Naomi Chainey - You

Arts Access Victoria presents The Museum of Us

A photographic compilation depicting an empty pair of shoes at well-known locations around Melbourne.

The photograph depicts an empty pair of shoes at the Melbourne Arts Centre.
A long piece of black text on white, raggedly framed with a textured blue background and nine photographs. Most of the photographs depict an empty pair of shoes at a well known location around Melbourne.

Image description:

A long piece of black text on white, raggedly framed with a textured blue background and nine photographs. Most of the photographs depict an empty pair of shoes at a well known location around Melbourne.

The locations are: Flinders St Station, Fed Square, the Arts Centre, a walking bridge over the Yarra River, Block Arcade and the DeGraves St cafés.

One photograph depicts a courtyard fence with a recycling bin to the side. There is an empty space where a gate should be, and you can see out into the suburban street. The last photograph is of an outdoor balcony overlooking a tree and powerlines. The heading at the top of the text reads ‘You’, and has a splash of yellow behind it.

The rest of the text reads:

’You are not your disability.’

Am I not?

You are not your scent.

You are not your smell.

You are not your stink.

Your perfume is repellent.

The Lynx effect is a lie.

People cough and choke around you, avoid you on the tram, find desks at the far end of the office, and dread being trapped with you in the lift.

You assume this is hyperbole.

Perhaps you are my disability.

One in seven find your volatile compounds more injurious than such words.

There are people in indefinite lockdown because your stench is in the pores of the world.

’Don’t make disability your identity.’

Are there instructions for divorcing the soul from reality?

Don’t make fragrance yours.

The cologne, freshener, aftershave, diffuser, burner, softener, candles, drawer liners, bin bags, tissues and toilet paper ...

They are not your DNA. They are not your personhood. They are a choice ... of sorts.

The elegant celebrities spruiking Dior were paid more than the value of your house to convince you “clean human” is an offence to the senses, to be masked, hidden, suppressed and buried.

They tore you down and charged you for the privilege, sold you the mirage of free expression: beauty, strength, desire, sex.

A manufactured cocktail of shame and prestige for the margins.

Have pride, open a window and let your body breathe.

Let ME breathe.

And once you’ve escaped the commercial stink, turn to the built world, because lockdown is hard enough with a home.

I’ll be homeless by winter.

’Deodoriser’ in the carpet.

Incense infused with the walls.

An industrial strength end-of-lease clean that won’t fade for months.

Freshly glued floors.

Just painted. Hidden mould.

This one’s okay, outgassed and fragrance free, but there’s competition for the lease, and they give it to someone who’s not on the DSP.

These ones are newly built: Pine. Paint. Plastic. Glue. Grout. Caulk. Stain. Dye. Vinyl. Particleboard. Polyester. Polyurethane. Polypropylene. Sealer. Silicone. Laminate and Lye.

Some materials cure quickly, inert once dry, but no one builds with those. Poison is profit.

Pay a month’s rent hoping the aroma fades. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Glad I have savings. Had.

Four months on Mum’s balcony with a tarp in case of rain. It’s cold out here and the mattress isn’t mine.

Four months in an unsecured courtyard, hoping the Saturday night drunks don’t get curious about the tent.

How many are sleeping rough?

’See the person, not the disability.’

If my person is to be seen outside the home (if my person is to have a home), the impairment must be respected.

’Isn’t it sad.’

’That must be so hard.’

’I don’t think I could live like that.’

You have the gall to shape the world this way with your choices, your actions, your whims, then pity me,

as though you, charitable soul, weren’t part of the collective cause.

You are the barrier.

You are the disability.

You.

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