A Trace of Glitter

Whilst doing the research behind the iconography and discography of Incorection, I am delving quite heavily into

The slice of mascara. The lamé flash. The glistening bolt of cosmetic lightening. Bowie’s face on the cover of Aladdin Sane. (Haynes. 1998: x).

In other words the Glam Rock Revolution of the 1980s. Whether all involved were consciously aware or not, their fun loving, flamboyant outward energy shook the politics of the surrounding cultures interactions; It had ‘norms’ and ‘others’, it incorporated reaction and resistance, gender and sexuality, tackled what should and shouldn’t be seen:

            Glam was prefab, anti-craft, allied to artifice and the trash aesthetic. Its plasticity and cartoonish bisexuality were all about giving pop back to 'the kids', yanking it from the hands of droopy introverts and pompous Marshall-stacked overlords. (Hoskyns. 1998: 6)

And similarly too:

At the core of the politics of disability is the attempt by disabled people to take back control over their lives (Shakespeare. 2006:185).

Could the same techniques and performative quips be used in disability art to decontaminate ourselves of stale stigma, detach ourselves from misconceptions, and project positivity, reflective humour and glamour?

“It’s a mixed-up, mumbled up, shook-up world” (The Kinks)

We have codes and conventions engrained to protect ‘the norm’ and whether this is out of fear, utter routine or otherwise (I do not debate its origin here) they exist, and in terms of disability politics and inclusion has a restricting impact, and what it means to be ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ still remains ‘part of “normal” life [and] so strongly routine-based’, without being ‘brought to consciousness nor [made] very relevant’ (Bal. 1999: vii/viii), however ‘to be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up’ (Oscar Wilde) and therefore shows why people breakaway from it and with such extravagancy.

“There’s a new creation a fabulous sensation…” (Roxy Music)

Certain aspects of art uphold the ethos explored above in a very visual format; think of ‘the thin, flowing, sexless bodies of Art Nouveau prints and bodies’ (Sontag. 1964:4) to the Barbie Syndrome of more contemporary times, but the Glam Rock Era reinvented sexual aesthetics of the body. If anyone is aware of the gender politics discussed by Judith Butler then the slim men in vibrant makeup, spandex and heels and studded leather women more than definitely questioned the conventions and expectations of the ‘norm’. Glamourising the ‘other’ in theory shouldn’t have worked, but Glam Rock had such a following that its charisma is still enjoyed nowadays.

Now comparing this movement to disability, then the ‘norm’ in mainstream sees ‘the ‘good parts’ of ordinary lives – love, romance and sex – largely absent or not stressed in disabled character’s lives’ within performance (Barnes and Mercer. 2003:94). Just like men in makeup or women who were tougher than metal shouldn’t traditionally be seen was revolutionised by Glam Rock, could disability art put the sexuality of its population on a pedestal, by showing people something so contrasting to the ‘norm’, that like the stars of the 1980s becomes such an injection of fun into cultures bloodstream than people know what to do with, so that it becomes embraced? (Hoskyns. 1998: 6)[1]

‘Camp, put-ons and a special kind of grotesques self-mockery are indispensible elements of pop [cultures] basic sensibility’ (Hoskyns. 1998: 13) and undoubtedly this corresponds to the work of disability artists; there are ‘put-ons’, take offs, ways of masking, ways of heightening and yes ‘the grotesque self-mockery’ may be  uneasy to take (as too may have been a man in heels and makeup in the 80’s) but creates ownership, reclaims one’s own position and ability of expression and shows a humane relatable side to disability.[2]

Basically it is a proud, confident interjection of something ‘other’ to the current culture which brings so much more vibrancy, wealth and diversity to our lives, it was Glam Rock that was at the forefront of this in the 80’s and maybe disability art is showing prosperous signs that it too could follow suit, however any action which promotes the same refreshing encounter is something which I look forward to see.

This is not a proclamation, a calling to the children of the revolution - simply a pondering; an exploration into the wonderment and fun that change can/could bring.


‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’ (Oscar Wilde).







[1] Look up the works of Mat Fraser.