Ashokkumar Mistry | Beyond relentless acceleration | Nottingham Contemporary
Presented at Nottingham Contemporary as part of the WAIWAV intervention, Beyond Relentless Acceleration involved arranging a race around either an indoor at the gallery, accompanied by a commentary on a PA system or loud hailer – the winner is the last to cross the finish line. The event took place on 2nd July 2023.
This humane and inclusive race deliberately allowed the gallery space to be occupied according to each individual’s pace, and the motivation to win is not fuelled by domination or defeat. The only rule is that participants need to be consciously involved and keep moving, their ‘movement’ is choice and free to be interpreted.
The core idea of Beyond relentless acceleration formed as a reaction to the reneging of promises made by the able world during the pandemic of 2020 that we wouldn’t see a return to business as usual. There was the possibility of ‘allowing’ people to humanly proceed, working from home, increasing productivity in a non-rushed, less demanding way. However, concerns about the economy, forced activity, get-back-to-work or get sacked, and the winning of more profit soon overshadowed this momentary reprieve to take life at our own pace.
The intervention confronts the idea of ‘slowness’ as an epithet that associates disability with inferiority. It is also a metaphor for patience and what can be achieved by slowing down. The title and central text interrogate the historic and contemporary variations of the concept of a ‘retarded’ race – one in which the winner is the last to arrive at the destination.
As with many disabled artists I am seen as a troublemaker – ‘slowing down’ is an inconvenience, and yet as with most inconveniences it is also an opportunity.
This slowed-down race provides an opportunity to caringly observe, acknowledge and live-document a sample variety of nuanced human movement, action and activity that otherwise is ignored at the expense of conventional and stigmatised, toxic ideas of ‘achievement’ and ‘accomplishment’, which are predicated on competition and defeat of the other.
Dada is playful subversion, concerned with preoccupation – the ‘hobby-horse’ – we just can’t shake off. Among most artists and disabled artists even more so ‘worthiness’ and ‘imposter syndrome’ and even ‘belonging’ is a challenge. The anti-social model of disability projects upon our lives an addiction to hyperactivity, achievement and winning – as the core components of our addiction – the anti-social hobby horse – to survival itself.
Beyond relentless acceleration challenges fundamental notions of “worthiness” – subverting the idea of winning – and inherently subverts the survival of the fittest, which has affected most, if not all people with disabilities. The idea that the fastest is the best also reveals the detail of existence happening in slow motion, attention is actually paid to who is doing what and how.
By not having heavily imposed rules for the race we are kicking against the idea that we should all be playing by the same rules. The only limiting factor would be an institutional one – the opening and closing hours of the venue. Ideally the Slow Race thrives and continues beyond the confines of institutional thinking.
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