Animate explores the rich history of Disability Arts through talks and workshops. Colin Hambrook asked visual artist Noemi Lakmaier about her plans for the second of these talks at Shape, London on 8 February 2010.
"I am happy for my work to be talked about in a disability context as long it’s understood that it comes out of a broader context. When I was asked to take part in Animate, I had to think about my position in the debate about disability arts.
I don’t see myself as a disability artist per se, not because there aren’t impairment issues within what I do, but my work addresses a range of concerns that are significant to us as people.
I don’t want to put an emphasis on the disability aspect, at the expense of all the other aspects of ‘identity’.
I think Animate is attempting to reflect the progress that’s taken place in the last 10 years or so. Disabled people are getting Art into the public domain that isn’t purely focused on experience of disability.
For Animate, I intend to talk through the development of my practice over the last seven years culminating in my last major performance installation ‘We are for you because we are against them,’ which I will be showing at Shape in video form.
The work came out of a residency with the Fire Station Artist Studios in partnership with Arts and Disability Ireland. I developed the work in The LAB, a Dublin City Council gallery and rehearsal studio which is used for emerging artists.
The gallery is situated in a deprived area in the north of the inner city. There is a lot of talk about the divide between the rich and the poor in Dublin – especially since the economic downturn. The south side of the city has benefited from development during the boom years, but the north has been hardest hit by the depression.
‘We are for you because we are against them’ invited the public to take on the role of voyeur and observe an elaborately staged dinner party. Eight volunteer diners participated in a public gesture which combined elements of the uncanny and absurd.
The performance installation encapsulated something about the issues the city is facing. A lot of the youth from the local area, who are normally seen as disruptive, looked on - and were absorbed by the performance.
An invited audience watched from a second gallery space, whilst the youth in the street were denied access to the gallery, because they were known as troublemakers. I was uncomfortable about the fact that they were not allowed to engage with Art at the heart of their community. The piece could have been used to have a positive impact on local youth in challenging stereotypes by encouraging their engagement.
From what I observed, the performance arts community in Dublin is the strongest aspect of the visual arts in the city, at this time. I had some interesting debate about the role of ‘We are for you because we are against them’ as performance and installation, as well as the intention behind it, to encourage interaction with the general public.
It is designed to be watched either in part, or from beginning to end. The audience could drop into the work at any time and would see something different.
I’ve used myself in my artwork increasingly over the last few years – so it was a considerable development to include other people as part of the installation. I’m currently in discussions with to repeat the work in Belfast.
Working in video is new to me so with Animate I’m interested in seeing peoples’ responses and comparing peoples’ reactions to a new way of working."
Visit Noemi Lakmaier's website for more information about her work.