Our most recent International Producer Placement, Iddo Gruengard, looks back on his time with Unlimited and how the global pandemic impacted his placement.
Being awarded an International Placement with Unlimited in London during Covid-19 felt at first a bit like my disability; being paralysed, touching without feeling. Like a lucid dream, some virtual experience beyond the screen. It took time for me to let things sink in. Not being immersed in the work atmosphere, online conversations would end, and I would be back here in Tel Aviv, in a different world.
But as time passed, I became acquainted with the team, the procedures, the partners, and some of the artists. I was astonished by the amount and scope of work being accomplished by such a small team in a modest and calm atmosphere. Each team member having their own artistic vibe and territory, while Jo insists all the time on her values of openness, sharing, diversity, and risks through discussions and bullet points, building things one step at a time.
The amount of information and artistic leadership which I consumed in meetings with Southbank Centre, the partners meetings, and the quarterly sessions has been enormous and has helped me to gain a comprehensive overview of disability arts governance and curation.
Working on the online Unlimited festival at Southbank Centre, the first of its kind, has been a great challenge. Again, due to Covid-19, a tangible experience has become digital, but in most cases, it surprised us, and we were able to apprehend the benefits, especially for disability arts as accessibility is embedded. The outreach to diverse audiences and the flexibility in show times was so immensely valuable that future festivals are potentially going to be hybrid. Thus, I do believe that Unlimited’s international impact could expand.
One of my emotional peaks was the Unlimited selection panel for the Main Awards; sitting in amongst remarkable art professionals from different fields and analysing well thought out applications in order to condense them without eliminating the experimental aspect of Unlimited’s values. Finding the right mixture of applications to fund is quite a challenge and I learnt so much from the curating process done as a group. Being able to see different perspectives on each application opened me up to new ways of thinking, appreciating, and evaluating work. And yes, it even influenced me on one or two applications to change my mind.
I think the greatest insight for me was the remark made by 509 Arts Artistic Evaluation – Unlimited has ‘moved away from issue-based didactic exploration of disability into a more nuanced, demanding space that places the artist at the heart of the process.’ This for me was a jump to the next level, an understanding that disability arts and artists do not need to justify their art and disability, translate or explain it, rather experience and create freely as they are, and this will lead to a bigger sum of what disability art is. Together with the risk taking, challenging new mediums approach, this has made my voyage with Unlimited a fascinating one, in which I believe I grew and now have confidence to try to promote similar ideas and artists in Israel and beyond, as in my own art practice.