Focusing on the ordinary: alternative visions of disability

Brylla, Catalin ORCID: (2015) Focusing on the ordinary: alternative visions of disability. In: Rethinking Disability on Screen, 14 May 2015, York, UK. (Unpublished)

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)


The portrayal of blindness in Western culture has largely constituted of stereotypical representations, branding blind people as either unfortunate, disabled and deprived, or exotic, mysterious and supernatural (Barasch, 2001). Documentaries, such as Black Sun (2005), have followed this trend by imposing themes in relation to memory, trauma, perception, the overcoming of sensorial limitations, and the coping with socio-cultural stigmatisation, resulting in blind people being commonly perceived as “the other” (Pointon 1999, Riley 2001, Corbella and Acevedo 2006).

This exclusive focus on the ‘extraordinary’ has come at the expense of omitting the ‘ordinary’. As Corbella and Acevedo (2010) observe, “it is infrequent to find characters with visual impairment represented as people who do housework, go shopping, or travel; that is, coping with the everyday tasks that are common to all people”. Accordingly, the notions of ‘ordinariness’ and ‘quotidian life’ prove valuable for representing blindness in documentary film, thus subverting stereotypical portrayals. However, in order to undo “otherness” and ensure an emic (instead of the usual etic) approach, the filmic representation of the ordinary needs to operate on an affective and experiential level of spectatorship (MacDougall 1998, Pennington 2000, Forgas 2001), which requires careful consideration in relation to narrative form and style.

My practice-led research endeavours to map blind people’s experience through studying their ordinary everyday practices and spaces with regards to what Ben Highmore (2010) calls the grammar and materiality of ordinariness. Daniel Miller (2010) considers attention to tacitly lived materiality (clothes, objects) the most effective way to understand and convey human subjectivity. Thus, my documentary films depict the material world of the blind characters as an embodiment of their subjectivity, and translate their spatial experience into an indexical (not iconic) experience for the viewer, shifting spectatorship away from ocularcentric interpretation towards synaesthetic experience.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film and television
Medicine and health
Depositing User: Catalin Brylla
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2016 20:39
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item