It’s 5am and I’m still not tired. I wonder if dysautonomia is to blame for the reversed sleep schedule, and I can only wonder because doctors don’t understand COVID well enough to properly explain the virus’s lasting effects. Plus, last year when my doctor did refer me to a sleep specialist, I later found out the sleep specialist didn’t actually exist. I continue wondering, and I continue playing on my phone in the hopes it will drain both our batteries. But the lights on the screen are so close to my eyes they won’t lull me anywhere, so I open up an app that makes the world much darker, The Mine: under tender feet, a new artwork by Jay Price.
It is an artwork but it is also a game; it is a story but it’s also an escape room, a museum cabinet, and a treasure chest. It is all of these things wrapped up in an app and stored away in a basement, where the player is invited to examine a collection of artefacts that pertain to the history of disability.
I felt solemn reading about eugenics and abuse, but in the visual context of a game, it was also novel. Games are synonymous with fun; AAA games are filled with objects that we can pick up and examine, but it is widely known that only a small percentage of gamers ever read beyond the main objectives. The Mine isn’t supposed to be fun, and reading is the only objective — reading and feeling the weight of the situation. We are moving around a dark basement with only a torch in hand. It’s running out. Above us, through cracks in the floorboards, we can hear a party of people chatting and laughing the night away. They are none the wiser — they are happy — they are happy because they are none the wiser. The contrast made me feel like I was some criminal below them, sneaking around; that the history of disability was some forbidden secret, just the lore of an invisible underworld. Except, when I write that it sounds dramatic, and yet it is completely true of our world too.
The Mine is educational but it delivers its education in an atmosphere that is just as illuminating for anybody who does not know what it means to live in a sick or disabled body. After 15 minutes digging through The Mine, eyes too close to the screen, I feel a new anger inside me directed at everybody upstairs; I feel more awake than ever.
Jay Price was the recipient of this years Adam Reynolds award. The Adam Reynolds award is Shape Art’s flagship award for mid-career disabled artists. You can find out more about the award here