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Arts Beyond Ableism: Arts, Education and Disability Justice

On Saturday 25th November from 10-5pm, the conference Arts Beyond Ableism takes place at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. During that day, we learn how artists and teachers can contribute to unlearning ableism in arts, education and society and discuss what it means to practice an intersectional approach to access, inclusion and equity. In several presentations and parallel sessions AHK teachers and guests will share their practices with the aim to provide practitioners with strategies, ideas and practical tools for their own work and to build solidarity in the call for more inclusive arts and education. 

Arts Beyond Ableism a collaboration between ATD Lectorate and research group Arts Education of the AHK. It is part of the Thematic Collaboration Program (TCP) of the AHK.

Registration is closed.


9.30 - 10.00    Walk in     
10.00 - 11.15    Presentation Patty Berne, Sins Invalid
(English spoken, English and Dutch subtitles) 
                         Response by Noli Kat
                        (English spoken)     
11.15 - 11.45     Break     
11.45 - 12.45    Parallel session 1     
                         Access Intimacy by Mira Thompson and Carly Everaert
                         (English spoken, Dutch subtitles)     
                         Doing Neurodiversity: Wayfaring Words by Antje Nestel and Aster Arribas
                         (English spoken, workshop) 
12.45 - 13.45    Lunch     
14.00 - 15.00    Concert My Music Ability     
15.00 - 15.30    Break     
15.30 - 16.30    Parallel session 2     
                          RDM DansLab by Damar Lamers and performers ReDiscoverMe
(Dutch spoken, presentation, performance, workshop, aftertalk)     
                         My Music Ability by Debby Korfmacher and Melissa Bremmer
                         (Dutch spoken, presentation) 
16.30 - 17.00    Closing & drinks     

Exposition Who cares? In Mezzanine
Who cares? presents a collection of drawings, by ATD Teacher-Researcher singer and performer Mira Thompson exploring the perspective of being on the receiving end of caregiving practices. She conveys intimate acts and encounters of personal care into sequential, comic-style narratives. She illustrates the conflicting feelings and complexities that come with needing care in her daily life, while countering simplistic thinking when it comes to giving and receiving care. 

Patty Berne, Sins Invalid (10.00 – 11.15hrs)

Sins Invalid is a disability justice-based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and LGBTQ / gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized. Led by disabled people of color, Sins Invalid’s performance work explores the themes of sexuality, embodiment and the disabled body, developing provocative work where paradigms of “normal” and “sexy” are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all bodies and communities.

Patricia Berne is the Co-Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of Sins Invalid. Berne’s training in clinical psychology focused on trauma and healing for survivors of interpersonal and state violence. Their professional background includes advocacy for immigrants who seek asylum due to war and torture; community organizing within the Haitian diaspora; international support work for the Guatemalan democratic movement; work with incarcerated youth toward alternatives to the criminal legal system; offering mental health support to survivors of violence; and advocating for LGBTQI and disability perspectives within the field of reproductive genetic technologies. Berne’s experiences as a Japanese-Haitian queer disabled woman provides grounding for her work creating “liberated zones” for marginalized voices. Berne was awarded the Disability Futures Fellowship in 2020 and they are widely recognized for their work to establish the framework and practice of disability justice. 

Response by Noli Kat
Noli Kat is a sick artist. She creates work in the fields of poetry, prose, self-portraiture and performance art. She is based in Dreamscapes, Cyberspace and the Netherlands. In 2015 she was an intern for the Disability Justice performance project Sins Invalid. She is currently a player with the mixed-ability theater company ‘Speels Collectief’. 

Parallel session 1 (11.45 – 12.45hrs) 
Choose your session: Access Intimacy or Doing Neurodiversity: Wayfaring Words

Access Intimacy 
This session will include the videolesson Access Intimacy, which is English spoken and Dutch subtitled. The session will be hosted by Laura Cull O Maoillorca (English spoken).  

Image of a laptop screen with two white skinned women making a video call with each other. They both lay down, with their head directed to each other in the middle of the screen. Mira Thompson on the left, dark brown hair and dark clothing. On the right Carly Ebveraert with gray hair, a gray sweater, and glasses. Her head lies on a pink pillow with dots.

On Acces Intimacy is a collaborative project between costume designer and lecturer Carly Everaert and singer/songwriter and lecturer Mira Thompson. Informed by Disability Justice and Disability studies they argue that a disability perspective can help develop new methods of creating and learning. Access Intimacy, a term coined by American/Korean educator Mia Mingus underlines this thought experiment and gives students and listeners a framework to dream from. This video lesson is the first of a series about disability in the (performing) arts. 

Mira Thompson (she/her, Amsterdam, 1993) is a singer, songwriter and performer. Informed by the tradition of vocal jazz, she is drawn to narrative song and strong poetic and visual elements within music. She developed a fascination for the different ways in which the voice can function as an embodied instrument. Whether written, spoken or sung, Mira wields language to evoke deep and buried feelings with an earnest yet witty approach. Within her own artistic practice or that of others, cross-disciplinary collaboration is at the heart of Mira’s work. She writes on subjects of disability, language and activism to contemplate a more accessible world. 

Carly Everaert (they/them, Steenbergen, 1960) is a costume designer and a teacherresearcher in the scenography department of the Academy of Theater and Dance in Amsterdam (ATD). They are a member of the Embodied Knowledge research group at ATD where she researches questions of costume, space and embodiment from an intersectional, practice-oriented perspective. In their ATD fellowship (2022-23) research called Creating spaces for other(ed) bodies, they started to develop a critical collaboration with Mira Thompson.

Doing Neurodiversity: Wayfaring Words
Workshop facilitated by Antje Nestel and Aster Arribas  

What if we do not yet know what inclusion is? What if inclusion is not about being welcoming to the "othered," such as the neurodivergent and the disabled, but rather, what if the possibilities for inclusion lie in engaging with the tendencies we often label as pathologies? In this workshop, shy* play proposes to rethink inclusion by doing neurodiversity through wayfaring quotes. This technique foregrounds not only neurodiverse words and thinking but also the many other forms of communication that teem "beneath the words," as Amelia Baggs would say. Specifically, the languages of movement, texture, shape, sound, vibration, and colour, all synesthetically intertwined, that ableist normalized forms of relation devalue and dismiss.

shy* play is a platform co-initiated by Aster Arribas and Antje Nestel, focusing on doing neurodiversity not as a process of explanation, but as a relational practice in difference. We use art-as-process and (un)learning techniques with the aim of creating socialities with their own values, outside the workings of normality and identification. shy* play is hosted by ATD Lectorate in Amsterdam.

Concert My Music Ability: Inclusive Composing (14.00 – 15.00)
Concert presentation of the Artist in Residence (AIR) project with Drake Music Scotland, which will have taken place at the CvA in the 3 days leading up to the symposium. Drake Music Scotland is a leading and award-winning arts organisation in the field of Inclusive Music Practices. Their mission is to create opportunities for musicians and composers with disabilities to learn, create and perform music and engage in creative processes. Music technology plays an important part in their work.

Following two successful AIR projects on Inclusive Music Practices in 2018 and 2021, the CvA has invited Pete Sparkes and Ali Gillies of Drake Music Scotland back for a residency from the 22nd to the 25th of November 2023. They will share their knowledge and experience in composing for and playing in an inclusive ensemble that consists of
musicians with and without disabilities. Working with inclusive music technology and adaptive instruments, as well as discovering ways of co-creating for diverse ensembles are important elements of the program.

During the concert presentation, you will be introduced to the project and witness the world premiere of the music that has been created by the inclusive ensemble which consists of students and guest musicians.

Parallel session 2 (15.30 – 16.30) 
Choose your session: RDM DanceLab or My Music Ability

RDM DanceLab
By Damar Lamers and RDM DanceLab

The ReDiscoverMe DanceLabs are all about rediscovering your physique and the possibilities available, individually and together by connecting through movement. With our group of amateur dancers and (semi) professionals, with and without a chronic illness and physical challenge, we worked intensively together on a dynamic, inclusive dance piece. After our presentation we will move together in a playful and accessible way, where 'enjoying the power of dance individually and together' is paramount.

DANCE is for EVERYONE! The ReDiscoverMe Foundation contributes to an inclusive dancing Netherlands with dance (projects) for everyone and in particular for vulnerable target groups, including people with a chronic illness and/or another physical challenge.

My Music Ability
By Debby Korfmacher and Melissa Bremmer

In this workshop we will present the steps the Conservatorium van Amsterdam has taken to incorporate inclusive music education in the curriculum. Artist-in Residence programmes have played a crucial role in this development. For these programmes, the CvA invited the leading arts organizations Drake Music London and Drake Music Scotland to work with its students. These organisations provide music making opportunities for people with disabilities and additional support needs by integrating music technology. In this workshop we will discuss what we learned from these collaborations for the development of projects and electives on inclusive music education at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.

Debby Korfmacher is a musician and workshop leader who currently teaches mbira, creative music making, inclusive music education and community music at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. She studied Music & Social Anthropology (BA) and completed an MMus degree in Etnomusicology at SOAS, University of London. She has been the project leader of two of the Music Abiliy AIR projects on inclusive music practices.

Melissa Bremmer is a professor and, together with Emiel Heijnen, heads the AHK Art Education lectorate. She completed her Music Teacher studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and her Educational Sciences studies at the University of Amsterdam. She conducted PhD research at the University of Exeter into the 'pedagogical content knowledge' of music teachers from an embodied cognition perspective.


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