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Aminder Virdee

12th September 2014

Aminder Virdee is a London born artist, and disability equality activist, currently residing in Scotland. She graduated from University of Westminster in 2012 with First Class Honours in BA (hons) Mixed Media Fine Art.

Aminder's interest in art began when she was first handed a pair of safety scissors at the age of two by her occupational therapist. Aminder was asked to replicate exactly what the therapist was doing; so, for hours they created paper chains of people. From that day, any piece of paper that came her way would be transformed into something new.

"I am intent on exposing the cultural ignorance of common stereotypes associated with disability, predominantly society’s perception of the ‘cultural norm’. I seek to identify issues surrounding image acceptability in the mainstream media, and how artists and activists have used transgressive reappropriation to subvert existing forms.

My interaction with materials, mediums and space are entirely dictated through the progression and routine of my physical impairments. Thus, the line between art and life is blurred. This framework allows me to work under any physical circumstance, and necessitates me to implement different methods of applications and approaches to my work, even if the documentation is all that remains.

Disability narratives, both personal and publicised, form the armature of which my work is created on. The medium(s) of choice, the use of hyperbolic narratives alongside theories of transgressive reappropriation, are intertwined intending to provoke responses from the spectator. It is through these provocative catalysts of images and narratives that I anticipate to violate the aesthetic distance between the viewer and the piece. To execute this violation, the visceral and theoretical boundaries of ‘disability’, the media representations and the politics of aesthetics need to be challenged in order to successfully reclaim the misconceptions surrounding the cultural process.

Working with audio allows me to investigate the acceptability of an image without a visual; the representative image. In these representative images, the narrative or action defines the degree to which, the audience the subject is, quite literally, exposed. That is to say, the audience conjures the substance of the ‘image’ within their memory bank of associations. At times, I omit the image to fabricate a truthful depiction rather than a positive image. By inviting the stare audibly, the prohibition against staring is lifted by descriptively exposing the oppressive associations and impairments social conventions attempts to politely silence, steering the audience to diagnose the represented image’s impairments, to put their disrupted world back in ‘order’. This ‘order’ is negotiated through a world which is shaped by media images.

‘Keep This Leaflet. You May Need To Read It Again.’ (June 2014) began as a pursuit to collect all my medical images from multiple hospitals. With these in hand, I aimed to further my exploration into the politics of aesthetics and the ‘diagnostic gaze’. The term diagnostic gaze, coined by Petra Kupper’s, refers to “the question that demands a narrative which seeks to affix a diagnosis to the individual”.

When the ‘disabled body’ plague your screens, they usually relate to a charity or something ‘extraordinary’. Why is this? When you look at an image of disability, what thoughts plague your mind? What do these images say? It has been noted by disability scholars that images allow for ‘aesthetic distancing’; the gap created between the spectators conscious reality and the fictional reality they are presented with. This gap enables the audience to feel safe once the visuals are perceived as fabricated - the ‘if it’s not real, then I don’t have to worry about it’ attitude based upon the disability simulacrums (a representation or imitation of a person or thing). Baudrillard believed the simulacrum was a dangerous, continuously changing state; this is because a simulacrum can over exert an image, and these images can become the foundation that society will subsequently live by in order to anchor social reality.

In ‘Keep This Leaflet. You May Need To Read It Again.’ I fracture my anonymity and disguise myself within a narrative that bluntly demands the diagnostic gaze. Through reappropriating the images associated with disability (such as medical imaging), these images are used to, literally, diagnose a patient through the Medical Model of Disability. However, by theatricalising these visuals with the framework of the Social Model of Disability, I attempt to abolish the line between the ‘able-bodied’ and the ‘disabled body’, the ‘permanent’ and the ‘temporary’, the ‘visible’ and the ‘invisible’, that is used as an directive to shelter social reality." Aminder Virdee

This piece will be featured in the exhibition ‘Crafting Anatomies” at Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham, in January 2015.

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