Performing immobility / protesting immobility: The risks & rewards of public space protest performances

Hadley, Bree J. (2015) Performing immobility / protesting immobility: The risks & rewards of public space protest performances. In Hadley, Bree J. (Ed.) Performing Mobilities - PSi#21 Fluid States: Performances of Unknowing, 8-11 October 2015, University of Melbourne / RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Though there is much interest in mobilities and performing mobilities as a characteristic of modern, urban, social life today, this is not always matched by attention to immobilities, as the flipside of mobility in modern life. In this paper, I investigate public space performances designed to draw attention to precisely this counterpoint to current discourses of mobilities – performances about the socially produced immobilities many people with disabilities find a more fundamental feature of day-to-day life, the fight for mobility, and the freedom found when accommodations for alternative mobilities are made available. Although public policy is increasingly aligned with a social model of disability, which sees disability as socially constructed through systems, institutions and infrastructure deliberately designed to exclude specific bodies – stairs, curbs, queues and so forth – and although governments in the US, UK, and to a lesser degree Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth nations aim to address these inequalities, the experience of immobility is still every-present for many people. This often comes not just from pain, or from impairment, or event from lack of accommodations for alternative mobilities, but from fellow social performers’ antipathy to, appropriation of, or destruction of accommodations designed to facilitate access for a range of different bodies in public space, and thus the public sphere. The archetypal instance of this tension between the mobile, and those needing accommodations to allow mobility, is, of course, the antipathy many able bodied people feel towards the provision of disabled parking spaces. A cursory search online shows thousands of accounts of antagonism, vitriol, and even violence prompted by disputes which began when a disabled person asked an able person to exit a designated disabled parking space. For many, it seems, expecting them to pass by such parks so others can experience the mobility they take for granted is too much. In this paper, I examine a number of protest performances in public space in which activist present actions – for example, placing wheelchairs in every regular parking space in a precinct – to give bystanders, passersby and spectators, as well as antagonistic fellow social performers, a sense of what socially produced immobility feels like. I examine responses to such protest performances, and what they say about the potential social, political and ethical impacts of such protests, in terms of their potential to produce new attitudes to mobility, alternative mobility, and access to alternative modes of mobility.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 95144
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: Performance, Disability, Protest
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Drama Theatre and Performance Studies (190404)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Drama
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Bree Hadley
Copyright Statement: Not for Circulation
Deposited On: 26 Apr 2016 23:19
Last Modified: 01 May 2016 04:56

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