Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

AAV Artists Talk – Olivia Muscat on Curiosity

“The willingness to acknowledge that your perspective is your perspective. That your knowledge is your knowledge. And, there are mountains and rivers of over knowledge out there.” - Olivia Muscat

olivia muscatt

AAV Artists Talk is a video series that feature Deaf and Disabled artists sharing their experience. This video features Olivia Muscat. Oliva is a writer and disability arts advocate. In this video, Oliva discusses the role of curiosity in growing arts practice and being open.  

(video description: Olivia Muscat is wearing a bright floral dress, strawberry earrings and a bicycle necklace. She is talking in front of a black curtain.)   

The series was filmed as part of a co-design workshop series to develop programs for young Deaf and Disabled artists, creatives, audiences and arts workers. Each artist responded to one of our values. We will be releasing a video each Tuesaday from 14 March to 4 April 2023. 

Click here for more info about our programs for young people.

This program is in partnership with Engage!, VicHealth and Cassandra Gantner Foundation

Artist in focus

Olivia Muscat: Building on other people’s ideas and and re-examining them from your own perspective.

That’s curiosity as well.

Creation as a reaction to someone else’s work is useful in forming your own practice, I think.

I was so pleased when Artie got in touch to ask me to come along and speak to you all, even though I feel like I’m just making it up a lot of the time.

The idea that I’ve been asked to talk about today is curiosity, which is kind of a massive thing, but also very specific.

Curiosity is not simply a desire to know and learn new things.

It is the ability to approach asking questions and not being afraid of being given the answers.

It is an openness to feedback and to shifting perspectives.

An openness to new approaches and rethinking what you thought you knew, and to examine areas in which you might need to shift your thinking.

Your willingness to acknowledge that your perspective is your perspective.

That your knowledge is your knowledge.

And there are mountains of rivers of other knowledge out there.

Some you will come to possess and others which you won’t.

It is knowing when to be curious by asking questions and knowing when to be curious, by listening for the answers.

So the four areas that I sort of chose to focus on are curiosity about yourself, curiosity about others, curiosity about community and curiosity about art.

So the first one is curiosity about yourself.

So being open to finding out about yourself, what does that even mean? You are yourself.

So knowing yourself and your own needs, whether they are access needs or just, you know, how you work or how you like to communicate and being open to and aware of those needs changing.

So some questions I like to consider are, what do you need to do your best work? Why do you do what you do? What draws you to your particular practice? Why are these things important to you? Stop and check in every so often to reflect on whether the answers to these questions have changed or developed.

And it could be due to your needs changing, or you gathering or coming to possess new information or shifting perspectives, or being exposed to a new way of thinking about something.

Know that you know you’re not static.

Nothing is static.

You’re always changing.

And I think we move so quickly through things and we are always busy and getting on with stuff and doing what we do that sometimes we don’t even notice these things shifting or changing.

So it’s good to take some time to really reflect on that in whatever way works for you.

Allow yourself the opportunity to be curious about things by getting comfortable about speaking up for what you need.

Whether it’s, you know, I use the term access requirements and that could be access requirements due to a disability or chronic illness.

It could be access requirements about you might have family obligations or work obligations.

We all we all have access needs and we all have things that we need to be allowed to do our best work.

And I think it’s important for me to sort of… I’d like to see personally a shift in perspective about what access needs means and just acknowledging that all humans have access needs.

That disabled people have possibly more specific and less common access needs.

But we all have access needs.

So allowing yourself to be curious by knowing what you need to do your best work.

When I was going through school and uni and stuff, other blind people would tell me, Oh, you should be faster at braille, you should be better, because when you’re speaking to people, it’s gonna be super awkward.

If you’ve got like a device in front of you.

But I didn’t start learning braille until I was 14 or 15.

And so I can read it, but I don’t feel comfortable speaking to it and reading aloud from it even now.

And I had to find my own way of doing things.

And I thought, you know, you can tell me what to do, but I’m gonna listen and speak, which I’m doing now.

And maybe it is super awkward and you’re sitting there going, what’s she doing? But I don’t think so.

Who knows? You can be an expert on one thing and you can gather knowledge about other things.

And it’s important to be curious about all those things.

That lived experience doesn’t mean lived experience of everything, and it’s important to acknowledge that, and be curious and learn about other things and share that knowledge with others when you acquire it.

But always know that you might need to bring in someone else to talk about something or educate you on something.

And that’s okay.

Being aware of intersectionality and how that affects people’s different experiences and their knowledge.

And you can’t have that knowledge in that lived experience unless it’s your own.

It’s important to learn about other disabilities.

It’s important to learn about you and your relationship to other people and how that might be different.

So, an example from my own life.

I’m an expert.

I say to people, I’m an expert on my disability.

And when I say my disability, I don’t mean blindness.

I mean my blindness.

I’m an expert in growing up with low vision, which I did, and then having sudden vision loss.

I’m an expert in the way I get around in the world and the way I communicate.

Another really important thing to me about being curious is seeking out community, and that might be seeking out community in person like you’re all doing, clearly by coming along to these workshops.

Another big one is that made a huge impact on my life was seeking out the disability community online.

Acknowledging that you’re not a monolith, neither is disability in general.

Your perspective is your perspective and you shouldn’t… Sorry, you can’t and shouldn’t have to know everything.

No one can know everything.

When it feels appropriate to ask questions, engage by asking questions.

So it’s not about bombarding people with questions just out of nowhere, but either, if they’ve talked about something, written about something, posted about something, and it feels appropriate to ask further questions, do.

Or reach out and say, Hey, I really admire what you’re doing.

Can I ask you a few questions about something? This is what I do.

This is what I’m interested in.

I don’t think there was one moment when I kind of went, Oh yeah, I’ve made connections with people.

It’s just realizing you have people that understand where you’re coming from and what you’re going through and you can chat to however casually about stuff or relate to their work.

The next topic I said was curiosity about others.

Find disabled artists, writers, creators and engage with their work.

Take it in.

Supporting everything is great, but you don’t have to like everything.

But engaging with everything and interrogating it.

Another thing I could speak on for about ten years is whether as a disabled creative I personally have with it… Do I personally have to always, always make everything about being a disabled creative? And the answer is no.

But just in terms of my writing and especially in my theater practice, everything I do is about me being blind by virtue of me being blind and being on stage.

So it might be about… Recently I did a piece about makeup and dancing and fun stuff, but it was challenging.

It was still challenging people’s perceptions of, a blind person being on stage.

So you don’t have to overtly challenge things.

The art doesn’t have to overtly challenge ideas to be worthy of engaging with.

We all like fun art, don’t we? Yes.

And curiosity about art.

I’m thinking more about your own art, about your own practice.

To be curious and experiment with style and materials and intentions and supports and seeing where that might lead.

Like, never sort of thought, never sort of said to myself, yes, writing is going to be my career.

But I thought, well, I guess my art form will be writing now, ’cause it’s too hard.

No one really wants to go out on a limb and have a blind actor or whatever, which is what I really wanted to do.

And I love writing this.

It’s not like it’s a consolation prize or something.

But in the last few years, I’ve been experimenting more with different ways of performing and different ways of making theatre and engaged with different supports to help me do that sort of thing.

And I’m like, Oh, yes, I can do this.

And it’s great.

And I’ve been back on stage and it’s fantastic.

Another example of that was, yeah, I was pretty set in my ways as a writer and I was invited along to a workshop.

It was a day all about sound arts and audio arts.

And I came away from that going, Hey, that’s really fun.

I could do that.

And I did.

And I downloaded some, like, recording and editing software and stuff and started to mark around with it and see what I could come up with.

And I think this is also where the idea of play and experimentation comes in, ’cause it’s just like, just see what happens when you do something.

And I spent, I mean to be fair, it was lockdown, but I spent a lot of lockdown just making weird sound art, just ’cause I’d been exposed to this idea at this workshop that I went to.

I’ve made a few pieces of sound art now.

I think one of them was part of the Museum of US.

And I was asked to contribute something to that.

And I think when I was asked to contribute, I assumed I’d be contributing a written piece.

And then I submitted this, like weird sound work that had recordings of me like brushing my teeth and making coffee and my screen reader, you know, saying stuff over the top.

And that was really, really fun.

And it doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my writing or my theatre or anything, but it was just a moment of curiosity for me going, Oh, this is interesting.

But if there is a thing that you might think you might be kind of interested in, seek it out.

Just sit in it for a while as an art form, listen to it, look at it, feel it.

And then who knows what might come out of that for you.

So thanks for listening to my ramble.