Clovis Community College concluded its “Social Justice Series: Lifting up our Communities” lecture series April 19 in the Academic Center on campus.
Bill Shannon, an artist and lecturer or a gig-based artist as he called himself, gave the final presentation of the series. He titled his presentation “The Condition Arriving: His Ability with his Disability.”
“It’s not my intention to sort of shape what people take away, they take away what they want to take away from it,” Shannon said. “What I want them to do is maybe ask questions, my goal is to just poise a question that then makes them think about it the next time they see someone using crutches or with a disability.”
When he was growing up, Shannon suffered from severe amounts of pain that were insurmountable in his legs to point where he could not continue on with what he was doing unless he had support for his legs. Come to find out he had a rare leg disease known as Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, or otherwise known as Perthes disease. It is a disease so rare that he said doctors have told him there is no cure or funding for because it is so uncommon.
The disease is a form of osteonecrosis, which literally means “bone death.” According to John Clohisy, an Orthopedic Hip Surgeon in St. Louis, Perthes disease is characterized by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip. The lack of adequate blood supply then causes the head of the femur bone to die.
Disabled since his childhood, Shannon learned how to use his crutches for good and as a form of expression. He turned his “disability” and physical imperfections into a form of art for storytelling, dance, and physical comedy.
“I’m currently writing grants, and working on the New England Foundation of the Arts National Dance project, it’s a production grant that gives you a year to make a piece so I’m working on a piece right now,” Shannon said.
In the press release created for this presentation it states that Shannon considers his work rooted in street culture and informed by the fine arts. His art has opened up a wide spectrum of philosophical and cultural notions of what it means to be limited and the politics of “help.” It also says that underlying he exposes a silent world of prejudice that disabled people encounter on a daily basis.
“A lot of this notion of ‘help’ is built around our own needs not around the person or entity that we’re actually helping, it’s the most harmless thing in the world to help somebody, it’s not in any way guided by negativity but that doesn’t mean when you actually intervene into someone’s pathway that you’re not creating an obstacle for them,” Shannon said. “So my point is not to say ‘don’t help’ or ‘be against good samaritan.’ I fully appreciate good samaritanism and the impulse to want to help somebody, what I feel like I’m doing is helping people sort of take a deeper look at the politics of that and where they fit into that spectrum.”
For more information on Shannon and his work, visit whatiswhat.com.