Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner, described by Katie Murphy. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely.
In this our fifth chapter, Neil Marcus shares thoughts on disability, theater, hope and embedment.
CREATIVITY, SUSTAINABILITY, DISABILITi
“You don’t have to quote me unless I say something relevant. I am just myself.”
Photograph from a talk on “Disability Culture” by Petra Kuppers: “The Olimpias” Art Collective at Portland Art Festival, May 2008
IS YOURS THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF II?
my thoughts on theater and disability
its about making sense of chaos.
its about making the spirit visible.
its about discovering all the connections and linkages that make us
human together and describing them.
disability as having a meaning in disability, has no meaning.
“it doesn’t rain disability.”
…in a Godzilla world in the location of Manhattan…Godzilla roams the city streets with huge car sized footsteps. Car alarms go off constantly. Godzilla is upset by the ruckus.
wheeee yuhhh wheeee beeep beep!! A big nuisance. irritant…bother.
in a Godzilla world, everything topples around her. towers, freeways, stores, trees. and Godzilla spits fire. ssss…
THOUGHTS OF POETIC EMBEDMENT
Hello dear friend of the petrified wasp-in-pine sap:
I heard of your search for documents or documentability.
I search for the same. Striving for clarity and new forms of expressions in my own ‘disability’ [bad word] related prose poetry/theater of life.
Personally, I like the words hypertext, subtext, metaphor link and offshoot:
where words and ideas constantly embark on spin off words and ideas and
movement shakes and dances out of every crevice of thought.
I often work off graphic images. A sign reading ACCESS TO PLANETARIUM
with appropriate stick wheelchair figure mid sentence prompts my bodythinking.
Hence pictures take us to words, ideas to explore.
“Department of English, University of Michigan” Photo by Neil Marcus
WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?
Neil Marcus66<!– (10:46:23 AM)–>: doing art……living artistically I think helps me …………………it gives me good direction
Neil Marcus66<!– (10:48:29 AM)–>: I as always fascinated by movies about prisons. how people cope?
Ester — (10:49:04 AM)–>: With?
Neil Marcus66<!– (10:51:01 AM)–>: difficult situations.. another favorite topic…………..marooned…………..
Ester– (10:52:36 AM)–>: Themes of isolation? Separateness?
Neil Marcus66<!– (10:54:22 AM)–>: yes definitely and discovering tremendous resources………….
Picture = 1000 words
Idea = staff of life
Poem = 1000 ideas
Art on the walls. Art in the trees. Art in the gaze. Art in the clay.
Art in the flesh. Art in the move. Art in the stroke.
I am doing my criptography (the painting of brush stroke simple figures that in my mind are all representations of disabled people moving) the view of the view of the view of the view of the view:
SELF SUSTAINING ACTS
to insinuate oneself onto
to insert ones self
into public discourse/sphere
appropriate popular culture
with culinary delights
sandwiches made with garden fresh tomatoes peanut butter
and homemade jam
To be spastic
to be proud
To boldly go where …
you want to go in this intrepid universe
with great enterprise
I found this road sign on the campus of the National University of Australia outside of the Chefly Library. It was lovely to run into. As far as I know, it is a one-of-a-kind artwork and/or perhaps a ‘public work of art,’ as Australia is famous for government-funded art in public spaces.
I have never seen the universal access sign in this format.
I imagine someone had walked by it one day and saw the need to humanize it a little. This was truly a revolutionary act to me. With a flower, no less.
Thoughts about the importance of road signs and getting the message right.
The flower presented here really undermines the static purely ‘functional’ representation of disability.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.”
–Replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner
We don’t always remember how glorious it is to be human…what we live
through and how we come out. It is hard to speak of such experiences
but we all do have them.
I quote Blade Runner above because I think the android’s view of life
is well articulated. I look to the outsider for commentaries on the
human life. Aliens androids prisoners: the disenfranchised.
Humans often can feel our own lives and struggles outside our numbness
if given a bit of distance/perspective. All of us have exceptional
things to express. Moments that have touched us deeply. I see access
to these memories as being our only limit.
Do we believe we are artists and philosophers?
Do our lives have meaning?
Do we have something to say?
‘Meteoric’ Neil Marcus, Sketch from Superfest Film Festival SPSU, 2016
EXAMPLE OF RELEVANCE
After the evening show, we have the Q and A with the audience and in front of 200 people, a woman asks me: “What kind of woman do you like, I mean you say you are a lover and all. I was just wondering?” I fumble A LOT and say “friendly ones” then “next question please.” Matt makes a joke saying, “what’s your phone number?” He continues, “You have such perfect timing Neil and such control. Is there anything you can tell others to help them?” I answer, “Well…to appreciate ones body no matter what it does or doesn’t do, helps.”
During the night and the next day, I think about that first question. I think about who I am, the position I’m in and what I’m doing. Part of it is FEEDBACK. It’s sustenance. I’ve created a situation. Me performing audience. Inspired dialogue. It’s a situation where no matter what I think, act or do, I cannot fail. It’s failsafe. Because I’m always out there doing my best. WOW. And I usually always get applause. What does this tell me? I’m telling you this because I think it is to be a model of physical therapy. Emotional therapy. Self help.
A dancer’s foot. My foot.
In an oral history interview of artists with disabilities, using the technology of ‘instant messaging’ I was able to articulate:
“Medusa” by Neil Marcus. Touch pad art. 2012
Neil Marcus66<!– (11:00:58 AM)–>: I’m a human bridge in a moment of time spanning as far and as relevant as my thoughts will carry me
Esther – (11:04:58 AM)–>: I’m a human bridge in a moment of time, spanning as far and as relevant as my thoughts will carry me.
MY AUTO CORRECT ON “DISABILITY”…:
“disability/ disabled”: an un quantifiable concept, immeasurable, non-poetic, medicalized word that represents no thing or no body EXCEPT as a idea in need of revolution.
The concept of “Disability” is non sustainable.
love joy art …sustainable self renewing
I listen to the waves at the seashore and watch them roll in. in and out. They never stop.
My mind wanders. I think of love. I smell the sea life air. I think of grains of sand slipping through my wet toes. I think of starry nights and streaming comets and glowing rounded moons. I think of thousands of fishes that will run with the tides at a certain season and time each year.
There are moments in my life when everything is so completely and totally understandable, all I can do is gasp in wonder and cry a special brand of joyous tear and try to tell someone all about it.
There is a postcard that I TREASURE. I found it in a postcard store in 1984. It totally says a lot of what I want to say. Maybe it says everything! !
the card stock is braille with braille dots as the postcard “scene” thats raised little “bumps”on a white background. The effect is that you are sending this postcard to someone and its so complete that at first glance…it seems like nothing is there. To a sighted person, the card seems blank. It’s all white.
Turn it over. In very small print it says ,
”I often imagine myself being here. Sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, feeling the salty air upon my face and tongue. Everything seems possible. i wish you were here”
so.. it’s not blank. The front is the poem translated into braille. Touch. speaks a language that is very real but is little known. What could be more communicative than a fingers touch.
And the artistic statement is so strong. my words don’t do it justice.
Neil Marcus is a Spastic artist and performer living in Berkeley, California, USA. His books include Special Effects: Advances in Neurology (2011), and Cripple Poetics: A Love Story (2010), and The Princess and the Dragon (a disabled fable) (unpublished). His most performed play is Storm Reading (1988).
100 million miracles [flower drum song] Dir. Gene Kelley
the mothers of invention
re evaluation counseling
Cyrano de Bergerac
body as art
idea … weaving
At age 13 I began learning co-counseling. Theories of liberation and oppression. This enriched my thinking. My world. I could live. I could give. I could love. I had a brush with which to touch-up the world. Ideas popping. I was radicalized. I had a vibrant self. I had expression. I had raves.
Filming: “disability/disabled country”
Smithsonian video by Neil Marcus/filmed and edited by Jai Jai Noire,
National Museum of American History, 1987/2014
Photo by Gary Ivanek