As an artist shielding throughout lockdown, my practice has been built upon adapting and rebuilding within a disabling world. The restrictions many able-bodied artists have now experienced echoes one of familiarity that myself and many others living with impairments have faced throughout their lives and careers.
This summer, I had planned to deliver a photography workshop called Scope to a group of people living with long-term conditions. I have delivered this project before in community settings; through weekly classes I aim to teach people the power in their perspective while passing on my own positive experience of creating through photography. Living with impairments can sometimes revolve around being within the same environment for long periods of time which can create a negative association within spaces. In light of the pandemic, this echoes more strongly than ever. The digital camera is an accessible, immediate and powerful tool which enables the familiar to be turned into the new and perspectives reclaimed.
Due to lockdown, I brought Scope online for the first time. This was a welcome transition into a more accessible and affordable way of educating. As artists and institutes began to do the same – adapting work to online channels due to the restrictions of lockdown – I started to notice the lack of acknowledgement and awareness towards those living with impairments and shielding. Far too often those living with illness have been excluded from history and society or their experiences documented through the eyes and minds of an able-bodied perspective. The work produced during Scope will be made into an online exhibition and a printed collection will be dispersed throughout institutes and communities. It is vital that disabled perspectives are valued and part of our society and its history.
For the first time, education and employment has become more accessible within the arts. It has often felt like an alienating and inconvenient act to ask for adaptations (working from home, virtual meetings, online exhibitions) to combat factors that placed me at a disadvantage for engagement and employment. We must recognise it as a failing that virtual accessibility was not implemented sooner and that access to the internet is a basic necessity not a luxury. As industries integrate their courses, communities and colleagues online, we create a more adaptable and inclusive industry.
This progression allows some equal footing for those living with impairments; providing them with evidence and empathy to enforce a more sustainable life. Many have been excluded from education and employment due to the demand of daily travel and in-person attendance which isn't always necessary and places those with hurdles (child care, transport, health etc) within a society which forces them to sacrifice stability rather than enforce it.
I hope this is a time in which we can reconstruct a fractured system into one of inclusivity and adaptability. In order for change to be evoked, more doors must be opened and space made for those who have experienced prejudice and discrimination. The arts have the capability and a responsibility to be at the forefront of dismantling our old normal into one of a new expectancy.
Louise Mclachlan is an Edinburgh based artist working predominantly with digital photography. Finding it the most ideal tool to create Mclachlan draws inspiration from many mediums including painting, performance, sculpture and cinema.
This article is part of a series from the Fleming Collection in discussion with the Scottish art scene to find out how the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has impacted programmes and practices, and how it might reshape the art scene in the future. For more, read words from Jacqueline Donachie, Vivian Ross-Smith, Scottish Sculpture Workship, Hanna Tuulikki, Kate Gray on Collective and Tina Fiske on CAMPLE LINE.