Fran Osborne interviewed Anthony Tusler for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on June 16, 2016. In this clip, with text transcript below, Anthony and Fran talk about their thoughts on disability art and its use as tool to challenge assumptions, explore new ideas, and ultimately change the world.
Anthony Tusler: You know, I ran into Larry Paradis who’s with the Disability Rights Advocates, and he asks me,
[Music 01 starts, free jazz, solo bass]
Anthony Tusler: “Oh, oh, your photography’s your passion, Anthony!” And I said, “well, not really.” He said, “you must really enjoy it.” I said, “not really. No” [laughter]
[Music 01 transitions into speed drumming]
Anthony Tusler: I think art is cruel. ‘Cause I always feel like I’m just, I’m getting close, but I can’t quite get it.
Fran Osborne: Yeah. ‘Cause you have to dig so deep into, something. You don’t know what it is. And you never know whether you’ve got there or not. So, all you can do is just, do the work and put it out there.
[Music 01 gradually increases in volume]
[Music 01 ends]
Anthony Tusler: I’m afraid that we’re letting disability art, the concept of disability art, get away from us. I’m afraid that it’s becoming diluted and that it’s becoming some kind of bastard hybrid. I mean, on one hand, you know, my wanting to see disability portrayed, and use the arts like the African American community’s done, Latino community, the women’s community. I mean, I look back at Judy Chicago’s plates exhibit. Very radical, still radical today, you know, to be displaying women’s vaginas on plates, place settings. I mean, it’s mind blowing! And yet, it changed how women were viewed, and how art was viewed. And we don’t have anything like that in the disability community. So, I’m worried about that in the broad sense, that we’re not seeing enough disability art. And we’re not defining it. We’re not grabbing it, we’re not saying, “this is ours. This is what needs to be.”
[Music 02 starts: free jazz, rhythmic tin percussion with wind instrument]
Fran Osborne: So tell me more about the Opulent Mobility project, ‘cause that sounds very exciting.
Anthony Tusler: Opulent Mobility. I saw the first call, and so I contacted Laura Brody, and we started talking, and so I helped her with the show last year that showed at Northridge. And it looked interesting because “opulent mobility” is kind of a non-sequitur.
[Music 02 transitions with added bassline]
Anthony Tusler: We can take disability art in all kinds of directions, and one of the directions we can take is, why not talk about a piece that’s luxuriant, you know, rather than hard edge? Why can’t we talk about something that is opulent, that has kind of a Victorian Edwardian kind of sense to it. I mean, I see my wheelchair as a tool. Whereas what I think Laura’s trying to do is to kind of, break-down our ways of looking at disability as utilitarian. And to say, why not have something that is aesthetically pleasing?
[Music 02 ends]
Anthony Tusler: But the arts to me right now is the most fruitful, the richest area, it seems to me, to work in, to bring about a strong sense of disability identity and pride.
Fran Osborne: That was one of the questions I have, which is, how aware were you of photography as a powerful medium and a kind of art medium? Because, when I think of 504 photographs that you took, there’s something um… not, I mean… there’s a lot of respect in there for what was going on. And I… you know, I still don’t know quite what to say about it, really.
Anthony Tusler: Um, there is an affection. And what Lisa Van Arragon said – she’s a– she teaches art and visual media, is that, there’s a certainty in the people in my photographs. In the demonstration.
[Music 03 begins: Ambiant electronic, calm]
Anthony Tusler: There’s like — of course we’re gonna get our rights. We believe in them. They are inevitable. If it doesn’t happen today, it’s going to happen next week, next month, next year. I’ve always been concerned… I want the world to change. And so, that’s what I want my art to be.
[Music 03 fades out]
[Music 01 fades in and fades out]
Music 01: “Track 2” by Cex Fucx (Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License)
Music 02: “Track 3” by Cex Fucx (Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License)
Music 03: “What True Self? Feels Bogus, Let’s Watch Jason X” by Chris Zabriskie (Licensed under Attribution License)
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Disability Visibility Project™. (2016, December 25). DVP Interview: Anthony Tusler and Fran Osborne. Retrieved from: http://wp.me/p4H7t1-N57
A photo featuring Anthony Tusler and Fran Osborne taken on June 16, 2016: Two people sitting next to each other. The woman on the left is Fran Osborne who appears to be white. She has long dark hair pulled back, with eye glasses on top of her head. She is wearing a black and white striped shirt with an orange scarf tied around her neck. The man on the right is Anthony Tusker who appears to be white. He is wearing a light blue button-down shirt with a black t-shirt inside. He is smiling, and his hair is white and combed back.
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Geraldine Ah-Sue and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com