Idiocy. Imbecility. Moron.
These words, taken from a 1924 public education poster, were once considered labels for people with disabilities. Now the poster, together with 12 other everyday objects —including a bassinette, a shovel and 16 sweatsuits — are featured in an art exhibit at UBC Robson Square from March 9 – 21, coinciding with the Paralympic Games as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Out from Under: Disability, History, and Things to Remember weaves together commonplace items as symbols of the history of disabled people in Canada with stories of life, of death, struggle and triumph. Seeking to promote discussion about disabilities and disability history, Out from Under is presented in a partnership between UBC and Kickstart, a community organization dedicated to presenting and promoting art and artists with disabilities.
“There’s a very rich and thoughtful culture that is special to people with disabilities,” says Linde Zingaro, Chair of the Board for Kickstart and a UBC alumna. “People with disabilities have a whole lot to contribute.”
More than just an exhibit, this art installation was borne of a 2006 disabilities study seminar at Ryerson University. At UBC Robson Square, the exhibit will also feature wandering guides, educational events and Disabilities Arts leaders from B.C. The exhibit and all accompanying events are free and open to the public.
“This will be a unique educational experience,” says Janet Mee, Director of UBC’s Access & Diversity. “People will have a better understanding of the relationship between our history and the experiences of people with disabilities.”
The exhibit’s journey to Vancouver as part the Cultural Olympiad is the first of what will hopefully become a cross-country tour. No other Olympic Games have featured such an event.
“There are many, many people with disabilities who are athletes,” says Zingaro. “There are also people with disabilities who are artists.”
The exhibit presents objects and stories from across Canada and eras. Some are stories about adults with disabilities. Others are about children with disabilities. Some are first-hand experiences, whereas others are not. The result is a powerful and thought-provoking presentation that will certainly promote discussion.
And encouraging discussion, according to event organizers, is good thing.
“It’s an opportunity to begin a longer engagement with the community on the topic of disabilities,” says Mee. “It’s an opportunity for B.C. artists to tell their story.”