The Body Electric: Artists with Developmental Disorders Portray Sexuality

In “The Body Electric: Artists with Developmental Disorders Portray Sexuality,” artist and writer Jayinee Basu covers the visual art of Camille Holvoet and Thanh Diep, two multi-media visual artists with developmental disabilities whose work address the intersections of disability and sexuality and dispel the common perception that people with disabilities are asexual. Holvoet, who works mostly on paper, has a self-portrait series that incorporates text to explore desire and energy, a reflection of an internal world. Diep has a video, entitled “Nature of Pleasure,” in which she frankly and openly discusses her experiences, hopes, and fears regarding sexuality and romantic relationships over footage of couples interacting physically.
The author discusses the experience of viewing this art as someone without a developmental disability, saying that it allows the viewer to enter into the world of the creator in a way that is impossible through other, more traditional mediums. I couldn’t agree more. This ties back to the different approaches of making things accessible we looked at earlier in the semester, with a holistic approach being the most successful. We need to explore alternate forms of communication and ways of understanding each other. Being bound up by tradition and trying to create a “one-size-fits-all” way of communicating is ultimately unsuccessful and keeps us separate. Creating and looking at art is one way in which we can all begin to understand each other and build a strong community.


Meet the Instagram Stars of the Down Syndrome Community

“Meet the Instagram Stars of the Down Syndrome Community,” written by Emalie Marthe for Broadly, brings up interesting questions about representation and activism. The article describes a few individuals with Down syndrome who are featured on social media, either on their own accord or by friends and family, and have gained worldwide attention and large fanbases.

Some of the accounts and the way they are discussed seem problematic. Many (able-bodied) interviewees mention something along the lines of feeling inspired by those featured in the Instagram accounts. The accounts featured in this article function positively in many ways, but there is a danger of them serving as “inspiration porn” for able-bodied people. What is positive representation and what is exploitation? One mother, who runs an Instagram dedicated to her young son with Down syndrome says that she hopes the account will be educational to others, citing the online presence of other parents of children with Down syndrome being beneficial to her. I don’t want to discount the power of online community, but I can’t help but think of the kid, who is likely unaware of his “inspirational” presence on Instagram. Would he want to be the face of Down syndrome?

Many people discuss the importance of visibility and representation, which cannot be denied. In theory, Instagram is a platform through which people can control their own image and how they are presented, sometimes to millions of people. This makes it a powerful tool in terms of activism. Giving people with disabilities (or any other marginalized identities, for that matter) access to a platform through which to discuss their lived realities and have their voices heard is definitely a positive thing. Even if it’s an unconventional medium, sharing narratives is activism.