Thursday, 30 July 2020

Deaf Arts, WHY?

Interview with artistic director Paula Garfield on Deafinitely ...Recent announcements that £500m is to be handed over to the areas of the arts in the UK, to save them during COVID, but some are asking are the deaf getting any of it? and if so why?

Deaf arts output is not available to most deaf people, so they are pouring money into deaf arts for us to access and it isn't happening at all.  It is just the favoured few in the cities doing ok and thanks very much.  

I'd want to know why all this investment is not enhancing deaf people's appreciation of the arts?  or being made accessible to them?  Perhaps if they weren't subsidised and had to rely on a paying audience they would do what they are supposed to be doing.  One suspects the primary audience make up is pals, care support, families, and those with a vested interest.

Most deaf aren't caring about signed arts anyway because they can access mainstream with subtitles, so I am wondering why it is being funded at all.  Given a  choice between some obscure and poor copy of hearing output in sign, or watching Coronation Street etc on mainstream TV,  which would most deaf choose?  It won't be a signed program without titles, will it? Or one you have to commute 50 miles away to see and pay for.  The claim of poor access to lip-readers and text users alike is fobbed off with claims of culture, but that isn't what the majority of funding is provided for. 

Is it not a false image of 'Deaf' arts to simply sign something HEARING created? all it is, is a BSL translation and often with no text access either.  You could go watch the actual hearing thing with a terp and the claim one terp can replace a full cast on stage is ridiculous. 

Are deaf pimping hearing talent?  The only deaf worth watching are those who we can see included in the mainstream output, they have managed to include themselves, albeit a lot still believe a lecture on 'deaf do this and Deaf do that' is necessary when the reality is it makes us look like whiners. We want to watch acting not listen to a focus group blurb. Let's face it there is no fame or fortune in minority output there never will be by default.   Being a legend in your own bathtime isn't what any artist wants.  Art is also subjective which means there is no 'across the board' demand for it.  

Artists, are also claiming the maximum amount of disability and A2W support allowances to work in their chosen field, (Up to £700-£800 per week maximum for signed support alone),  so the investment in deaf arts does seem out of proportion to its value to us as deaf people, or even art made to promote culture as few really see it, access it,  or understand it.  You wonder how long the culture thing is going to excuse this waste?

It's debatable if free funded BSL programs on TV or Online are valid, or even watched, no problemo! its cultural output if one watches them all that's validation.  This is where 'cultural arts' and investment is going.  It does seem a great FOR the artists themselves, but the underlying value has to be questioned, as does the actual content of their work.  

One piece of output a few years ago was 4 deaf Yorkshiremen, but this was a deaf rip-off of Monty Python, and the punch line was quite poor.  There is little desire to appeal TO deaf people, just deaf artists doing their own thing, nice work if you can do that most of us can't.  There should be ongoing and free online coverage as well outside a city centre, not just an ad on a BSL program, nobody else is going to see it. BSLTV output is minority viewing by the BSL minority itself.

It's not providing impetus to stretch deaf artists at all. In part, pigeon-holing them to minority output forever.  Little output seems designed to foster inclusion at all.  Being lumped in with disabled isn't recognising culture either, just recognising they are DEAF. Deaf signed art isn't viable for 10m hard of hearing who I am sure would welcome a few million quid to put their side of it too. Just get deaf artists to communicate better in the mainstream then we can see inclusion on the screens and stage etc and not because of 'disability' funding.  

Sport e.g. is all about INclusion, deaf art is about EXclusivity and emperor's new clothes, in which any criticism gets 'You aren't deaf you don't understand', we won't if you don't provide access for sure! and which 'deaf'; are you talking about?  Surely art is supposed to be inclusive? or 'This is our culture' (Nope its YOUR view of it), or even discrimination responses when those excuses fail.  A lot use culture as an excuse to prolong non-inclusion because they cannot include themselves.  COVID exploded a lot of those myths.

Time they stopped being obsessive about hands too, deaf are more than that. Some deaf artists are a bit snobbish about the fact too which is all rather silly.  I was amazed they already have a 'luvvie' set up.  I'd not like to think money is driving all this cultural hoo ha but...  Have they tried being topical?  that might work.


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