a large church with hundreds of balloons holding Noemi Lakmaier up.
Unlimited commission ‘Cherophobia’ by Noemi Lakmaier at Sydney Opera House; image c. Prudence Upton

Unlimited: The Symposium – Choosing a Topic for the Art Session

Unlimited is hosting a symposium on 4 and 5 September 2018 at the Unicorn Theatre, London to discuss the key issues, challenges and opportunities in and surrounding disability-led arts in the 21st century, which will lead into Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival (running from 5 to 9 September). The Symposium will be broken down into four sections – ‘Art’, ‘Equality’, ‘Attitude’, and ‘Future’ – and today we’re asking for your votes on what exactly the ‘Art’ section will focus on…

As you may know, Unlimited is running voting polls to work out what should be discussed at the Symposium we are delivering later this year.

Having called out for subject suggestions, we’ve sorted those received under four separate headings which will make up the Symposium’s ‘sessions’, and now it’s time to vote on which subject will form each session’s key focus.

This week it’s all about ‘Art’, the first session and the very reason Unlimited exists – to support ambitious, creative projects by outstanding disabled artists and companies. When we say ‘art’ we mean all art forms, all genres, all roles, so have a read of the suggested subjects, have a think, make up your mind and then head over to our Twitter profile to cast your vote!

Unlimited thinks that artists should make choices, both of work and how they and that work is described. The only thing we insist on is that the work we support is disability-led – meaning that it is creatively led by disabled artists, and we know that can happen in a wide variety of ways.

So what do you think we should discuss – the ‘mainstream’? Politics and activism? The role of both the critic and critique? Access, as an aesthetic element, a choice or a non-negotiable? The choice is yours…

Art (poll opens 5 February and closes 9 February – extended until 10 February due to popularity)

  1. How can disabled artists change the ‘mainstream’ arts sector?

Can disabled artists change the ‘mainstream’ from within, or does it end up changing us and our work? Are disabled artists supported to make art of quality and ambition and artistic innovation within the mainstream, or only in specialist disability specific settings? Is the UK’s ‘Creative Case for Diversity’ working? Want to talk about this? Then vote for ‘Disability & mainstream’

  1. Are disability politics, activism and culture becoming weaker?

With global growing austerity, cuts and abuses, should more disabled artists become political? Should the art? Is inclusion in the mainstream watering down the politics of activism? Should funding bodies prioritise arts activism and political artwork? Want to talk about this? Then vote for ‘Disability arts activism’

  1. How can disabled artists be critiqued equally?

Is the art of disabled artists still placed in a ‘ghetto’ and ignored? Do critics focus on disability rather than art? Is there enough academic rigour around the work of disabled artists? Want to talk about this? Then vote for ‘Is there equal critique?’

  1. Should everything be accessible to everyone?

Audio Description, embedded sign language and more – access solutions can be integral and part of an arts aesthetic, but what if artists prioritise access for some not all? Are all art forms equally involved in delivering access? Want to talk about this? Then vote for ‘Full access to everything’

Each topic has a number of angles and so we recommend thinking widely. Got an opinion? Want to suggest background reading, artists or projects that fit with any of these topics? Then tell us on Twitter using the hashtag #unltdsymposium.

Next week, we’ll be taking votes on which subject should form the key topic for the ‘Equality’ session, followed by ‘Attitude’ in the following week, and then ‘Future’ in the final week, so check back here for each one!

Don’t feel too put out if your topic isn’t the one that wins at the end of the week – we hope to have vigorous debate over the next couple of years on all these vital subjects. If you fancy hosting a discussion on one of those topics that doesn’t make it onto the symposium programme then do let us know!

And the winning topic that will be discussed at the Symposium is ‘Disability and Mainstream”. Many thanks to all the people who voted!