an artist collaborative


Global Disability Studies

 Only recently has interesting work on disability ventured to engage with the context of globalism or develop projects that in any meaningful way are transnational in focus. Disabled people constitute the world's largest minority. Approximately 650 million people (10 percent of the world's population), have a disability. Thus it is important to examine how global exchanges and movements require a reframing of our understandings of disability. Discourses of disability such as as the medical model or social model, can help us to understand disability globally, but they also may need to be challenged to more fully include the varied experiences of people around the world. When 80 percent of disabled people live in developing countries, many in poverty, it seems essential to reframe what has largely been a Western understanding of what it means to be disabled. What are the shared experiences of disabled people around the globe? Are these shared experiences enough to claim some sort of global disability "culture"? 

Yelling Clinic will explore these questions, but will also make them more specific by focusing on war. How does the shared experience of war, affect this potential "culture" and the identities of individuals who are disabled? What are the shared experiences of those who have become disabled in combat? What of those who become disabled as civilians? And what about those who's bodies are affected generations after a war has ended? Despite global differences, one point of commonality between these people, seems to be through the way they are represented. War "victims" are used as symbols of tragedy, remembrance, and patriotism. They are also often used as warnings against war, such as when shocking images of' "deformed" babies are used in protests, or when victims of Agent Orange are described as monsters or horrors. How can we learn from these people's experiences and be critical of what happened to them, while also seeing them as individuals who are more than symbols? Indeed, individual's who may want to have pride in their bodies? Yelling Clinic wants to examine these complicated intersections between disability studies and war. 



Yelling Clinic does not wish to explore these things only through anthropological research and fieldwork, but instead wants to examine these issues through a mutual sharing and creative expression. Yelling Clinic is itself made up of individuals who have direct experience with disability and war, thus as a collective Yelling Clinic embodies the disability rights slogan "nothing about us without us." Yelling Clinic is not made up of able-bodied journalists and photographers, who document disability, but who have not experienced it. How will the conversations between Yelling Clinic and the people we visit around the globe, differ from the classic model of journalism? Will a conversation between two disabled people allow for a more nuanced exploration of experience? Could it potentially allow for a certain healing that comes from finding pride in a community? 

Yelling Clinic is an art collective. Its four initial members are professional working artists in the fields of painting, drawing, ceramics, and film. Yelling Clinic's approach will take from such movements as relational aesthetics and social practice in art. Through a myriad of mediums and strategies, including public art, performance, project-based community practice, urban interventions, and much more, art through social practice is about mutual exchange, interaction, and participation. The name Yelling Clinic, plays off of the idea that anything to do with disability should automatically be put into a medical framework. It also references the sometimes trite expression that art is healing. Yelling Clinic acknowledges the deep benefits art making can have on personal and political struggle, but feels that often when this healing has been explored with disabled people it has taken on a patronizing quality. The world's disabled population does not only need crayons and hospitals, they need a political voice and varied, mature creative outlets. Yelling Clinic sees art making as a way to mutually engage people who are often spoken about, but rarely to. Being able to yell, is being able to have a voice, and what's more, a voice that is not passive. Through art making and exchanging Yelling Clinic wants to reframe what it means to be both disabled and a victim of war.


One might wonder why Yelling Clinic wants their first project to be centered around a war that ended decades ago. Why focus on Agent Orange when such dangerous toxins as perchlorate and depleted uranium are currently being used in wars all over the world? Yelling Clinic has chosen Vietnam as the site for their first project, specifically because of the decades that have gone by since the spraying of Agent Orange. Agent Orange shows that persistent chemical warfare agents can have devastating affects on the environment and on people long after a war has ended. Agent Orange is one of the only war chemicals to have entered into the American public's imagination -it has become a notorious symbol of the horrors of war. Along with entering into the American lexicon, the term Agent Orange has become a cultural signifier. Yelling Clinic wants to work in Vietnam because the problem of Agent Orange goes beyond its symbolic meaning. Agent Orange is still an urgent problem more than forty years later. Yelling Clinic hopes that through exposing and exploring history, new ways of perceiving our worlds current war's and use of chemical weapons may be achieved. 

In February, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, dismissed a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Vietnamese nationals, including former North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, against a group of American chemical companies for their role in producing Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The US courts have repeatedly impeded suits by the veterans on both sides of the conflict. This situation has galvanized the political terrain of Vietnam. In light of this, Yelling Clinic believes it is appropriate to bring a disability studies perspective to the social problems of the three generations of survivors of military pollution with special focus on the genetic/reproductive effects on mothers and children.  We have made contact with the Vietnam Friendship Village Project outside of Hanoi, started by American and Vietnamese veterans.  Our proposal is to work with the residents there in drawing/painting and ceramic projects in January, 2010.  We hope to supply the communities we visit with art supplies that will last well beyond our three week visit.