Friday, October 13, 2006



This guy is amazing. Sometimes I really hate videos or documentaries about people with disabilities because they can give people the impression that every guy born without arms could drive a car if he just applied himself, for example. However, this trailer struck me quite differently. Bill Shannon is truly an artist and I enjoyed watching him because of how his crutches aren't "about" his disability to me. To me, they seem more like paintbrushes he uses to add art to his every day life. Anyway, this is worth taking a look at, I think.

I just visited Shannon's website called "WhatIsWhat" and reading it is even more amazing than watching his performance. There was one part in particular that really intrigued me. He talks about how people without disabilities can be quick to label any integration of an artist's condition (i.e. disability) as "exploitation of the condition".

The Condition Arriving also could be applied to a disabled stage performer with an obvious condition. The disabled performer performs and the act is perceived as performing the condition, not as the performer performing. For example a man on crutches dances and a critic writes that he has turned his condition into a means of making a spectacle of himself. The critic gives credit for the spectacle to the exploitation of the condition rather than the expression of the performer's imagination in relation to all aspects of the performance.

The combination of theory, commentary and short clips of his "performances" make for a very compelling presentation.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the great link. My kids both have some mild disabilities. I had to learn, as a mom, how to parent two children that the world would call different. I love to see someone take society's assumptions and turn them on their end. It is wonderful to see an artist take his situation, whatever it may be, and make beauty.

I thought about you the other day because our NO neighbors have been working so hard here to bring their folks home. It is so hard for them to be away from home for so long, but it is also hard for them to get the help they need to go home.

I hope all is well with you and your family.

brownfemipower said...

this is freaking amazing bint--absolutly AMAZING. you're right, his crutches are art--he is doing some amazing boundry challenging a fellow artist, i'm inspired.

Anonymous said...

Stereotypes are part of human psychology, and while they are sometimes dangerous, they are also vital for helping people know how to deal with certain situations. If you could not label, every time we were met with a situation we would not know how to react - this ability is part of human evolution. If you get bitten by a snake once, next time you see something slither on the ground you will be extra careful drawing on what you have learnt in the past.

This guy is not really disabled if he can skateboard. The crutches are not supporting him on the skateboard but pushing him along. He has fantastic skills, but really has nothing to do with the mobility impaired. Most disabled people could only dream of doing what he is doing.

Good video though, loved the break-dancing! :)

bint alshamsa said...

Hello Steven!

I agree with everything that you wrote. Stereotyping is a helpful tool if used correctly. Unfortunately, most people do not use them properly (logically). They can help one avoid very uncomfortable or, as in your snake example, dangerous(!) situations. The trouble comes when people start to believe that their prior experiences actually prove something about the other objects or individuals involved in the stereotype. While it makes sense to be really careful the next time you see a snake, having been bitten once doesn't mean that this snake would definitely behave in the way that the other one did.

I also do not believe that Shannon is disabled. I believe it is one's environment that can make certain states disabling. Given the right tools, many people labled "disabled" can function rather well.

What you wrote about "most disabled people could only dream of doing what he is doing" makes the point that I unsuccessfully tried to get across. It's also the reason why I included that quote from his website. Shannon isn't some "model cripple". He's an artist and his crutches are his tools.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope you'll come back again soon. I love intelligent conversations.