Discreantes – Mexico
An alternative way of assuming precariousness
Several disabled professional artists convened in Mexico City in July 2018 at the invitation of 17, Instituto de Estudios Críticos. At this initial meeting we decided to call ourselves “Discreantes,” a collective whose current members include Maricarmen Graue, a blind cellist, Edgar Lacolz, a writer in a wheelchair, and Pedro Miranda, a blind visual artist.
The following year we decided to join forces and pool ideas to develop an ambitious, multidisciplinary project awarded by Programa de Apoyo a la Producción e Investigación en Arte, Medios y Discapacidad (PAPIAM 2019), supported by the British Council Mexico and Centro Nacional de las Artes (CENART). PAPIAM is a grant for projects by disabled or non-disabled artists linking art and multimedia in different creative fields: music, visual arts, literature, cinema, and performance. We set out to bring together our experience in producing socially engaged work as independent and established Mexican artists.
Our project, called Metodología alternativa para asumir la precariedad (A Different Way of Overcoming Precariousness) is a documentary that exposes precarious situations faced by disabled artists on a daily basis. As we raised questions such as “What is at stake for disabled artists working in precarious situations?”, “What tools must disabled artists use, invent or adapt in order to produce art while living in a state of precariousness?”, and “How does this precariousness manifest itself, and how does ‘Discreantes’ deal with it?”, we wanted to highlight individual practices and collective productions.
The idea is to show audiences how – through situations considered to be economically, physically or creatively precarious – it is possible to develop an intellectually stimulating art project, to adapt tools, and to turn things around to create a cultural product. The documentary shows that disability, similarly to precariousness, can spark creativity and cultural initiatives, or lead to new tools that make an impact on the art scene as a whole. Without downplaying the policies that put disabled people into precarious situations, we channel this precariousness into creativity and protest.
Guided by this critical reflection, in 2020, Pedro Miranda, one of the Discreantes members, invited more disabled artists to come together before the pandemic in a collective called No es Igual (It is not the same), clearly expressing the impact of precarity in our lives in a public manifesto. In this solidarity effort, this collective is a support group for its members, from producing podcast interviews to shed light on its artists, to raising funds for specific health and family matters. While the pandemic has presented a variety of difficulties in the lives of disabled artists, it has made clearer the possibility of transforming precariousness into a methodology to create and produce art.
Due to the epidemiological events that are hitting the world and specifically Mexico, artists with diverse disabilities, from various disciplines, based in different parts of the country, have gathered with a single purpose: to express ourselves with regard to the situation faced by our guild.
We have seen with alarm how many of the events scheduled for the coming months, even up to the end of the year, have been called off due to the cancellation of festivals plus cultural and artistic events, not to mention the closure of theatres, museums, and other artistic platforms. We are not emerging artists. We are a group of artists with diverse recognized trajectories in local, national, and international forums.
This has placed us in a situation of greater vulnerability: as persons with disability we are considered as a minority, and being artists – with disabilities – we are yet in another minority. This means that today we face a more severe crisis due to the events known to all owing to COVID-19.
We are at risk since many of us have compromised immune systems, and let us not forget the lack of work during this situation. Likewise, we see with dismay how vital information is denied to us at the moment due to the inaccessibility of the means by which it is transmitted. How can the Deaf listen to news updates? How can the blind see infographics? How are people with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities being informed about the pandemic and the measures being taken? What kind of information is being received by people with severe or multiple disabilities?
These reasons are enough to bring us together and make ourselves heard on social networks and other digital and analogue media so that we may receive the support we need to endure this long quarantine, and its aftermath, with dignity.
As we are confronted with this reality, we want to inform you of the risks we are facing in the current lockdown, both as disabled persons and as artists, and we request:
*The necessary support to which we are entitled, so that we can continue living our lives as citizens of this country.
*Measures to allow us to make our way through this situation, both economically and socially.
*That people with disabilities and their families be guaranteed access to information in ways that take into account their different conditions.
*Access to services that allow people with disabilities to receive necessary care as needed.
As active members of this society, we commit ourselves to:
*Collaborating in these moments of crisis through our artistic and cultural work, to the greatest extent possible using available channels.
*Pursuing the production and artistic activities we are dedicated to, to the extent that the contingency allows, and to return with greater energy when the situation stabilizes.
*Contribute to the community on the basis of our knowledge and personal experience.
We, the undersigned artists, are certain that as long as our rights as individuals and artists are guaranteed and that we have the necessary support networks, we can come out of this situation together.
Ekiwah Adler, poet
Cristian Arias, performing artist
Erika Bernal, performing artist
Maricarmen Camarena, musical artist
Luis Castro, performing artist
Edgar (Lacolz) González, writer
Maricarmen Graue, musical artist
Martín Valerio Jácome, musical artist
Pedro Miranda Gijón, visual artist
Jorge Olvera Rodríguez, visual artist
Jesús Rodríguez, performing artist
Sara Villanueva, musical artist
Shino Watabe, visual artist