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March NDACA blog / 29 March 2016

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” M.C Escher

Since early this year I’ve spent most of my time working on or thinking about the NDACA catalogue. I’ve been working on the best ways to define and describe artists and their work, studying the high-quality digital images that are our preservation masters and marvelling at the sheer range and quantity of artwork and experiences that need to be described. Some of this cataloguing work is bound by convention; the words and categories and structures that cataloguing standards necessarily impose on my work. Some is limited by the physical ability of NDACA to allow space and weight to each story.

Both concerns lead back the same conclusion: that NDACA will never be a description of a Disability Arts Movement story that is in the past, a closed book, and an artistic project that is finished. Rather, it can only be a guiding signpost on the ongoing journey of the Disability Arts Movement and the artists it encompasses.

Since the start of the project, new artists, new stories and new discoveries continue to surprise the NDACA team. Some are moments, big and small, that we never expected to be able to show. The Ian Stanton collection details a life spent making campaigning music. It contains images of Alan Holdsworth/Johnny Crescendo and Ian performing at a “Piss on Pity” concert fronted by an exceedingly retro and suitably altered Spastics Society collection box and, most entertainingly, a 2nd prize certificate awarded in a holiday camp talent show. Other discoveries provide new insights: posters retrieved from Holton Lee document the defining events of both the UK DAM and its European and International mirror.

Some, like the exquisite ink drawings of Steve Cribb, overwhelm with their range. His archive encompasses political and satirical cartoons, Christmas cards, landscapes, a surrealist chest set and flyers for the innumerable parties he liked to throw. All are building a narrative that helps unite and bring to life many lifetimes and voices by taking art and artefacts from boxes, attics and sometimes forgotten corners to be seen and appreciated by new audiences.

As NDACA has gained critical mass new artists are coming forward and new discoveries being made on an almost weekly basis. When the social media project to build the catalogue’s controlled vocabulary via user suggestion commences later this year I’m hoping that it will unlock treasures as yet unknown. We hope to see the DaDaFest-commissioned board game that can only be won if the player is disabled; to uncover images of defining events like Block Telethon; and, through supporting the next generation of disabled artists, to insure that the story of the Disability Arts Movement is never finished, even if my catalogue has to be. 

You can keep up to date with the progress of NDACA by following the regular blogs on Shape and the NDACA website.