Festival Gelatina 2020

Borrowing Talila “TL” Lewis definition of “ableism”, “ableism is the systemic oppression, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination of people with disabilities. Ableism intersects with all forms of oppression including; racism, heteronormativity, classism, sexism and ageism”. Published on ablezine´s Instagram account (@ablezine). 

Bodymind: This word acknowledges the body and mind as an indivisible whole. Definition by Clay AD and Leah Clements published on Texts referenced and Glossary Terms in “A sort of ‘No’ feeling”.  Pathologized: viewed or characterized as medically or psychologically abnormal and needing to be fixed. Definition by Sins Invalid published on "SKIN, TOOTH, AND BONE: The Basis of Movement is Our People. A disability Justicer Primer” (Second Edition, 2019). 

Pathologized: viewed or characterized as medically or psychologically abnormal and needing to be fixed. Definition by Sins Invalid published on "SKIN, TOOTH, AND BONE: The Basis of Movement is Our People. A disability Justicer Primer” (Second Edition, 2019).

Crip: A politicised, intersectional understanding of and position on sickness and disability. Definition by Clay AD and Leah Clements published on Texts referenced and Glossary Terms in “A sort of ‘No’ feeling”.

Medical Industrial Complex: A for-profit industry that decides whose body must be fixed or changed, and exists at the expense of people who have been labeled as sick, disabled, or otherwise pathologized. Definition by Sins Invalid published on "SKIN, TOOTH, AND BONE: The Basis of Movement is Our People. A disability Justicer Primer” (Second Edition, 2019).

Invisible disabilities: disabilities that are not easily identifiable to the outside eye or nonmedical professional.  Definition by Sharona Franklin published on “Let's talk about disability equality 101”.

Medical apartheid: sytemic medical racial discrimination and eugenics against black folks. This can mean violence, discriminatory testing, in-access to treatments, refused access to care and inadequate research/racist research practices. Definition by Sharona Franklin published on “Let's talk about disability equality 101”.

Somatics: is an umbrella term for many methodologies and strategies of working with the body. The underlying idea with the disperate modalities is to find intentional change through embodied transformation and practice. Definition by Clay AD and Leah Clements published on “Texts referenced and Glossary Terms in “A sort of ‘No’ feeling”.

Gelatina, La Casa Encendida´s art and thinking festival, is back, this time through an online format. This third edition of the festival seeks to shine a spotlight on and question how we understand sickness, chronic illness, pain, and both personal and collective trauma, highlighting the ways in which cultural, political and social structures and impositions codify them.

The artists participating in the festival reflect on how ableism1 relates to other forms of oppression and/or give a voice to collective strategies for survival. This entails focusing on the need to bring together the body and mind2 to break with the individualisation of illness and pathologization3; emphasising the importance of tenderness, creating support networks and underlining the power of the ritual for finding meaning and rewriting and transcending the private sphere, as well as the collectivisation and politicisation of healing processes.

Therefore, one of the main themes of the festival is the shaking up of prevailing conceptions of health, productivity and ability. There is a particular focus on those conceptions which deny the experience of the individual, whereby those who are deemed ill, weak, other or inefficient are “of lesser value”, given that, under the capitalist regime, the “normal” or “correct” body is the one capable of complying with the imposed logics of work, excel and “behave”. In this sense, sickness is also a capitalist construct in which its political side is entirely disregarded, as well as the role of environmental factors, economic disparity, racial discrimination and the trauma stemming from systemic violence. In turn, this shapes a world that is based on the assertion that suffering, illness and disability are to be regarded as abnormal and erroneous, therefore marginalising those who do in fact experience such realities.

As Clay AD and Leah Clements note in their conversation “A sort of ‘No’ feeling”, this is reinforced by the logics of the ‘wellness culture’ and the widespread promotion of neoliberal ideas of self-care. These approaches encourage individualisation and isolation while playing down the relevance of external factors, therefore fostering the idea that if you work hard enough and push yourself, you will be healthy. Of course, this model means that all responsibility and blame must rest entirely upon the individual. In response to this, Clay AD and Leah Clements are interested in developing a collective language in order to resist the violence and forced individualisation of pathology, and to understand how pathologised people within crip4, queer and trans communities find ways to respond to this and interact with each other.

Many artists in the festival share their experience with pain and illness, their difficulties navigating the medical industrial complex5 and/or the relations of care and support that arise, relations which are widely ignored. JOVENDELAPERLA reflects on their first encounter with a diagnosis of disease, superimposing medical language onto their own language, and also pointing out where language is somewhat deficient. SWAN MEAT via her own poems and a mix, shares with us, among other things, her experience with chronic illness and the visceral feelings that it has sparked throughout her life and over the course of the quarantine. Sophie Hoyle, in their essay “CHRONICA: PERFORMANCE, DISABILITY AND THE COVID-19 CRISIS”, referencing a performance they carried out in collaboration with SWAN MEAT, also looks into the means they use to share their own real-life experiences of “invisible disabilities”6. They also question the use of biomedical technologies, which often simplify and reduce lived experience. Leah Clements, in her conversation with Clay AD and via her film “Collapse”, also reflects on how such experiences are articulated and how they are interpreted by medical professionals. This film brings together the voices of people who fall asleep in times of stress, anxiety or danger, and it focuses on the act of collapsing as an involuntary coping mechanism. This can also be understood as a political act, and it entails a physical way of saying “no”, albeit complicated and involuntary. Clay AD’s guided meditation, “Connecting to the ‘No’ within”, first of all invites the participant to connect with their body, facilitating an experience that is accessible also to those of us who have difficulty saying "no" in our daily existence for whatever reason (trauma, structural oppression, people pleasing, etc), and finding embodied supports for us in this process.

With the Covid-19 crisis, the huge failures of the health and economic systems, including medical apartheid7, are once again being laid bare. Of course, this situation is nothing new for ill or disabled people, many of whom are used to ableism, the difficulties of navigating the medical system, some of the care practices that are being encouraged now, and social distancing. As Leah and Clay note, in the short time since the outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, many things have come to light. All those accessibility issues that the institutions previously refused to look into, claiming they were impossible to rectify due to a lack of resources or one of many other stated reasons, have suddenly been solved by many of these institutions following the outbreak of Covid-19, in a very short period of time. This hides the truth that if they had really taken ill or disabled people into account beforehand, as well as those who have to overcome additional barriers of economic hardship or geographic location, then these deeper structural changes could have been carried out without the need for a pandemic. As bleak as this is, and despite the fact that oppressed communities are at a greater risk in the current situation, Sophie Hoyle notes how it is important to highlight what has been made possible and to build from this. While it may be true that there is nothing to guarantee that these changes will be maintained after the crisis, the fact will always remain that this did happen, and, therefore, it was (and still could be) possible.

In their conversation “Black Women For Each Other” Rebecca Bellantoni and Imani Robinson put forward the need to be tender. The need for tenderness as a practice, and as a way of being, becomes even clearer when facing difficult circumstances which involve dealing with great pain. To treat others with tenderness, you have to treat yourself with tenderness, to reflect, truly and tenderly, on what you need, how you can continue to feel cared for, and how good you are at being there for others at their time of need. They both note that when other people are not aware of what a person is going through, it can be extremely tough.

CAConrad works somatically8 to be in the present moment and to deal with trauma stored in the body, and they highlight how (soma)tic rituals helped them work through the coping mechanisms they learned and absorbed as a child, mechanisms which would take them out of the present moment in order to deal with the fact of growing up in a family of factory workers who had turned into extensions of the machines themselves. Similarly, Clay AD, as a somatic practitioner, also works with embodied experience and focuses on how trauma is transmitted over generations, and how behaviour patterns and dynamics can be passed from one family member to another, unless there is an intervention and a due healing process.

While healing can be instigated by means of different methodologies and approaches, the artists in the festival distance themselves from the conception of healing as understood within the neoliberal dynamics of compulsory able-bodiedness and the mind-body binomial. Instead, they are closer to what Johanna Hedva puts forward in their essay “Letter to a Young Doctor”,  politicised forms of healing which also point out those traumas and symptoms provoked by oppression, domination and violence. This is also about fostering methods of collective healing, ‘alternative’ and radical healing practices in order to rewrite other politics of the social body and finding ways to care for and survive in the individual body.

Another theme addressed in this festival is the ritual. For CAConrad, poetry and ritual are two ancient technologies which have helped them (and which they share in their workshops and books) confront their trauma and be in the present moment. Similarly, the drawings by nadabien seem like portals to other kinds of time and space where meaning might be found, revealing thus a wide range of different ways to be in the world. Rituals have the capacity to emphasize the present moment and they also enable the sharing of otherwise mundane experiences which were previously relegated to secrecy and/or the private sphere. Sharona Franklin works with the bioritual, which she defines as the embodiment of biopharmacology, biocitizenship and a way of revealing daily rituals. Thus, with her biorituals, she resignifies the mundanity of day-to-day medical treatment and domestic life in order to reflect on the power exerted by bureaucracies and biopharmaceutical industries over bodies like hers. Clay AD invites us to build altars to communicate with our ancestors, be they blood relatives or ones of affinity, and as we have already noted, this further reveals the inheritance and repetition of trauma. Eleni Ikoniadou, in her text “The Lament”, as well as in the sound piece with Carol Schnurrer, focusses on the act of lamenting, an extreme expression of suffering which precedes all forms of oral ritual. The ritualisation of the lament is a collectivisation of pain, in which grief and the pain of loss are not only expressed by means of sound, but it also entails the incessant exchange between the living and the dead, setting free untold stories from history. Again by using sound, Suutoo creates ceremonial performances. In their piece “Where I End You Begin”, they invite us to burn down the relics of the past, proposing a new beginning in which lungs are shared.

For La Casa Encendida, accessibility is one of their fundamental lines of work and it has been present since its beginnings. It involves a continuous journey of commitment, reflection and revision towards a more accesible environment.