Essay by Jess Evans

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Video still. Shot by Anton Rivette.

Despite the complexity of me and most humans, paradise on the other hand is quite simple. We don’t have to die to get to it, but it does require creativity. Paradise is not angels and virgins. Paradise is not even palm trees, beach and pina coladas. Paradise is forest, animals and plants. Sand and water and soil and sky untouched and unspoiled by humans.

Paradise is being able to get on a tram, a train or a bus and go anywhere in Australia without impediment. A lack of cars on the road and silence. Blue skies in China.

Paradise is not having to choose between food, a roof over your head, a good education, being able to move about freely, a wheelchair or medical supplies. Paradise is hot girls and boys riding bicycles to work dressed in lycra. Of course, there is all kinds of art in paradise but I, here in this time and place probably wouldn’t recognize it. Because although art is, and I say this from experience, bad for your health, it is also like food, essential for beings (maybe even animals), to function.

Art is normal. Normal is also eating and sleeping and cooking and pooing. Normal is being anxious about something. Am I doing enough for the revolution? Am I doing and saying the right things? Will I catch some horrible disease and die an early and painful death? Normal is procrastinating. Normal has not changed much since I went to Mars and came back again. Except for the fact that I now have a mask to wear when I sleep attached to a machine that helps me breathe. I’m sure I look like one of the villains from Batman with it on. Normal did not change because I was part of the DSP Collective. However…

I went into the DSP Collective, simply wanting runs on the board. I came out a convert. Art is not about the top five plays in the country that get to be produced by the state theatre companies, the so-called best at The National Gallery of Victoria. Art is a hot mess of anger and excitement at the present moment. Art is the constant fight between biography and fiction. My personal flavour of art is still magic, dragons, guns, explosions and car chases. Accessible but in a way that runs circles around everything that has gone before, because yes, my ego is that big.

I am an artist (writer/performer/singer). Thanks to A Normal Child the proud owner of a Green Room award. My band is The Bearbrass Asylum Orchestra and we are a trio (vocals, guitar, percussion). Our music is affectionately known as Crip Folk. A mixture of blues, rock, pop and folk. We have co-written some of our material and have a few well selected covers. There is nothing more powerful than a quad lady singing “fat bottom girls”.

I am an unoriginal lefty and a failed dictator. I am a drain on my parents and the Australian economy. I hope to be a thorn in the side of all manner of politicians. However, I fear at best I am too tired and at worst too much of a coward. Or else too complicit in the despicable behaviour which made them politicians in the first place. And I supposedly live in one of the best countries on Earth. A democracy.

I am nobody. A B grade celebrity. I fight with my body constantly. Perhaps unnecessarily. I can make myself look super-hot if I can be bothered. I have brown hair, blue eyes, glasses and a slightly round belly. I am the proud owner of a one-bedroom bachelor pad. I hope to go on pilgrimage to see Stone Henge, the Globe Theatre, the pub where the Beatles first played and other sacred sites. I fear that thanks to Covid I may not be able to or if I do it will only be in the virtual.

My first memory is looking out into the garden of the first house I lived in. I couldn’t actually go into said garden because the house had steps. My parents bought that house not imagining they would have a disabled daughter, so we moved a few streets away and modified the crap out of a new place which we have been in ever since. I have had many memories since. But the cliché is true. Dreams are more real sometimes than real life. Even a high portion of our memories are shown to be fabrication whereas a camera does not lie and cannot invent. That we know of. But collective memories are real. The same story told over and over by people who do not know each other, often people who do not speak the same language or believe in the same Gods. And so, in spite of all my faults I claim my birth right as a woman with a disability, and a part-time queer for those who ask nicely, and of course a tree hugger. It is this birth right I shall cling to when all else is stripped away at the end whenever that might be.

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