As part of DECIDE’s public outreach commitment, Geoff and June are delighted to announce that they will be working with Carousel, a learning disability led arts organisation based in Brighton, UK. http://www.carousel.org.uk/This unique two year project, funded by Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England, will explore the reactions of actors with Downs Syndrome to the media claims that stem cell research and genetic engineering will be able to ‘cure’ Downs Syndrome. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/09September/Pages/Claims-of-Sonic-hedgehog-cure-for-Downs-syndrome.aspx
Learning disabled artists from Carousel's Oska Bright Film Festival (an international festival of film and digital art made by people with learning disabilities) took this headline to heart and began to explore it through discussions at their regular committee meetings and by storyboarding ideas for short video pieces. The key questions for the group are:
- Does having a learning disability mean you are ill?
- If we could build a 'perfect world' what would it look like?
- How do people with learning disabilities have their voices heard on big issues like this?
Curing Perfectis a piece of art that will engage audiences in these questions as it draws them into an online graphic novel and a world where people have been made 'perfect' by science. It will challenge them to think about what a world of perfection would be like, what sacrifices would be made to strive for such a world and what role gene and stem cell therapy would have in achieving this.
Curing Perfectwill be a creative response to the implications and ethics of these scientific developments led by experienced learning disabled artists and film makers. They will challenge the audience to move through this 'perfect' world and interact with what they find. Using Transmedia techniques the artists will exploit online technology, using drawing, animation and 'live' footage to create a visually engaging world. Social media, emails and text messages as well as more traditional promotion will invite audiences to engage, whilst parts of the story will break out into the real world through live debate and discussion.
Geoff will guide the project’s interaction with scientific claims. June will guide the ethical explorations. The project is also unique in that it provides an opportunity for medical students who are actors to work with actors with a learning disability. This collaboration will foster greater awareness and empathy with the challenges each face, creating learning resources for medical students who seek to develop advanced communication skills as part of their professional development.
The learning disabled artists will present the topic at the Oska Bright Film Festival in November 2015 for debate and discussion with a large audience of people with learning disabilities, carers, support workers, artists and filmmakers. The final art piece will be launched at the Brighton Digital Festival in September 2016, as part of the ‘Improving Reality’ conference at the festival.