I To Stop It’ for a film title?” All the air was sucked out of the room as everyone gasped in unison. It was settled. We would look at the creative drive and the power and agency each one of us has to explore our own creativity at any point in our lives.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about people living with brain injury?
The misconceptions can be pretty different depending on what people think they know about you. If they think you had a severe TBI with a coma and you are now out in the working world and/or have no physical injuries, most people see you as a walking miracle who can accomplish anything you set your mind to and don’t ever need accommodations or have to deal with social realities like poverty, discrimination, isolation, or depression. But if you can’t work or you live with significant impairments that others can readily observe, they think you’re stuck in a static, impaired state. This group of people is often described as being like adult-sized children. And people really set the bar low on survivors’ ability and right to be proud of themselves, to contribute to society, to have a sense of humor or compassion for others. If they think you had a mild TBI, most people see you as either “a psych case,” a faker, or a whiner if you have any impairments lasting beyond 3 weeks to 3 months. They think you can and should be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to and don’t ever need accommodations or have to deal with social realities like poverty, discrimination, isolation, or depression. 
In general, the perception is that anything that’s not working for a person with a brain injury is because of the person or their brain injury. There isn’t emphasis on the institutional ways that people with cognitive or social communication impairments are discriminated against constantly in large and small ways. If our accommodations needs are unusual, people too often don’t want to put out the effort to meet them but prefer to leave us and say we were just too annoying to be around. There’s almost never enough rehab or enough peer-based support. Or if you don’t want those things, you’re seen as being stubborn or not aware of the extent of your own impairments. Supports such as SSDI, SSI, SNAP, and others are extremely difficult for someone with a brain injury to get. Applications are not accessible, and the level of follow through and follow up is often too hard to understand or manage on one’s own. But there is no accounting for that. So when one of us is in poverty or becomes houseless or goes to jail or the psych ward, it is entirely our individual fault. I don’t see an examination of how the inaccessibility of society plays a role in the extreme number of us who are dropped or incarcerated, especially when you are looking at individuals who are in an ethnic or racial minority, a sexual minority, or who have been in poverty a long time.
In addition to the film, you recently wrote a fantastic essay for the Criptiques anthology about brain injury culture versus disability/crip culture. What do you see as the biggest cultural differences? 
The biggest difference between brain injury culture and crip culture that I observe is that people with brain injury love to tell how we got injured and want everyone to hear about it and ask about it. Crip culture looks at disability or impairment as experiences that can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a list of details or a short, gory tale. Likewise, crips don’t usually like to encourage people to seek details of how they ended up in whatever state people perceive them to be in. It’s so dehumanizing when strangers demand these details, and they do all the time. It’s like having an observable impairments makes you less human, less deserving of privacy and dignity, and just the bearer of a weird or yucky story. Yet because brain injury so often brings people to a near death experience–and some people do die and are revived–there is this amazing amount of curiosity around it and a desire to share with the world what odds you overcame to get where you are. In the crip community, the notion of “overcoming” your disability is so insulting. It implies that the best disabled person is the one who appears the least disabled, the one who either recovered or can hide what’s going on for them. In the brain injury community, the emphasis is on the individual to recover at any cost because there’s a belief that to be a great person again, you have to re-become your old self. In crip culture, the emphasis is on a shared experience of this world of people with and without impairments and how many things and attitudes in society actually are what disable a person, not their impairment. There’s more pride in crip culture for being who you are exactly how you are, and there’s no demand that you go to rehab or fix yourself. 
What does disability culture mean to you?
Disability culture to me means people are getting together to create thought, criticism, questions, art, literature, and community around the idea that disability or impairment are OK, and people with them are OK. It’s part of life, always has been, always will be. After all, disability–whether you’re born with it, develop it, or acquire it–is a natural occurrence for people and animals. Likewise, it’s all culturally defined, not indisputable fact. Where the actual disability comes in is in a world that says “No, that thing you have going on isn’t good enough or healthy enough.” I question why the model of what is “normal” and what is a “deficit” is as rigid as it is and why so many people buy into it so easily. Disability culture is saying back, “No, we get to define who we are, not a medical provider who has no personal experiences with the impairments I have. Not a medical provider who reads my chart and automatically sees me as a list of problems to fix.” Disability culture does not bright-side everything and say that disabled people are enlightened and perfect, and non-disabled people aren’t. We’re not using that binary or any other binary. If we did, we’d be acting out the same tactics that are acted out on us. And I also appreciate disability culture for its emphasis on the way that different parts of our identity interact with each other such as ethnicity, home culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and any other aspect of yourself that you can think of, whether it has a name or not. I like that. That attitude appreciates what well-rounded, complex, complete people we are as people with a variety of experiences around disability or impairment.

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Get included in a yearly listing of performances

Did you take a bow in 2013? Where’s Lulu friend and confidante Louise Hickman sent us this note about a yearly listing of performances you can be a part of (think dance, poetry, theater, but also translation and disability studies). They’re looking to add more disability-related performances to the next one. The deadline is January 15.

Dear all,index2012-cover

I have been kindly invited by the Emergency INDEX team, a group of collaborators working to index performances on an annual basis, to expand the presence of disability and related themes into the Index’s repertoire of documented performances. As a contributing editor for this upcoming edition, I am working towards increasing the visibility of artworks produced both by disabled artists and works that are generated around themes of disability within this particular anthology.

I own both the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Emergency Index anthologies – it is an impressive compendium of works. I greatly encourage members of all communities to submit to the upcoming edition. Please share this opportunity widely to ensure that the Index represents a diverse range of work. Please feel free to contact me for further information for this exciting opportunity.

Please note that the deadline for submissions of performance work closes on January 15th, 2014. Share widely and apply today! Further information is stated below:

Emergency INDEX is an annual 500+ page volume documenting hundreds of performance works from all over the world and from genres as diverse as dance, game studies, visual art, music, poetry, activism, advertising, medical and scientific research, philosophy, theater, translation, therapy, data visualization, disability studies, community art and many more.  Every year, Emergency INDEX invites authors (artists, researchers, advertisers, activists, etc.) to document performances they made in the previous year, and asks them to document the work in their own words. By including performances regardless of their country of origin, their genre, aims, or popularity, INDEX is the only print publication of its kind, revealing a breathtaking variety of practices used in performance as it actually exists today. Submissions are now open for the third volume, documenting works made in 2013. Look at the website for examples from previous volumes and for information on how to submit: www.emergencyindex.com. The deadline is January 15th, 2014. We especially welcome submissions from genres outside performance art and theater/dance.


Sins Invalid Crip Soiree and Speakeasy


Sins Invalid is a “disability justice based performance project that celebrates the power of disability, embodiment & sexuality to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities.” But you probably already knew that. The revolutionary Sins has been receiving plenty of accolades and press coverage recently as they prepare for their Crip Soiree & Speakeasy on October 11 and 12 in Oakland. Sins is well-known for their thought-provoking, radical, multidisciplinary performances centering disabled artists of color, queer and gender variant artists. Due to the popularity of the visionary, sexy shows, which Sins co-founder and director Patty Berne refers to as “a praxis of disability justice,” the project wanted to get their political and cultural message across to audiences outside of the Bay area. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sins was able to document performances, behind the scenes footage and artist interviews in their eponymous, 32 minute film, which will be making its US preview next month. (If you’re lucky enough to live in Osaka, Japan you may have already seen the film when it premiered at the Kansai Queer Film Festival a couple of weeks ago, which Patty wrote about here). To celebrate the documentary, Sins Invalid is throwing a kickoff party at their Crip Soiree, featuring pre-film performances by artists Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Nomy Lamm, Maria R. Palacios, seeley quest and Leroy Moore Jr. But it’s more than just a party. “It’s a party with a program,” says film director and Sins director Patty Berne. “We wanted to do something to celebrate the film’s release. It’s been a long buildup. We started the process for developing a film in 2007 and we wanted something that was more interactive. Typically with the performances there’s not a lot of engagement between the artists and the audience -certainly there is energetically- but it’s not really where people hang out with the artists. So we wanted something where people could mingle, so the idea is a crip soiree and speakeasy because we want to introduce some of the people in the film and really highlight the film itself.”

You can find out more information on the Crip Soiree facebook page and purchase tickets to the event here. As Sins writes, the film “promises to be a paradigm shifting experience as it reveals crip eroticism at its finest.” What more do you want?

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Lavaun Heaster: From Waking Dreams to Vibrant Art


Disabled Portland artist Lavaun Heaster has just launched a Kickstarter for her fabulous 2014 calendar! Lavaun is well-known for her vibrant, accessible art pieces celebrating diverse cultures and centering marginalized communities. Having limited vision and finding blind and low vision persons excluded in the art world, Lavaun began experimenting with various textures in her pieces. Eventually she realized that papercuts as a medium worked exceptionally well, allowing for an alternative approach to experiencing her artwork. “Even if a low or no vision individual never touches one of my papercuts, I want others to think about the fact that what is traditionally seen as a visual experience can be accessible by creating tactile work,” she says. Lavaun often highlights people with disabilities in her art, as seen in her piece “Blooms,” which illuminates the beauty possible in living with impairment. The image “came from this notion I had about showing a wheelchair as a nest/home/support for a living growing thing of beauty. I wanted to do something and saw this flower growing from the seat in a garden. I had also being thinking about using white canes as structural support in a piece and Blooms was born.” The artist draws on many different influences as well as intuition, noting she’s “inspired by the invisible stories of being multi-ethnic, a person with a disability, loving someone of the same sex, being trans* and people of differences coming together. I have learned to wait for a vision to come which then leads the work and the feel of the paper influences the piece.”

You can check out her calendar Kickstarter project here!

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Criptiques in the media

Criptiques-300x207I did a short interview with the wonderful Bitch Media yesterday all about Criptiques. It was a nice opportunity to give more background on the project, brag a bit about our contributors, and emphasize why this project is so necessary. Here’s a snippet:

Why should nondisabled people get behind Criptiques?
There’s a million reasons. First off, the book is really interesting, regardless of your disability status—you don’t have to be disabled to read this or support it. I really want nondisabled people to read it because they need to! There’s so many misconceptions about disability—people who have never experienced it or don’t have any disabled friends or family tend to find the reality/normalcy of our lives pretty shocking. And a lot of people have failed to connect the dots that disabled people are an oppressed, social group. They have no idea how deeply entrenched ableism is in our culture. And this extends to activist and feminist circles. So I think Criptiques goes a long way in helping to make that reality visible for people, because the writers are speaking from their own experiences. They can give you that perspective that is so often ignored. Just like how I expect allies to educate themselves on racism, sexism, queerphobia, transphobia, etc., I also expect nondisabled alliles to educate themselves on ableism and issues affecting people with disabilities and recognize how these oppressions are interconnected. And a fun method of doing that is by supporting this book.

Read the rest here!


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