17 Jan 2024

Rushton Lecture Reflections

A picture of the annual Rushton Lecture, featuring a panel of speakers and some audience members


Rushton Lecture Reflections

While city buildings lit up turquoise and yellow, the DaDa annual Edward Rushton Social Justice lecture opened a thought provoking discussion on the United Nations International Day for People with Disabilities (3rd December). Kindly hosted by our friends at the Museum of Liverpool, supported by Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council and Disability Arts Online, the lecture paid homage to Edward Rushton, the 18th/19th century Liverpool poet, activist, abolitionist and disabled man, while exploring disability rights in a modern society.

We were delighted to be joined by the incredible Ashokkumar D Mistry as our keynote speaker for the event, who explored ‘Reclaiming Nonchalance’ the value of disabled lives, exploring particularly the values of the lives of disabled children and young people, and within the arts sector. He was joined by our insightful panellists, Linzi Stauvers, Kai Syng Tan, and Sonia Boué to unpick the themes raised within his lecture.

For those who couldn’t attend, or just want to reflect back on key points raised, we wanted to offer a short summary of some of the key topics covered.

Reclaiming Nonchalance – The Value of Disabled Lives

Ashok opened the lecture by sharing a performance piece by Miss Jacquie, titled ‘Fire’, which illustrates poetically the challenges of global majority disabled artists strive to feel seen and recognised within the arts sector:

 “I never loved the smell of gasoline,

so the idea of throwing it all over me,

setting self alight just to get your attention,

isn’t appealing anymore.” Miss Jacqui, 2022

Ashok spoke of the questions that emerge from Miss Jacqui’s work - what does it mean to be a disabled artist, and a disabled artist from a global majority background? Are we as disabled artists meant to live up to the tropes of being disabled? Amongst but a few interrogative questions that opened the lecture with curiosity and care. 

What came after this was a discussion about the infrastructures that exist in London for disabled artists, making careers in the arts more possible for them. It was felt that the sector remains London centric, showing that our work as an arts organisation based in Liverpool is key to delivering support that extends that sphere northwards.

Feedback and Thanks:

We were delighted with the feedback we received from those who joined us at the lecture with us in person and online. Participants noted that the lecture ‘introduced me to new concepts and cemented others’ and that it was ‘inspiring, thought provoking and powerful’. We are committed to holding space for these important and urgent conversations about disabled lives, and look forward to hosting our annual lecture again next year. 

DaDa would like to thank the Museum of Liverpool for hosting the event, to Arts Council England, Disability Arts Online and Liverpool City Council for making this work possible. We would also like to extend our thanks to our incredible panellists and keynote speaker, Ashok Mistry, Linzi Stauvers, Sonia Boué and Kai Syng Tan, and a huge thank you to everybody that joined us in person and online. We look forward to the next which will again be held on 3rd December, so mark it in your calendar now!

If you were not able to join us, don’t worry, we will be sharing a link to watch the lecture online very soon - keep your eyes peeled.

About Ashokkumer D Mistry Keynote Speaker, Artist, Writer, Curator:

Ashokkumar Mistry is a Leicester-based, Neurodivergent multidisciplinary artist, writer, researcher, activist & curator working in the UK and internationally. Subverting technologies and ideologies, he challenges conventional ways of making & viewing art.

Mistry’s research scrutinises differences to expand our understanding of the human condition that includes impairment and disability.  His work is dialogic; encouraging interaction and debate. In an economy of inattentive distraction, his work asks us to pay close attention. By working against the insistence for consistent and reducible product, Mistry issues a challenge to cultural institutions and actively seeks to reshape expectations.

Mistry unsettles the mythology of national identity and focuses on the ways in which symbols and images are encoded and naturalised. His work often alights on the entanglement of cultural transmission and mistranslation. Archival images are embellished, remixed, edited and decontextualised to interrogate their latent ideologies.

Mistry is co-founder of the Disability in British Art (DIBA) research group within the British Art Network, has delivered lectures relating to arts and disability at UK universities, and is an associate of DASH Arts’ Future Curators Programme. Currently Mistry is a founder member of two disabled artists collectives, ONYX collective and Comrades Mistry has been commissioned to write for British Art Network, Shape Arts and Unlimited. Mistry has also been an Associate Artist with and has written extensively for Disability Arts Online and has also been a Fellow of the International Association Of Art Critics (AICA-UK). 

About our panellists:

Linzi Stauvers:

Dr. Linzi Stauvers, leading Ikon's education and public programs since 2017, spearheads initiatives like Art at HMP Grendon and the Ikon Youth Programme on Slow Boat in collaboration with Freelands Foundation. She curated Ikon’s Migrant Festival, showcasing artists responding to societal challenges, and has a rich history in gallery education spanning two decades. 

Kai Syng Tan:

Kai (she/they) is an energetic artist-academic-agitator and award-winning practitioner, honoured with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change Award and the San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Film Award. A curator of interventions up to £4.8m, Kai led impactful events globally, including the 75th Pan African Congress Celebrations. As an Associate Professor at the University of Southampton, Kai is known for trans-disciplinary research innovation, teaching in 200 universities worldwide, and currently working on three books exploring diversifying, decolonising, and neuro-queering 'leadership.' 

Sonia Boué: 

Sonia Boué, a versatile artist and autism advocate, navigates neuro-inclusive arts. With a focus on postmemory, displacement, and the domestic, she blends diverse mediums like paint, film, and performance. Engaging in inclusive arts projects and academic research, she's a driving force in the UK's neuro-inclusive art scene. Her work, rooted in family archives, explores identity and migration, exhibited globally and archived digitally by institutions like Tate Britain. As a board member and artist advocate, Boué shapes dialogues at the intersection of visual arts and activism. They are currently developing a collaborative neurodivergent practice with the artist Ashokkumar Mistry called Las Gemelas.

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