We’re making this film to explore the role art plays in many people’s lives for connecting communities, bringing peace and peace of mind, engaging in work, and, in the case of our subjects, exploring their new lives after brain injury (TBI). It was important for us to make a film from within the community, and Co-Director Cheryl Green identifies as a peer with TBI.
Disability arts are gaining ground as a global movement to call attention to the valuable and high-quality art made by people with disabilities. Yet it is difficult to find art by people with brain injury within the disability art world, as disability and brain injury communities have been culturally very separate. Some people with brain injury are integrated into cross-disability projects; most only get to participate in arts programming in rehabilitation. Uniting the groups through arts can only support increased self- and group-advocacy and pride. This film will contribute to the activism and social justice work being done through the arts in disability culture by looking at artworks as cultural artifacts rather than only as therapeutic and rehabilitation exercises. As with storytelling in other disability communities, here people with brain injuries will have the opportunity to tell their own stories and to be witnessed as people, not patients. No matter how mild or severe the brain injury or its consequences, people with brain injuries are people. Artists with brain injury are artists.
Media Representation of peers with brain injury
Most media representation of people with brain injuries happens in big-budget films with non-disabled actors portraying characters with brain injury or news features and items where the primary storytellers are doctors and researchers. There is also quite a bit of press about artists with brain injuries that looks mostly at the therapeutic value of art or at the artist’s injured brain as a mysterious object to explore. Although these news pieces emphasize the creative abilities of the artist, graphic descriptions of their injuries are always included as a way to introduce the artist. By doing this, the media puts us in the role of Other, as somewhat of a circus side show figure to pay attention to for a while and then leave behind. Meanwhile, members of the brain injury community are working tirelessly to be accepted back into society and valued the same as non-disabled people who are not in recovery.
Valuing–not fixing–members of the disability community
We believe it’s possible and reasonable to expect that disabled people can be valued as much as non-disabled people and that people with brain injury have the capacity to define their own lives and identities in their own terms. Rather than focus on deficits, losses, or limitations, our film presents a well-rounded picture of people who struggle, fear, triumph, explore, and engage. They are people who have agency, drive, talent, and the right to make decisions. Along these lines, we also feel it’s possible and reasonable that people from any marginalized identity be given the space to discuss and question their circumstances and to share their narratives publicly when they want. Much of the brain injury media landscape is dominated by white people (such as myself–Cheryl) and by men. The public believes that the most interesting stories are ones where either someone has it all and loses it all, or someone miraculously returns to a fulfilling life after doctors say they will likely not even live through the night after a severe injury. Though compelling, those are not most people’s stories. And everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability status, severity of injury, class, and other identity markers, deserves the space to share their story.
It turns out we can’t interview everyone we want! If we did, we would be filming for the rest of our lives and still have no movie.
The blog exists to share art and start conversations. Guest Bloggers with disabilities give us a peek into their experiences and perspectives through blogging. We also have reviews of books and documentaries about brain injury and disability as well as discussions of how the media represents disability experiences. All posts are written by Cheryl Green unless otherwise noted. If you like something you see on the blog, hit one of the social media sharing buttons below each post! Write some comments to get the conversation going!
Contact me to contribute your art, stories, poetry, video, music, and other expressions on the blog. It will remain up and running long after the film has been made. The focus is not so much on sharing stories of how someone got their brain injury. The focus really is on art, how you view brain injury or disability, how society views brain injury or disability, and what we can do as a community to increase understanding, acceptance, and equity for folks with all disabilities from the many intersecting communities we are in.
Contributing to and using this community arts blog
StoryMinders, Eleusis Films, and “Who Am I To Stop It” are not legal services or healthcare providers and cannot provide legal/healthcare advice or legal/healthcare representation. Any information on this Site related to legal issues or healthcare is not intended as such advice and should not be used as a substitution.
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