New Unlimited Trainee April Lin is taking over from Alistair Gentry. In their first blog, they share the links between their lived experiences of being Swedish-born Chinese, their mind-body (dis)connection, and their motivation to work at Unlimited.
At Unlimited, disability is not a narrow box to be ticked off, but rather myriad different ways of being, each with its own true and unique perspective. As an artist, I know first-hand the difference it makes to create within a space that genuinely and effectively prioritises an environment of care, access, and communication. I feel tremendously lucky to be training with an organisation that not only understands this, but actively seeks to make this the norm.
My mind-body has often felt characterised by a plunging divide, like if I was to stand at either end of the hyphen, I would only be able to vaguely glimpse the other side. I could pick out many moments that have inscribed themselves in my memory, flavours specific to my growing up as a second-generation Chinese gender non-conforming (then-)girl in Sweden. It’s a palette of clenched fists, quickening steps, tight throats. Most people are surprised to hear that Sweden is an incredibly racist, classist, and ableist society, considering the national branding of the country as a social democratic paradise.
For too long, my mind-body was on red alert. From the moment I left my home, I was subconsciously prepared to find an escape route, to return a dirty look, to talk back, to intervene, all at any moment’s notice. While I can appreciate that this hyper-awareness was a coping mechanism executed to protect me, it left me chronically exhausted, wary, and anxious.
Thankfully, structures of racism, classism, ableism, and gender do not have a monopoly over how my or anyone’s realities are lived, despite the best efforts of these constructs to reduce people. Trauma, whether structural, generational, or interpersonal, is not all that makes a person — even while it inevitably and intimately affects them.
Arriving at this point of certainty has taken me years, and I’ve learned many languages to help me understand the ways the external and internal dimensions of my world blur and bounce off each other. I’ve studied sociology, I’ve developed a moving image practice, and I’ve done a whole lot of emotional work — all of which are still ongoing, in each their own way. It’s a psychosomatic muscle that I practice every day, as I re-learn how to rest, how to work, how to play. Listening to my mental health needs and voicing them seems straightforward, but it’s as if my disabilities being invisible also meant that I had to learn how to see them, when many times I would rather look away.
It is against this backdrop that my desire to work at Unlimited was born. Not only does Unlimited support disabled artists, it also encourages disabled artists to be as varied, nuanced, and complex as they are, or wish to be. This year will be one of full immersion into all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into sustaining a progressive and disability-focussed, disability-led, and disability–centric force in the arts.
I’m excited for the months to come, and am certain that my mind-body will be busy processing copious amounts of knowledge, experience, and resources. I look forward to soaking these lessons up and sharing them with my collaborators and communities, as we continue to dismantle the barriers to entry for disabled people in the art world, piece by piece, project by project.