lunes, 16 de julio de 2018

lutte collective, by and for disabled and chronically ill artists

Hayley Cranberry and her dog Greta (Dana Kim).
This is the English version of the interview with Hayley Cranberry, founder and curator at lutte collective, a space for disabled and chronically ill women and non binary artists (here's the link to the interview in Spanish).

1. As a mad woman myself, I've often felt so lonely & like nobody would understand my struggle. Coming across Lutte Collective's Instagram profile really gave me hope & a sense of community. What made you think of setting up this collective? How have people reacted to Lutte's online presence?

i’ve always been an internet person, finding different communities online with people i could befriend and relate to. the platforms continue to change, but the concept of community generally stays the same. first it was livejournal, myspace, tumblr, and now instagram is popular. i wanted to create a space that i hadn’t seen exist yet: one that was for artists like me, that also have disabilities and chronic illnesses. i felt like i kept seeing a lot of instagram communities popping up here and there, but they were mostly for “cool girls” and it often feels like having a disability isn’t “cool” or romanticized like other things on the internet are. so i wanted to make a community that was open for any woman or non-binary artist with a disability or chronic illness, no matter if they look cool or hip. i wanted it to be as inclusive as possible, as well, and i am still working on making sure that happens as our community grows.

having a sense of community online when you’re going through something that no one in your real life can relate to is incredibly healing. i had never met anyone that was similar to me, a female artist with IBD, until i started lutte. i’ve found that no one really talks about chronically shitting their pants until you talk about it first. so i started talking.

2. The collective's main focus is showcasing art by disabled + chronically ill women + non-binary artists. What role do you think creativity plays in the lives of those of us who are disabled + chronically ill? What have been the main obstacles when creating artwork that focuses on disabilities?

financing illness (kyle howard-rose, 2017).
(fabric scraps, embroidery hoop, red and black thread, blood dyed white thread.)
well, i cannot speak for everyone, because i am not the face of lutte. lutte is fat women, black women, trans women, sick women, queer women, queer femme non-binary people. so i cannot answer the role that creativity plays in their lives. i am a white cis chronically ill woman.

for myself, creativity has always been an outlet for me. i have a lot of journals from when i was very sick and it was all very new at ages 14-16, where i created words and phrases that helped me heal. i have one page in a journal that is fabric and magazine cut outs that just says DISEASE. and this helped me, because i was able to see my pain on the page. for me, art often says what i don’t know about myself yet.
and my art doesn’t necessarily focus on my disability. i only have one ongoing project right now that does. and many featured artists on lutte do not make art solely about their disability/illness. that is not required!

3. Again, Lutte focuses on women + non-binary artists. What made you choose to prioritize the artwork by those victimized by patriarchy? What role do you think disabled + chronically ill men play when it comes to disability artwork & activism?

i mostly just wanted to make this space as safe as possible. men are for sure included in the disability community as well as the disabled artists’ community. we have many male followers. i personally would rather highlight and give a platform to the voices of women and non-binary artists who are often left out of the art community in general.

standing idly in istanbul (romy cole-roth, 2018).
(oil. texta, pastel pencil, pen on aquarelle cotton sheet.)
4. I found out about Lutte Collective via the Internet, but I'd like to know whether you are also focusing on street activism, or if you plan to do so. As someone who is disabled by my mental health issues, it's sometimes hard for me to go out & attend marches or community meet ups, so I understand the essential role online communities play when it comes to disabled + chronically ill folks engaging in political activism - but I still believe it's necessary to get together with neighbours and friends to fight violence & oppression, reinforcing local resistance. What are your thoughts on this? I also believe Internet politics & activism can sometimes be too self-centred or for quick consumption & admiration, but do you think online activism is still worth it?

lutte right now is all online. in the future i’d really like to have events, but it might take some time for our following to grow a bit more.
i understand your hesitance with marches and meet ups. i am personally very fatigued and have attended some protests, but not many recently. i get overwhelmed in crowds and in NYC they are very, very overwhelming. johanna hedva wrote a piece called ‘sick woman theory,’ in mask mag that discusses activism when you can’t even get out of bed. online activism is great for that - if you have the money to donate to a cause, do that. if you have the ability to donate money from a percentage of your art, do that. call politicians and leave messages. write emails. sign petitions. there are a lot of able-bodied people in the world that can protest physically, and they should. in my opinion, one of the more radical things you can do under capitalism is “nothing” (ie, produce no capital)-- so quit your job and take care of your body.

5. I sometimes feel like us disabled + chronically ill folks keep throwing each other under the bus instead of organizing together against ableism - i.e. crazy/mentally ill folks claiming those who are phisically disabled get more attention & care from society. How do you think we can move forward from the "oppression Olympics" to community organization?

support system (carolyn lazard).
hmm, i don’t know if i agree! it seems to me like all disabled people are generally not taken care of by society unless they are wealthy and/or white (at least in the USA). really what needs to happen is that we need single-payer healthcare / medicare for all in the US, so all people can be covered and be able to take care of themselves, whether it is medical, mental illness, addiction, or anything else. until then, we have to focus on the most marginalized people: black women, (black) trans women, (black trans) disabled women.

6. In the age of "empowerment" & "representation", I often feel like we're thanking corporations & mainstream media for minimal efforts (that, in the end, they actually do for money) - instead of fighting for liberation for all, which to me implies fighting economic neoliberalism & realizing big companies don't actually benefit those who they claim to "represent" in their advertising, be it LGTBI people, women, people of color or even those of us who are disabled. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think people disabled politics are less radical now than years ago, or are things getting better?

nothing is radical when a corporation does it. unless the money from capitalism is handed directly to an organization that is using it to take direct action, it is useless in my opinion. great, we have nordstrom in rainbow and we know they support LGBTQ+ people, so now nordstrom can get more business from that community. but what are they doing for that community? nothing that i know of. basically, nothing is radical under capitalism, nothing is radical when it’s for a profit.
i don’t know if things are “getting better” or not - it’s hard for me to say. it seems there’s been a lot of articles about disability representation and mental illness representation, but the average person is still ableist and throws around the “r” word as a slur.

untitled 3 from series 'mom' (erica press, 2016).
7. In the end, I'd like to ask you about the role of caregivers when it comes to disabled + chronically ill liberation. Lots of us disabled folks need essential help from those around us not just to thrive, but also to survive - but then it's often caregivers who mistreat & even murder disabled folks. Why do you think this keeps happenning? Is there a way for disabled folks & our caregivers to bond over the difficulties & the exhaustion & keep fighting for better community care in society?

caregivers are extremely important to people who rely on them. to me, mistreatment of another human all comes back to 3 things: 1) the caregiver’s inability to receive healthcare/treatment for their own mental illness, 2) racism/homophobia/ transmisogynoir/ transmisogyny, etc. , and 3) capitalism, because they don’t feel like their wage is worth the trouble.

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