An event at Leeds Museum for the national Disabled Access Day on Saturday was a good opportunity to chat to a few people about Shoddy. I wanted to find out whether people knew the original meaning of the word and what they thought of it as a title for an exhibition by disabled artists.
I asked about a dozen disabled people a few questions. Nobody had heard about shoddy as being fabric made from reclaimed fibres from rags and waste. A number of people were fascinated to hear about the shoddy trade and that it began just a few miles away from where we were sitting. A couple of people went on to share this new-found knowledge.
Without knowing anything about the Shoddy exhibition, it wasn’t surprising that people didn’t like the idea of linking the word “shoddy” with disabled people:
No, absolutely not. Not on, not good. You’d be a shoddy person if you did that!
It’s how people comment on your ability. How people dismiss disabled people.
But once I explained what Shoddy was about, the reactions were markedly different:
Turns it on its head! Definitely interested.
I’ll give this [information] out to members of my group.
In art you can get away with it. In art you’re supposed to question things.
Questions perceptions of normality. Outside the mainstream.
Challenges other people’s perceptions and attitudes.