Conversation between Lucie Camous & No Anger


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This discussion follows on from a first dialogue, published on 8th June 2023 in Bruise Magazine, an online publication in dialogue with the art centre Triangle-Astérides in Marseille.


Lucie Camous: It’s only been six months since our first conversation was published in Bruise Magazine, but the intensity of events and projects compress time. I'm happy to take the time to continue thinking about the way we work together and with others.

No Anger: Yes, and at the same time, I have the impression that, given the intensity of our projects and our schedule, we aren’t that able to apply the notion of crip time, and time and again we’re forced to adhere to capitalist rationales that push for ever greater productivity. And that’s the first dilemma we faced.

LC: We conformed to this demand for productivity with a lot of enthusiasm this first year, we accepted all the offers, all the projects, we replied to all the calls for proposals, we applied for all the grants. We were surprised by the reception, we had set off determined but not victorious.

NA: Yes, precisely, because we didn’t set out as winners, we’ve had to build up legitimacy, to engage with cultural institutions and the contemporary art world. But to build this legitimacy, you have to comply with the rationales of these spheres, you have to speak the same language.

LC: From the perspective of class defector, I derive a certain pleasure from learning codes and languages.

LC: Today, this invitation from CAC makes sense because it was the first art centre Ostensible worked with. Marie Plagnol wrote to us with a quote from Christine Aventin’s FéminiSpunk. Le monde est notre terrain de jeu (The world is our playground), which I had used to anchor my rhetoric when announcing the creation of Ostensible during the DCA Contemporary art centres professional days: “Do you take power, do you give it away, or do you blow it up?”[1] Several questions from the audience were about how to create cultutal programming that isn't ableist: sharing power was my response. It’s this sharing of power that made us quickly go from being advisors to co-curators. This saw the creation of “Perceptions”, a collaborative piece led by the artists Nicolas Faubert and Mona Young-eun Kim. An important project for Ostensible because it led to the emergence of certain fundamental questions. With the co-creation raising the issue of having a mix of able-bodied and disabled participants, this inevitably brought up the moral and political dilemma: should we work with special needs organisations or not?

NA: Yes, absolutely. Quite early on we were confronted with the problem of working with medical-social or medical-educational institutions that, under the pretext of caring for and protecting disabled people (children, adults), lock them up and contribute to their social exclusion. Initially, we didn’t want to work with these institutions because we felt like that would be as if we were endorsing these ableist segregational rationales. As well as the ethical and political issues around such a system, I also think it touched on personal issues, on visceral tensions that we carry within us: even if I was never personally affected, I still have a complicated relationship with special institutions, because I grew up with the threat of institutionalisation hanging over me, the anxiety of a future within an institution, the fear of being locked up. So it was very difficult to work with this kind of organisation, to appear to be endorsing them. But refusing to collaborate with these organisations would also mean refusing to work with the disabled people within them and, in a way, that would be like excluding them all over again.

LC: We’ve chosen to take the same approach as we would with the subject of prisons: being against the prison system doesn’t, for us, mean categorically refusing to work with people in prison. That being said, it would still be perfectly legitimate to refuse to do so for fear of legitimising a system of imprisonment that denies human rights.[2]

NA: It made us consider what we were ready to relinquish, without giving up our principles. What’s quite positive, I think, is that it forced us to be creative, to consider other ways of working. I remember we said we could also invent other forms of diversity, with able-bodied people, disabled people living in institutions and disabled people living outside of institutions. Perhaps these other forms of diversity could help generate alternative ways of looking at things?

LC: This knot brought up the thorny concept of pedagogy and its structural necessity. It’s an aspect that I had largely underestimated when we started Ostensible. Putting on research events by inviting thinkers or having a central role in the work of transmission are two distinct functions. While the first was obviously part of the project, the second requires us to take a central role.

NA: Yes, we always need to make an effort to educate, which can be exhausting and irritating because the mental burden always falls on us. But we have to be aware that it’s the people who are directly concerned who can deliver this kind of message. On the one hand, we are fighting for legitimacy as bearers of this new framework for interpretation, but on the other, finding yourself constantly in this position can be exhausting. I think it also questions the posture of those who receive this message. Like I said, it’s one thing to help people speak out, it’s another to listen to them, to create conditions conducive to listening.

LC: Yes, it’s because we’re directly concerned that our involvement carries so much weight, so much legitimacy. The transmission of knowledge and experiences takes on meaning when the people who receive them play an active role. Taking stock of the social and political treatment of disabled people in France and then reading texts by activists helps to anchor in lived experiences what may at first sight seem abstract. I take pleasure in these dialogues that have radical tenderness as their common thread, as their political manifesto: it’s the best way to cheerfully get stuck in, to straight away take the opposite path to a fixed narrative.

NA: Yes, I find that tenderness, like pride, is more than a feeling, it’s a way of being that we teach each other as peers. I’m a great believer in tenderness, as a political virtue, in the sense of creating community through the care we show our peers…

LC: Soaking this in, I also develop a tenderness towards myself, a tenderness that little by little mitigates my internalised ableism.

NA: You mean it helps you go easy on yourself?

LC: Exactly. Studying, analysing and teaching others about the mechanisms of ableism allows me to continue this work on myself. If only for the sake of overall consistency. While I can evoke crip time with conviction, it’s often still difficult for me to calmly accept when my timings are disrupted.

NA: Yes, in a way, it teaches you to be disabled. When I think about it, I find the idea of our collective and artistic work having this soothing effect on us quite beautiful. But it also raises the question of the role of anger, which was one of the foundations of Ostensible. Are you still angry?

LC: Tremendously. All the time. How could I not be? But being active in collective projects enables me to be serenely angry. I find that our duo works really well in this respect. My anger has enough space to exist, it doesn’t need to be muzzled, it finds refuge in the echo of yours.

NA: Yes, and to see that the other person is also angry about the same thing, that legitimises it—we’re not saying to ourselves that it’s just us getting something wrong or misunderstanding something—and, in a way, that’s soothing. Because we can talk about it amongst ourselves and it’s not just going round and round in our heads. Me, I’d say I’m angry in a different kind of way. It’s a serene sort of anger, as you say, an anger that doesn’t destroy me, but is constructive and gives me energy to create. When it comes down to it, I think that anger is still the foundation of our creative processes, but it has shifted a bit.

LC: This project with CAC has helped us define our position.

NA: Yes, as much from a creative perspective as in terms of our relationship with institutions. I don’t know if “creative” is the right word, but let’s just say that our creative policy is to place disabled artists and anti-ableist beliefs in the foreground. And that's Ostensible’s main principle on which we won’t compromise, because creating spaces so that these voices can be heard is in the project's DNA.            

LC: On what’s important to hold onto, I’m pretty convinced that Ostensible’s role is, within art institutions, to politicise the relationship with disability. Ostensible could also be characterised by the intersectionality of its creative processes. Pushing for, despite the institutional obstacles, a co-creation at CAC that mixes able-bodied/disabled people was the first time we achieved this.

NA: Yes, and the work with Nicolas Faubert and Mona Young-eun Kim illustrates that, in the sense that basing the creative process on a mix of able-bodied/disabled people pursues the anti-ableism challenge of not reproducing the ghettoisation of disabled people.

LC: Above all, it was made possible by the dedication and determination of the CAC team, who went out of their way to ensure this diversity among the project’s teenage participants.

NA: Personally, I feel proud that we contribute, in our modest way, to this fight. But I still can’t quite shake off a certain mistrust of this role–and so this power–that cultural institutions now offer us. I think my political hexis is in part founded on the theoretical tension of needing to speak the dominant language, but knowing we won’t dismantle the master’s house with his tools: in my head, Adrienne Rich is saying “this is the oppressor’s language / yet I need it to talk to you” and Audre Lorde is responding “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. And so, I think I’ve built my relationship to political action on this conscious paradox, and on this mistrust of my own role and my own social power. And I think we talked about that at the beginning of Ostensible.

LC: We often talk about institutions but working with and within them equates us with them. There is little point in opposing the margins with the centre when we know and experience the constant shifts of each. We can, from where we’re standing, be in a position of power and produce violence, knowing this allows us to remain vigilant. The institution is a whole within which many individuals play roles and apply normative rules. It’s up to us to hold our political line, to be consistent. This first year of Ostensible has allowed us to experiment with this grey area.

NA: It also made us consider the idea of the “pure” activist, and how it can be paralysing and guilt-inducing. I mean: we might want to be consistent with our political principles, but feeling guilty about having to sometimes flirt with this grey area is counterproductive, because it risks making us feel powerless, and I think that to render ourselves invisible in the name of activist purity would still be playing the game of power dynamics. But then again, yes, as we said before, it’s up to us to define what we can and cannot compromise on.

LC: In fact, the project with CAC has enabled us to materialise some of the reflections upon which Ostensible was founded and which continue to inform our work, even one year on. Like addressing disability from a systemic, and therefore political, perspective, working from our own points of view, insisting on the need for diversity and accessibility as fundamental rights…

NA: … and to also put these ideas at the heart of the creative process, despite them often being thought of as peripheral to the creation. Basically, considering the notions of diversity and accessibility as integral parts of the works means thinking differently about the relationship between the work and the public and inventing an artistic practice that advocates radical tenderness.

Lucie Camous & No Anger (Ostensible)

Publication made on the occasion of the project “Perceptions”.



[1] Original quote in French: “Est-ce que tu prends le pouvoir, est-ce que tu le donnes, ou est-ce que tu l’exploses?” Christine Aventin, Féminispunk. Le monde est notre terrain de jeu, published by Zones, 2021.

[2] Disability: France condemned by the European Committee of Social Rights, Handicap : la France condamnée par le Comité des droits sociaux du Conseil de l'Europe | CNCDH, viewed 19/01/2024.