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13 Questions: Lawrence Carter-Long

by Emma Tracey

13th May 2010

A New Yorker with CP, Lawrence Carter-Long worked in animal rights until 2005, when he joined the Disabilities Network of New York City and quickly became a leading disability advocate and media spokesperson. He is about to leave this position to pursue other projects, but is in no doubt that his advocacy work will live on, particularly within arts and culture.

Not one to be put in a box, Lawrence has also been critically acclaimed for his performances as part of dance project Gimp and is the founder and curator of disTHIS, a world renowned series of monthly disability related film screenings.

We put some of our usual nosey questions to the man himself during dance rehearsals in Dublin.
Lawrence Carter-Long

Uppermost in my mind today is ...

How I’m going to pull it all together. Where am I? What time is it anyway? I was in New York, then London and now Ireland to perform excerpts from The Gimp Project at the Dublin Dance Festival.

People think I am ...

All over the place. It’s hard to pin me down in terms of what I’m doing from one day to the next. It’s very difficult to pigeonhole me and I like it that way. .

I want to ban ...

The word special. It is used far too often without people really understanding what it means and this actually undercuts what it should be used for. Special Olympics is a term that’s outlived it’s usefulness. I think the competition is valuable and I love the work they doo, but by calling it that, they are separating themselves from others and not focusing on the athleticism of the competitors.

Not a lot of people know that I ...

Am a huge fan of professional wrestling. I grew up watching it with my father when I was a child. It’s one of the things I do now to unwind and escape. I can turn my brain off.

My motto is ...

They are only thoughts. You don’t have to believe them. Another thing people don’t know about me is that I’m a Buddhist. But I find that I trip myself up by contemplating the worst, thinking about what might be happening rather than what is. This is epidemic in the human condition. I try to push myself to do what I would do if I wasn’t having those thoughts.
Lawrence Carter-Long performing

I struggle with ...

Time. There is so much I want to do and not enough time to do it all. I wish I didn’t need sleep!

I excel at ...

Taking what might be seemingly arcane and disconnected things and making a relationship between them. People have been doing regular film festivals since film began but with disTHIS, we created a monthly schedule. Our audience has kept building and we have established a new model. I could never create a community, but we did create a space where community could develop.

My ideal dinner guest would be ...

Someone who would do the dishes.

If I didn't live in the US, I'd live in ...

London. I got married in February, and because of immigration my wife lives there. Or Costa Rica because you just can’t beat the weather.
Lawrence with his performance partner in Gimp

I chill out by ...

Going to the Shambhala centre to meditate and get in touch with myself. People think that meditating is relaxing, it’s anything but. When you spend two hours with just the thoughts in your head it can be jarring. But it’s absolutely necessary and helps me stay connected.

If I ruled the world I would …

Encourage people to do what they would if they didn’t have fear and hope that there wouldn’t be too many skydiving accidents. I’d create a society where fear was acknowledged but people weren’t stopped by it.

The Gimp Project …

Makes you rethink everything you never knew about dance and disability. People have these ideas about what dance is and they think they know what disability is but Gimp throws them together in ways you don’t expect. It’s no prearranged marriage, more of a collision.

The disabled person to look out for is ...

Maysoon Zayid. She is an Arab American comic with cerebral palsy. I saw her act last week and the whole thing blew me away. Really cutting edge and really biting. A bit like Sara Silverman. She’s not yet well known in disability circles, but definitely ready to break out.

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