I have organized my current news and projects according to areas of research (indigenous media; disability), and the different programs and centers that I run (Certificate Program in Culture and Media; Center for Media, Culture and History; Center for Religion and Media; and NYU Council for the Study of Disability.
I am completing a book based on research over the last two decades with indigenous filmmakers entitled Mediating Culture. It looks at the complex challenges posed by the development, circulation, and multiple meanings of indigenous media worldwide — with a particular focus on Aboriginal Australia — to the field of visual anthropology, and the globalization of cultural processes. Check out this discussion on In Media Res that I curated for a sense of what is going on in this field. http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2009/05/01/beyond-broadcast-launching-nitv-and-isuma-tv
On March 3, 2013 with support from the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, I had the privilege to organize and host a “sneak preview” of the new feature film, The Sapphires, Directed by Indigenous Australian actor, writer, and director Wayne Blair. http://nyuskirball.org/calendar/sapphires, including a terrific Q & A with Wayne.
In May 2012, I gave the 2012 Gerbrands Lecture, at the University of Leiden, Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlands on Australia's Indigenous New Wave; and was invited to speak on Fourth Cinema and Future Imaginaries at a conference entitled The Artist as Ethnographer at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. I also gave a talk on Visualizing Disability, at the Beeld voor Beeld Film Festival in Amsterdam.
In July 2012, I was a Visiting Professor at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia, where, with Toby Miller, I taught a week-long interdisciplinary seminar for graduate students on Qualitative Methods in Ethnographic Research and Cultural Studies. While in Sydney, I stayed on in order to carry out research on new developments in indigenous media, in particular with the Indigenous Departments at the ABC, and at Screen Australia, and a chance to be on set for the fantastic new series, Redfern Now. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/redfernnow/
During the academic year 2012-13 I gave a number of talks on “Disabilities in a Digital Age”, as part of the research on innovation in cultural understandings of learning disabilities that I am carrying out with Rayna Rapp. I presented this work as a Distinguished Lecture at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia in July.
As an activist dimension of this research, I helped to establish, SKILLS ("Skills & Knowledge for Independent Living and Learning”), an experimental transition program for NYC young adults with learning disabilities who are making the transition from high school, with the Cooke Center Academy and Winston Preparatory School; with the support of the NYU Council for the Study of Disability, it was housed at NYU for a two pilot. The program, which started with 8 young adults, has expanded to over 36 students, and has had a successful relocation to a larger space on 29th St.
Co-Director, NYU Council for the Study of Disability
As founding co-director of NYU’s Council for the Study of Disability (with support from the NYU Provost’s office). As an advisor to the Reelabilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival (now in its 5th year), we collaborated with the Council to hold screenings and discussions of selected films at NYU in March 2013.
Graduate Certificate Program in Culture and Media I continue to direct the Graduate Certificate Program in Culture and Media (the graduate training program http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/programs/cultmedia.htm) with Teja Ganti, Noelle Stout, and Cheryl Furjanic in Anthropology and Jonathon Kahana in Cinema Studies.
In 2011, we celebrated our 25th year with a reunion and conference, NYU Culture & Media @ 25: Past, Present, Future. We had over 100 attendees, and 32 presentations about current work from alumni as well as current graduate students. Culture and Media alums – who got their PhDs from either Anthropology or Cinema Studies – are in the academy carrying out research on media practices in different parts of the world, are successful filmmakers, curators of public events and film festivals, and are often engaged in activist/human rights activities on behalf of the communities they work with.
In Spring 2012, the work of the students in Video Production Seminar, was screened at our annual May “Docs on the Edge with an outstanding group of films.
As an advisor to the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, we were very involved in helping plan for the Festival’s 35th anniversary, November 2012, which includes a short retrospective of classic ethnographic films, and a panel to discuss the transformations in the genre.http://www.amnh.org/programs/mead/ This year included screenings and a panel in honor of the documentary filmmaker, the late George Stoney, and screenings and a panel on the return of the 1966 films made with six Navajo filmmakers at Pine Springs, organized with NYU PhD student Teresa Montoya whose film and dissertation are exploring this process.
Director, Center for Media, Culture, and History
The Center, which I founded in 1993 and continue to direct, addresses issues of representation, social change, and identity construction embedded in the development of film, television, video, and new media worldwide along with Associate Director, the anthropologist and filmmaker Pegi Vail. The Center includes Internet publications called virtual case books such as http://www.nyu.edu/fas/projects/vcb/case_911.html. based on the mobilization of small and vernacular media forms in response to 9/11. As always, we continue to have a lively schedule of public programs including screenings, lectures, book readings, and conferences.
On February 1, 2013, we held an international Conference, Rouch After Rouch: Reframing a Legacy, that I organized with PhD student Jamie Berthe and Associate Director Pegi Vail.
Please check out our websites for our current activities.
Co-Director, Center for Religion and Media
Along with NYU colleague Angela Zito (Director, Religious Studies), I received a major grant from the Pew Foundation to start a Center for the Study of Religion and Media at NYU, which was launched in May 2003. Among our projects are “The Revealer: A Daily Review of Religion and the Press,” edited by Ann Neumann, http://www.therevealer.org/ We are also developing internet publications, in particular a prototype for a web-based resource, Modiya, developed by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler for the working group on Jews, Religion and Media http://modiya.nyu.edu/. For 2011-13, we have received a two-year grant from the Luce Foundation’s program in Religion and International Affairs to carry out research, events, and conferences on Digital Religion: Knowledge and Practice in a Transforming International World. Please check out our websites for our current public programs. http://www.crmnyu.org/
Mara Mills works at the intersection of disability studies and media studies. Her research and teaching interests include communication history (especially related to telephones and reading practices), science and technology studies, disability theory, and mobile media studies. She is completing a book (On the Phone: Deafness and Communication Engineering) on the significance of phonetics and deaf education to the emergence of "communication engineering" in early twentieth-century telephony; this concept and set of practices later gave rise to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics. Her second book project, Print Disability and New Reading Formats, examines the reformatting of print over the course of the past century by blind and other print disabled readers, with a focus on Talking Books and electronic reading machines.
I will present a paper accompanied by clips from the most recent piece by Cyrff Ystwyth called 20 Years in Hospital. This was authored by colleague Carwyn Daniel and directed by me. I will argue that the work was made by drawing on the effects of this individual’s learning disability that manifested as a state of emptiness. My questions are; how could theatrical performance respond to these challenges and how was everyday life performed and produced as theatre through, as Schechner defines restored behaviours? How did this individual’s story become a representation of both personal trauma, and social discourse in the rural west of Wales? The piece draws on the bi-lingual communications between people with and without learning disabilities regarding the choreographer’s story, and their attempts to discover what he wanted to say.
In this respect then, conventions of representation are challenged as it drew its formative material from exactly what he was unable to do or say. Such a raw representation of a truth then emerged as a profound act of identity construction that allowed a definition of his (dis)abled truth to be seen and heard. Whilst the ethics of working with people with learning disability, of necessity require rigour and vigilance, the discipline of theatre making requires that we face the discomfort of creative rigour in relational contexts.
I am an academic at Aberystwyth University. I was a performer in dance and physical theatre. I worked in adult psychiatry and social services and was also a Dance Movement Psychotherapist. I ran a Community Dance Project for just over 20 years. This time was foundational for me as it taught me about community in the context of Welsh speaking culture and the rural west of Wales. It deepened my understandings of the experience of being on the margins of not only linguistic and geographical majorities but of the invisible experience of marginalised culture and identity. A legacy from my time as Artistic Director of Dawns Dyfed the community dance project is the company Cyrff Ystwyth. The performers are people with and without learning disabilities. The dance-theatre work we make together now forms the major part of my research. My enquiry is seeking to expand the boundaries around the aesthetics of physical live performance that privilege non-disabled people with youthful bodies who conform to western capitalist requirements. That these bodies are also produced and refined via training opens up various questions and avenues of exploration.
So much of the discourse in the UK characterises artists as new and quasi therapists. The well intentioned idea that by providing access to people with disabilities into training (and I am thinking specifically of dance here) any problems are solved as boxes can be ticked and diversity equality and access requirements are being met, does not recognize that there may be alternatives to these dominant aesthetics. Of course people may take profound benefit from access to contemporary dance training and through engagement with art workshops and residencies. My queasiness is caused by the administrative rhetoric that reifies people into beneficiaries and art into beneficent. These ideologies of doing good further reify us all into the cramped identities of proper artist and/or grateful recipient. At least, this is my proposal.
My interests lie in the aesthetic event: The creation that becomes itself in front of its audience. To quote my esteemed colleague Mike Pearson: ‘I need to stress my continued interest in performance as an aesthetic practice and in making a case for its ontological distinctiveness’.
The fact that I work with people without trainings and with disabilities comes down to this. In this context I find a radical new aesthetics that operates as challenge to geo-political ideologies in the UK and to ‘normate’ and normalizing regimes of training, presence, themes and indeed, dramaturgy. Here I find the resistant potential of Cyrff Ystwyth’s work and its practice of the Welsh notion of diwylliant or culture and cymdeithas or society. I am not underplaying disability but rather understanding the radical potential of difference to inform and create the aesthetic event and that the turn to disability might be extremely necessary for our future ability to actually live together.
So I am arriving from outside of the Americas but maybe from outside the dominant European and certainly UK discourse as well. I will arrive as an outsider who is looking for connection, inspiration and radical thinking from colleagues on the other side of the world. I am going to be there in order to learn and to try and integrate those lessons into my practice and thinking here in Wales. I expect to be challenged and maybe to feel out of my depth, but I want such challenge to produce connection and productivity in whatever way possible. I want to hear from other voices and hope to contribute my own.
The title of my presentation is “Performing Disabled Sensorial Extension and Subversion.” What imaginative and metaphorical opportunities can be affixed to current standardized usages of the prosthesis within contemporary art practices if we consider the prosthesis as a sensorial extension in disabled artists’ performances? How do artists with impairments use material and ephemeral body extensions in embodied, performative acts? How can the performance of prosthetics by disabled artists shed light on experiences of the disabled body, both for performer and audience? I will examine the performance work of Carmen Papalia, Mike Parr and Christine Sun Kim in order to shed light on these questions. In Carmen Papalia’s work, relationships of trust and explorations of the senses unfold as the visually impaired artist leads walks with his cane with members of the public in Blind Field Shuttle as part of his experiential social and performance-based practice. Papalia’s cane “leads” a new kind of sensorial and prosthetic experience for participants, as they rely on under-used senses but they also rely on the prosthetic extension of Papalia’s cane as they learn how to ‘see’ differently. In 1977, Mike Parr, born with a misshapen arm, shocked an audience with a simulated “arm chop” performance as he pretended to chop off his left arm, stirring deep-rooted fears of mutilation and castration. Parr shatters all idealistic, awe-filled notions of prosthesis and focuses instead on the horror of amputation – the bloody loss, the messy carnage. Deaf artist Christine Sun Kim “writes the body” through the eruption of a variety of bodily sounds – speaking, murmuring, sound distortion, noise, poly-vocality, silence and especially screams within media-based performances. Her performances offer an avenue for deaf oppression, where new ways of listening might be developed.
Amanda Cachia is an independent curator from Sydney, Australia and is currently completing her PhD in Art History, Theory & Criticism at the University of California, San Diego. Her dissertation will focus on the intersection of disability and contemporary art. Cachia completed her second Masters degree in Visual & Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco in 2012, and received her first Masters in Creative Curating from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2001. She held the position Director/Curator of the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada from 2007-2010, and has curated approximately 30 exhibitions over the last ten years in various cities across the USA, England, Australia and Canada. Her writing has been published in numerous exhibition catalogues, Canadian Art and Art Monthly Australia magazines, and peer-reviewed academic journals such as Canadian Journal of Disability Studies and Disability Studies Quarterly, in addition to forthcoming issues of Journal of Visual Art Practice and The Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal. She has lectured and participated in numerous international and national conferences and related events within the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe, and has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works grant and Canada Council for the Arts. Cachia is a dwarf activist and has been the Chair of the Dwarf Artists Coalition for the Little People of America (LPA) since 2007. She also serves on the College Art Association’s (CAA) Committee on Diversity Practices (2014-2017). For more information, visit www.amandacachia.com
Share ideas, resources, networks regarding the topic of the WG and find generative points of similarity and difference – dynamic conversation!
To create an online space where we can document our conversations/ideas/resources so that we have a permanent record of our work that can continue to build over time
To find new ways to intellectually activate disability within a performance context in order to continue to build the field…rely on past leaders as role models and templates, and create new ones
Compartiendo mi trabajo
Me llamo Carola García y soy artista. Escribo, dirijo, actúo y a la vez soy profesora de teatro en la Universidad de Puerto Rico en el Departamento de Drama, Facultad de Humanidades. Llevo más de diez años como facultativa de un programa de Humanidades Médicas en una de nuestras Escuelas de Medicina. En este programa tratamos que los futuros médicos se sensibilicen a través de cursos de ética, cine, artes plásticas y artes escénicas. Trabajamos escenas con dilemas éticos, los ponemos en contacto con su cuerpo y en cuarto año hacen un cortometraje donde se presenta un problema ético con un final abierto para provocar la discusión. Tengo particular interés en adquirir otras visiones de cómo poder trabajar la empatía con estudiantes de medicina.
Hace un año pertenezco al “Cohort of Faculty” de un programa que se está tratando de implementar en la Universidad de Puerto Rico que se llama “Healing Humanities”. Para este programa estoy diseñando un curso que trabaja las artes escénicas y los temas médicos.
Hemos recibido en la Universidad de Puerto Rico la visita de artistas que vinculan la ciencia y el arte. El trabajo plástico de Laura Ferguson, las poesías y performance de Jim Ferris particularmente han provocado mi interés por los “Disabilities Studies” (no se como traducirlo). En mi país Puerto Rico hay mucho desconocimiento del trabajo performático de artistas con diferentes discapacidades. Quisiera tener una charla informal para aprender de los artistas de nuestro grupo de estudio. Además necesito pistas , sugerencias para ser más inclusiva en mis clases con los estudiantes con discapacidades visibles e invisibles.
“Ombligos, un cabaret de palabras y sonidos” es mi último trabajo artístico. Compuse todas las canciones y me desdoblo en cuatro personajes, Rica Onfalia Star, Agua, Domingo y Canina. Los personajes se desahogan es este “lugar sin local” de Ombligos Bar. Hablan sobre sexo, la imposibilidad de ser felices y todos se relacionan entre si. Agua se siente condenada por su heterosexualidad, Domingo es especialista en provocar placer, Canina está enamora de Agua pero no es correspondida tiene Lou Gehring’s Disease (ALS), se quiere suicidar pero no sabe a quien dejarle su perro. Rica Onfalia Star es el ombligo universal la polisexual que acoge y los recibe a todos. Hago casi todo el espectáculo semi-desnuda, interactúo y bailo con el público, al final nadie se acuerda de mi desnudez.
Me gusta bailar, cocinar, comer, besar, contemplar a mi hija y dormir con mi perra Mariquita. En mis trabajos para niños y niñas trabajo la inclusión de todas las perspectivas de género. Las princesas son fuertes, mulatas y voluptuosas. Los personajes a veces no tienen un género definido. Los príncipes azules se enamoran de otros príncipes azules.
¿Por qué? Porque en mi país se maltratan a las mujeres, se matan mujeres todos los días, cientos, miles, de niños y niñas son abusados por sus familiares , curas o pastores de la iglesia. Las personas con discapacidades visiblese invisibles tienen poco apoyo y viven la marginación más cruel, la invisibilidad. El derrumbe social que vivimos en Puerto Rico hace de mi trabajo creador en cualquiera de sus manifestaciones uno político.
Canto canciones viejas que mi mamá me cantaba por la noche. Soy adicta a la música, el mar y al buen pesto. No me gustan los aeropuertos. Es mi primer Hemisférico y mi primera vez en Montreal.
Conocer el trabajo de artistas que performean la discapacidad. Aprender ejercicios que pueda compartir con mis estudiantes y los artistas con quien trabajo. Llevarme ideas de intervenciones performáticas que pueda hacer en mi país y contactos de grupos artistas y académicos que puedan compartir su trabajo con nosotros.
The idea of a unified, ‘authentic’ and stable self has long been disputed in critical theory across various disciplines; in certain areas of disability activism however, essentialist strains can still be heard in the cries which regularly emerge from people with disabilities to be accepted for “who they really are” (at Arts Access, Disability Arts Conference, Sydney, 2011). This tendency is also often reified in autobiographical theatre and performance projects which place centre stage the 'authentic' experience and identity of the human subject with a disability, an “I” speaking out through defying, questioning and problematising hegemonic representations of themselves in the world.
For elders with cognitive impairments acquired through the onset of one of the dementia group of diseases, issues to do with identity are central. Fluidity of identity is often an everyday state, a lived experience: beyond abstract theorising, elders with dementia may experience their selves as fragmented, disoriented and disturbing and actively fight for the "I" not to disappear. Dementia reframes understandings of the self: in the performances of everyday life, in theatrical endeavours and in postmodern critical theory. Arguing that it is unproductive, both to ignore the realities of lived experience as well as to place essentialist and arbitrary theories of identity in reductionist opposition to each other, I would like to focus on an applied theatre project named To Whom I May Concern, with and about elders with early stage dementia. I examine this project using Richard Schechner's oft stated ontology of performance as taking place in both a ‘not me’ and also a ‘not not me’ state of liminality (Schechner, 1985) to theorise that autobiographical performances involving elders with dementia, both trouble and constructively supplement notions of the ‘authentic’ self, as well as the relationship between identity and performance in everyday life, on the stage and in virtual domains.
I am now in the last year of my PhD research at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Early into my candidature, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). My mother’s diagnosis revolutionised both my life and my research in two main ways. Firstly, it undermined many prior assumptions about AD as wholly and solely an unmitigated ‘tragedy’ with nothing redeeming about it. Secondly, it opened up the research I was undertaking at the time on theatre and ethics, particularly in regards to verbatim theatre. Tragedy and theatre are of course long time companions. Tragedy is largely about inevitability, often eliding hope for change. But the mandate of performance studies is possibility (Schechner, 1985). These ideas began to percolate in my thinking, along with a desire to open up what appeared to be a lacuna in the literature. Verbatim dramaturgies normally rely on the life stories of ‘reliable’ narrators. Theatre studies scholar Della Pollock in her seminal text Remembering: Oral History Performance assumes the cognitive “competency” of the primary teller (2005: 3). But people with dementia are ‘unreliable narrators’ who often struggle to remember their complete life stories, and who regularly resort to fabrication in the telling. In part because of this, and because of the (gradual) decline in many of their cognitive and physical capabilities, they are often stereotyped as the ‘living dead’ not as ‘real’ people. I began to think that an exploration of theatre and performances that worked with verbatim input from people with dementia would surely be rich with provocations about the interrelationship between personhood, reality and narrativity, as well as ethics.
My research has evolved to explore the principal ways in which the stories and words of elders with dementia (and their care partners and care staff) are deployed in certain reality theatre and performance practices, showing how they provoke many questions about the representation of people with dementia. In the thesis, I interrogate the discourses underlying and intersecting with these performative modalities, whether of the public theatre or of institutions, thinking about how these practices speak to each other, what they share, how they differ, where the crossovers are and how they function and operate, as well as to what effect. I argue for a rethinking of the naturalised ways in which stories are told about people with dementia through the application of “performance consciousness” (Schechner, 1985) in cultural representations of people with dementia (elders in the main) to activate possibilities rather than foreclose them. In public theatre spaces, as well as in para-theatrical settings like care facilities, attention to how stories are told about, with and by people with dementia, can open up discursive spaces in which the ethical, political and aesthetic ramifications of the telling of these stories can be explored.
I have a few postgraduate degrees: in Communication from the University of Technology, Sydney; in Theatre and Film Studies from the University of New South Wales, Sydney; in Applied Linguistics and Adult Education from the University of Technology, Sydney. I am also an actor who has worked in theatre and film in Australia, and in New York, with Tectonic Theater Project. However, any acting has been put on hold for a few years now due to the demands of the PhD.
to get useful critical feedback on my project and to give it to others
to revisit and challenge some of the shibboleths of disability studies
to engage with alternative perspectives on disability and performance
to listen, share, have fun and connect
“Performing Dissonance: Aging, Trauma, and Temporal Laps(e) in Peggy Shaw’s Ruff”
“Aging as a performer is my latest challenge,” noted Peggy Shaw in a recent interview, further elucidating how her aging body has become a rather queer site for her current theatrical endeavours. Close to her seventieth birthday, Shaw’s theatrical life and work consciously explore her body’s capacity to maintain performance within a durational, public (time)frame. In Ruff, Shaw’s most recently created performance piece, she explores the before-and-after-effects of a stroke she suffered in 2011, paying special attention to how it has affected her ability as an actor and performance artist. The very structure of the piece (or its lack thereof) reflects the double bind Shaw faces both on stage and off in the stroke’s aftermath: not only has she lost her ability to fully recall her own past experiences, but she is also unable to memorize lines, forcing herstyle to be inherently rough, improvised, and broken. Continuously marked by an aestheticized time, the performance highlights publically her own performative and dissonant breaks with linear progression following the trauma of her stroke.
I would like to explore how Shaw’s performance becomes itself through a kind of virtuosic self-reflexivity precisely because her timed body disrupts any coherent theatrical framing device as she continually (re)adapts to her surroundings in an exploration of her shift in embodied experience. Characterized and produced through continuous temporal laps(es) in time, the performance provides a particular affective theatrical experience in which the audience is able to reflect upon time’s incoherency in relation to trauma, embodiment, and aging more generally. Her performance’s duration inflects her quality of embodied experience, which replaces supposed linearity with what scholar Matthew Wagner (2011) terms temporal dissonance. Thus, I will show how the performance is both an attempt to recover and to document a past existing within, and simultaneously fractured by, Shaw’s memory: an affective impasse that is staged, helping her to articulate new challenges and alternatives to linear, progressive time for both herself and her audiences. How can Shaw’s performance help us to understand the dissonant registers of time between performer and audience, as well as the aging and aged body on stage, in theatrical production more widely?
Benjamin Gillespie is a PhD candidate in the theatre program at the The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a Teaching Fellow at Hunter College and works as the Director of Events and Outreach at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS). Benjamin has presented at multiple conferences across the U.S. and Canada and has published articles and reviews in such journals as Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, and Canadian Theatre Review, and contributed chapters to several anthologies on theatre and performance. His research interests constellate around the historical, neo, and contemporary theatrical avant-gardes; performance, ageing, and temporality; queer and feminist theory; and trauma and affect studies. Benjamin has also worked as a curator, most recently with Split Britches on their installation Desperate Archives at La Mama Gallery in 2014.
Jennifer Jimenez & Stephen Sillett
In 2011, Stephen Sillett and myself, with Aiding Dramatic Change in Development, began a community arts project: Exploring Relationships and Imagining Possibilities, in partnership with North Yorkers Disabled Persons, involving a collaborative, creative journey through story, movement, sound, and video with a group of non-speaking adults who have Cerebral Palsy and use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). The group is engaged in representing their collective identities, histories and aspirations through drama. Various kinds of relationships relating to lived and imagined experiences are being explored using non-verbal body images, spatial meaning-making methods and story improvisation. The project is exploring ways of increasing AAC users ability to connect with others through the arts and engage in a creative process that allows for increased participation and increased independence in the creative expression of their stories. Our discoveries are leading us to explore immersive environments and participatory and interactive performance as a way of facilitating, creation and performance by individuals, and engagement of audience members, with complex physical challenges. We are also using scenography through out the process to create environments that engage creativity and facilitate devised creation. We are currently in the research and development phase with a focus on process. An initial Work In Progress Sharing , happened at the Breaking the Ice Conference, hosted by the Ontario March of Dimes, in Toronto, in June 2013. The group performed an original story. It was extremely well received by the 60 AAC users at the event. They particularly liked the participatory segment where audience members were invited to immerse themselves in the world created by the performers. The group continue to develop their stories and further explore modes of expression for culminating Community Sharing in the fall 2014. During the next stage of the project, we will be working towards a new performance integrating aspects of site specific, installation art and interactive participatory performance. We are excited to be experimenting with an innovative form of performance that will be more inclusive and engaging for audience members of all levels of abilities. We have also been involved in the My Life in The City project with McMaster University, exploring how people with Intellectual Disabilities engage with public space in the city. The project involved researchers following 12 participants as they travel three routes they would regularly use throughout Toronto. During the walks, the participants used an iPad to create a subjective record of their experiences and perceptions by making short videos, taking photos and creating audio recordings or written texts. The next stage of the project involved digitally mapping the routes and augmenting the maps with the audio and visual information that was recorded during the walks. Finally, as a group, the participants engaged in socio-drama exercises and participatory narrative inquiry processes to explore the meanings city spaces hold for them. Through the group exploration, they created and enacted stories about their experience of different areas of the city, with other members of the group working to build the scenes and reflect on the material raised. ADCID developed and facilitated the socio-drama exercises and participatory narrative inquiry processes. During the working group Stephen Sillett and I would make a presentation with photos and video, followed by a discussion and dialogue. The two projects mentioned above, have different focus and intentions, bringing some similarities and differences within the process. We look forward to sharing discoveries in our developmental processes, and intersections between performance, ethics, applied theatre practice, enactivism and the journey of enhancing creative expression. We would also welcome feedback in response to journeys discussed and our future directions with the Imagining Possibilities Project. Some of the questions that the working group will be exploring, where we see relevance to our current explorations are: How do disabled bodies challenge conventions of representation in art and in everyday life? How might disability redefine the conditions of acting, seeing hearing, and engaging in performance?
My dissertation, Freud's Jaw and Other Lost Objects: Psychoanalysis and the Subjectivity of Survival, examines the psychic effects of cancer, considering the relation between bodily disruption and creativity through the work of three exemplary figures: psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, poet Audre Lorde, and literary and queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.
Although my dissertation is not in direct dialogue with disability studies, my research overlaps with some of its concerns in regard to public performances of illness. I am specifically interested in the ways illness intersects with other bodily identities and identifications. Cancer poses a particular kind of threat to the sense of bodily integrity and agency that can collude with other identity-based oppressions. Lorde trenchantly refused to disentangle her experience of breast cancer and corporeal alteration from her variegated identity as a Black, feminist, working class, ageing lesbian poet. Her legacy continues to resonate amongst those who suffer the indignities and injuries of racism, classism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, but her strident rhetoric presumed a category of “woman” that three decades later has become increasingly complicated. For instance, would a transwoman who dons a prosthesis or opts for breast implants find herself at odds with Lorde, who famously envisioned an army of one-breasted women marching upon Washington? How does Lorde’s brand of identity politics align with or work against contemporary discourses of disability? As a (self-identified) fat woman with breast cancer whose primary identification was as a gay man, Sedgwick dedicated herself to queer theory and activism. Two commitments that would seem to make her a likely candidate for appropriation amongst disability theorists were her attention to the politics of shame and to a sensory cognitive realm of “touching feeling” to which the disabled might be especially attuned. Yet she is not taken up by many. In what ways are Sedgwick’s theories incompatible with or irrelevant to today’s disability debates? On the other hand, what might be gained in examining her work in dialogue with disability performativity?
Lana Lin is an artist and writer who is interested in the intersections of art and psychoanalysis as modes of critical praxis. She has produced a body of experimental films and videos that interrogate the politics of identity and cultural translation. For over a decade she has also focused on collaborative multi-disciplinary projects (as Lin + Lam) that examine the construction of history and collective memory. Her work has been exhibited at international venues including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, New Museum, The Kitchen, and the Queens Museum, New York, Gasworks, London, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China. She has been awarded fellowships from the Javits Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Fulbright Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. Her work has been published in Cabinet, Rethinking Marxism, Left History,Art Journal, and will appear in the inaugural online journal of the Canadian Network for Psychoanalysis and Culture. She was in analytic training at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis from 2006 to 2010. She earned her MFA from Bard College, and is currently core faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is completing her Ph.D. in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.
Because words counts : audism in activism
The term "voice" is of significant political importance, especially when it comes to the voices of minoritized people within circles of activism and social movements. Voice becomes less of a sound when someone discusses something other than "a distinctive perspective on the world that needs to be acknowledged" (Couldry 2010 : 1). Despite the challenges this concept would raise when it comes to a Deaf “voice”, the concept of “voicing” social change claims that it needs to be “heard”. This phonocentric metaphor widely used in a social movement reflects many audist practices. Thus, with slogans like “Stop turning a deaf ear to our claims” or “Le gouvernement mène un dialogue de sourds”, audism – an oppressive practice (Gertz, 2008; L. Bauman, 2004) – has spread often in a dysconscious approach, which is to accept and perpetuate dominant hearing norms and privilege, including oppressive idiomatic expressions.
By bringing together diverse activist images and posters, the exhibition Because words counts : audism in activism aims to raise awareness around audism in activist movements. Ten to fifteen images (11” x 17”) selected from the from the Artéfacts d’un Printemps Québécois Archive, will be accompanied by a short video performance offering a critical reflection on audism in activism. Directed by Deaf activists and artists Véro Leduc & Pamela Witcher, the video will be in Quebec and American Sign Language with subtitles in French and English.
Reference cited :
Couldry, Nick. 2010. Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism. Los Angeles : SAGE.
L. Bauman, H-Dirksen. 2004. « Audism: Exploring the Metaphysics of Oppression. » Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 9 : 239246.
Gertz, Genie. 2008. « Dysconcious Audism : A Theoretical Proposition » In L. Bauman, H-Dirksen (dir.). Open Your Eyes. Deaf Studies Talking. Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press : 219 -234.
Lecturer at the School of Social Work—UQAM and at the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Montreal, Véro Leduc has been involved in various social struggles over the last fifteen years, especially in video collectives, students, feminist & queer associations and sex workers community organizations. Since recently, she is involved with the Deaf community in Montreal. She is currently on the board of the House of Deaf Women of Montreal. Following a degree in social work for community art and social recognition of criminalized women in Quebec, she began to pursue her doctoral degree in communication studies. She leads a research-creation project through a bilingual (LSQ-Français) comic book titled C’est tombé dans l’oreille d’une Sourde [It did not fell on deaf ears]. Her publications and art works can be consulted on her website
Krista K. Miranda
Feeling as if they were born in the “wrong” body by virtue of (what would be considered) the “normal” contours of their physical selves, individuals who aspire to be amputees (diagnosed with Body Integrity Identity Disorder)– a population primarily composed of white males – seek to reconcile their physical selves with their psychically perceived selves through (what is typically read as) fragmentation, often admonished as mutilation. Destabilizing formulations of the body as “whole,” this analysis seeks to expose the network of forces at play in the construction of corporeal, and, in this case, psychic,
“abnormality.” This analysis will examine the performative force of this limit case of embodiment specifically through a look at the backlash such desires for corporeal transformation have received from within the disability community. By employing a crip theory perspective to shed light on the tensions that adhere to this enigmatic subjectivity, this analysis will attend to some of the disjunctions between the various desires and material realities of those who purportedly share pro-corporeal diversity ideologies. If it’s cool to be “crip”, then what do we make of the vitriol leveled at those who desire crip embodiment?
At the conclusion of Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability, Robert McRuer asks, “what might it mean to welcome the disability to come, to desire it? What might it mean to shape worlds capable of welcoming the disability to come?” (207) By moving beyond the constraints of identity politics and speaking to larger concerns about corporonormativity and pathologization, this examination of B.I.I.D., or the “disreputably crip,” reveals how compulsory ablebodiedness persists even within a disability activist milieu. Tracing how this desire for amputation is pathologized, particularly in terms of what I call its perpetual “pathological slippage,” will allow us to unearth assumptions regarding the body, the bodily ego, and the politics of the limits of desire when it comes to one’s own bodily contours, thus producing “cripistemologies” about embodiment in general.
Krista K. Miranda is a PhD candidate (ABD) in Performance Studies at New York University. Her dissertation, provisionally titled “Queer-Cripping ‘Whole’: Performing the Variable Body,” examines performances of embodiment on and off the stage that remap the body, its meanings, its taxonomies, and its possibilities to expose the network of forces that create the fantasy of the “whole” body and flesh out what is at stake when the body is revealed to be (always) partial and prosthetic. Her article, “‘What do Women Want, My God, What do They Want?’: Mimeses, Fantasy, and Female Sexuality in Ann Liv Young’s Michael” will be published in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theater, editedby Nadine George-Graves. She was the recipient of the Congress on Research in Dance’s “2010 Outstanding Graduate Research” award for her essay, “Staring at the (Clitoral) Sun: Arousing Abjection in Ann Liv Young’s The Bagwell in Me.” Her prior graduate work includes an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought with a concentration in Gender Politics (NYU) and an M.A. in Writing and Publishing (Emerson College). Her research interests include theories of embodiment, queer and feminist theory, critical disability studies, psychoanalysis, dance studies, and performance art.
In the arts, performances by individuals with disabilities have been historically confined to the freak show and medical theatre, spaces where humans are dissected with a “diagnostic gaze” (Kuppers, 2003, p. 31, 38). At present, performers with disabilities continue to endure this ‘diagnostic gaze’ as they struggle to legitimize their work as artistic. As a result of being discredited as artists, individuals with disabilities are “robbed in their legitimacy and power of critiquing culture” (Abbas et. Al., 2004, p. 9). Consequently, there are few theatre groups in Canada that recognize performers with disabilities for purely artistic, rather than therapeutic, purposes. Theatre troupes/companies that work with artists with intellectual disabilities struggle to gain recognition as theatre groups, even among inclusive arts organizations and specifically within the Disability Arts movement (a term used to describe the work of artists with disabilities in Canada). With the creation of mixed-ability theatre groups, performers with disabilities are able to find new ways to validate themselves and their art. “Mixed-ability” is a new term being used that “contemporizes the label placed on those who have a different or medically documented physical or mental abilities” (“Mixed ability”). The diverse members of Theatre Terrific include individuals with and without intellectual and physical disabilities and mental health issues. Although a ‘mixed-ability’ ensemble, Terrific’s work is not about disability, yet rather more interested in “the rigorous creation of provocative theatre” (“Theatre Terrific”). From mid-July to mid-September 2013 I visited this group participating as an ensemble member in their Fringe Festival production, “Portraits.” Some of my fellow cast members were diagnosed with schizophrenia, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, autism, and other mobility and speech challenges. Using my own experience with Theatre Terrific and other similar performance groups, I will discuss the complexities and vulnerabilties mixed-ability theatre groups endure/engage with during artistic processes and in the Canadian theatre scene at large. My presentation will investigate the rich and tender territory theatre companies comprised of performers with/without disabilities navigate through. I use the word “tender” here to emphasize the rawness and personal nature of my project, and the energy it contribute to our dialogues of the week.
What has been interesting since my fieldwork with Terrific, as of October 2013, the group has been on a hiatus due to “unforeseen circumstances”. I would like to discuss with the group some of the dialogues I have had with the artistic director, Susanna Uchatius, about how the company is essentially rebranding/refocusing their mission and artistic direction. This eventually will add to a bigger dialogue of how other groups endure similar obstacles while trying to fight for their space in the Canadian arts scene (and I use the term fight here intentionally). The question in which many of these groups find problematic is, “Why are we continually being placed in the boundaries of “disability arts”?
I am currently in my third year of her PhD in Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. I have a BA in Theatre and Film Studies and English, and a MA in Communications and New Media from McMaster University. For my doctoral work I am researching disability and ethical theatre practices, specifically within mixed ability groups whereby artists with and without disabilities work together. Other research interests include gender and beauty practices, the spectacle of public performativity, feminist media studies, and performance art.
- interest in discussing how artists/researchers/companies can achieve a better networking system on an international scale.
- a discussion of how dialogues and locales of conferences or gatherings such as this can be more accessible (financially, geographically, physically, emotionally, etc). Such as in my case, I wish artists from Terrific were able to come and speak of their own experiences.
- I am very much interested in different forms of collaboration and artistic processes.
- on a more vulnerable level, I am very uncomfortable with the language I use when discussing my work. I look forward to building a working language for the field in our dialogues that will inform my own ethical concerns when presenting the work of these groups (which are individuals I have created personal bonds with and respect deeply).
I would like to present my short video ''Cripping the landscape 1: Québec City". It is a thirteen minute video that chronicles a five kilometer journey from Laval University to the Ste- Foy train station. Using a “herocam” attached to my wheelchair, I take you on a trip from a to b from the point of view of my wheelchair, exposing the “rugosities” (to quote Brazilian geographer Milton Santos) of this route, indicating moments of danger as I wend my way home. I plan on doing more videos and I would like to have your inputs on my work.
Here is the link of my video.
I am a full-time PhD student in Humanities at Concordia University. I work with Professor Steven High (history), Professor Kim Sawchuk and Professor Julie Podmore (geography). I am also a disability rights activist based in Montréal. My own lived experience as a disabled woman informs my research practice. I am interested in the critical study of ableism. I enjoy making short videos addressing disability from a critical perspective.
I would like to learn more about performance and disability. I am looking forward to meet new people and discover new ways of doing research.
Danielle Peers, Lindsay Eales & Kelsie Acton
Performing ‘health’: Embodying crip politics
“Art and politics are inextricable… from a commitment to the practice of living, and any such practice must involve some conception of health.” (Tynan, 2010, p. 154)
What could be more natural than breath: the delimiting marker of life and death? We are moved through moments of inspiration and stilled in our moment(s) of expiration. We are taught to breath organically: lungs and diaphragms; projected voice, projected independence. As the breath slows, falters, it leans upon new muscles and bones, on new machines and bodies: illness. Illness, Deleuze tells us, can be a state imbued with health: not because of the hope of getting better, but because of the possibilities for becoming otherwise. Illness punctures the tidy organization of our bodies. Health is a relationship to this unmaking: extending the limits of what a person is, and of what a body can do. If health is creativity and possibility, then the body of illness is her canvas, her muse.
In this presentation, three doctoral students, who are also founding artists of a disability-focused anti-oppressive performing arts collective, explore how health has played out in our lives, art, politics and communities. Through dance and spoken theory, video and text, we intend to show Deleuzian and crip theory as not only impartable through language, but also as embodied.
Although our work draws off of Deleuzian notions of health and embodiment, we read and enact these through a distinctively crip lens. If illness offers canvas and inspiration to the self-(un)making projects of Deleuzian health, then what better than crip subjectivities, embodiments, theories and aesthetics to perform this health: engaging with the magnificent failures and vulnerabilities of imagining our selves and our health otherwise? Shildrick and Price (2005) argue that the project of thinking crip, queer and Deleuzian theory together, “embraces, rather than denies, the inherent instabilities and vulnerabilities of the embodied self… and mobilize[s] a productive positivity that overcomes normative binaries, breaks with stable identity, and celebrates the 'erotics of connection'”(sec. 3). In this presentation we explore mundane sites of erotic crip connection: the seemingly banal but fundamentally artistic and political sharing and shifting of breath, weight, flesh, lines (of flight) and temporality. We three move through the beauty, fallibility and vulnerability of these undoings and becomings and land as a body. An assemblage.
In this piece, we move as a crip body: multiple, shifting, messy and unruly. We breathe as a healthy body of illness: canvas, creativity and muse. This is our body. This is what a body can do.
Translation: we will dance, introduce theory, and want to workshop ideas and movement about how illness and the possibilities of sharing care.
Danielle Peers is a doctoral candidate and a Vanier and Trudeau Scholar at the University of Alberta, and a former Paralympian. Danielle’s research on crip art and disability movements have translated into numerous Disability Studies, Sport Studies, and activist-oriented publications. Danielle’s work is often collaborative and interdisciplinary, and it often involves creative research translations into performance art and video. Danielle has co-founded two activist artistic collectives in Edmonton (CRIPSiE and KingCrip Productions). She has been actively making video and performance art for six years, and has had her work featured in some of North America’s leading queer and disability film festivals.
Lindsay Eales is a PhD student, Vanier scholar, certified occupational therapist, dancer, filmmaker, choreographer, and the Artistic Director of CRIPSiE (Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton). Her choreography has been presented by Orchesis Dance Group, the Good Women, Feats Festival of Dance, Kaliedo Festival, Momo Dance Theatre and the University of Alberta’s Arts Based Research Studio. Lindsay was awarded the Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton Region Play Award and the Alberta Rehabilitation Coordinating Council’s Innovation in Rehabilitation Student Award, as well as the Alberta Arts Graduate Scholarship and the Alberta Award for the Study of Human Rights and Multiculturalism.
Kelsie Acton is a dancer, choreographer and PhD student in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta. She is a founding member of CRIPSiE (Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton), a disability and inclusive arts collective dedicated to creating high quality anti oppressive art. Her research examines the intentions and reception of inclusive dance.
To be honest, none of us three are quite sure what to expect. We are hoping to experience performative and theoretical engagements that shift and challenge our understandings of disability and methodology. We are hoping to connect with future collaborators. We are hoping to have our own work engaged with critically. We are hoping for creative sparks, and the opportunities to follow these together.
Our collective works can be viewed online at cripsie.ca
Koby Rogers Hall
In the context of Encuentro 2014 I will be presenting with the [P(re)]Occupations collective the next in our activist archives series, The Living Archives: The Other Side of the Struggle / La Face Cachée de la Lutte. Our project description is as follows:
“We know it’s there, but we can’t see it. After the cameras are put away, the riot porn is turned off, and it would seem that everyone else has gone home – what then? This participatory archive relates art and resistance in Quebec to a wider global movement. Each one of us is engaged in organising, activating and reinforcing evolving narratives in our struggles for social justice.”
The Other Side of the Struggle presents and supports participation in this archival intervention on narratives of trauma, PTSD and survivor support in communities of resistance and activist organising. It is our contention and lived experience that with the current rise of political repression across our global movements, we are witnessing a shift and re-centering of collective care and autonomous organising around emotional and mental health in our movements.
This particular intersection of repression, resistance and resilience is one that interests us, and for which we are interested in shifting the terms of value from stigmatisation, to self- representation and self-determination in struggle.
It is with this project in mind, and a creation trajectory over the last three years around activism, prefigurative politics and the reproductions of repression and trauma in our communities, that I am interested in engaging with this work group as it relates to self- determination, visible and invisible disabilities, and roads to radical collective care.
It is with my past performance collaborator, Maria Schirmer, that we created a piece and dialogue on living with Multiple Sclerosis, and the social and personal stigmas that may frame particularly in our case women’s experiences.
It is with this trajectory in mind that I look forward to engaging with the multiplicity of experiences across this working group, and to investigate modes of performance engagement and lived self-determination as they may intersect, and inform my own artistic research.
Koby Rogers Hall is an artist interested in site-specific participatory works as sites for political engagement. Her most recent projects are dedicated to dialogical arts practices, archiving as cultural activism, and public interventions for political participation. She designs and performs in public works with the performance collective Mischief Theatre, the multidisciplinary arts activist collaboration [P(re)]Occupations, and is the project coordinator for the Artists’ Bloc of the Immigrant Workers’ Center in Montreal. Her independent performance-creations have been seen in theatres and public spaces in Poland, Brazil, the U.S and across Canada.
As a writer she has been published in the Artthreat journal, the .dpi journal for feminist and digital arts, the collective publication TO REST / SE RESTAURER, and her upcoming book of political and poetic works to appear in 2014. She is a member of the interdisciplinary research lab on mobile space with Studio Libre, hosted by Tangente Laboratoire de mouvements contemporains in 2013-14.
Koby’s work has been supported by the Government of Canada’s Millennium Awards for innovation in her field, the Rosa Parks Fellowship for Non-Violent Studies, New York University’s Department of Art and Public Policy, the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
- that it be participatory, interactive and experiential;
- that our frameworks for disability, accessibility and health be revisited and
- engaged with through the experiences of WG participants;
- that we engage with the context and structures present at the Encuentro we are
- participating in (both theoretically and practically!);
- that we come through fun in seeking empowerment! (my experience is that the Encuentros are lovingly rich and full days – it would be nice if the WG can be a space to process this, and not simply add on top of...);
- an awareness of self and collective care in the context of work group dynamics and diversity of experiences and languages – as relates to performance, interpersonal, and everything else.
During the Encuentro I will be presenting on Imperfect Synchronicities, a work in progress performance piece that was developed initially at New York University by fellow work group participant Koby Rogers Hall and myself. Imperfect Synchronicities is a movement theatre piece exploring alienation from the body and the search for self as experienced by women living with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). Through the lens of two women dealing with their families, institutional challenges, and their relationships to their own bodies, we explore issues of ableism by challenging the notions of what constitutes movement, and what makes a person ‘whole’. In this piece we engage audience members directly on issues of accessibility, depression, sexuality, family, working relationships, medical and institutional support, and relationships with our own health. As performers we explore a range of movements from release to restricted, informed by the progressions that are experienced by women living with M.S.: the stiffening of muscles, exhaustion, isolated areas of paralysis, social stigma, etc. Different qualities of movement and text explore different relationships with stages of the disease itself: relapse/remitting, progressive, and chronic stages of M.S. Framed on a larger scale, music, poetic text and eventual video projection confront the worlds of dreams and of nightmares, from our internal struggles with alienation to holding place in society. Counterpoint is developed between disciplines, incorporating text developed through research and interviews with our own families, poetry, movement, sound and image. As creators we seek to challenge our own capacities, and our own notions of mobility as internalized by the mind, body and spirit. When living with M.S., where are the spaces for hope and for transcendence? What are our relationships to health and our sense of self? In drawing the audience in to a dance of sorts, we negotiate our collective complicities with those we treat as invisible in a society that deems who is and is not ‘healthy’ and ‘whole’.
Maria is an interdisciplinary theatre artist and arts educator who recently completed her Master’s NYU where she researched the intersection of performance and politics and how theatre can be used as a tool for social change. She also holds a BA in theatre with an Acting Concentration from Marymount Manhattan Collage and has been acting and directing across the Northeast for many years. She is a theater and creative writing teaching artist with Community Word Project and Opening Act, as well as a staff member at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, where she is also an alumnus of their arts activism training EmergeNYC. She is a long time member of the Lark Play Development Centers Literary Wing, as well as The Forum Project’s Theater of the Oppressed Performance Troupe. She was recently awarded an ISM grant from NYU's Center for Multicultural Education and Programs to explore ableism as related to Multiple Sclerosis in a multi-media theatre piece, as well as a Gallatin Global Human Rights Fellowship, which culminated in an eight-week internship with the Jana Sanskriti Center for Theatre of the Oppressed in Kolkata, India.
- I hope to gain both theoretical and practical resources on this topic. My interest and work with M.S. comes from the personal experience of having the illness in my immediate family. I have very little theoretical or academic knowledge about disability and performance and I hope for that to change.
- Since this performance is a work in progress, I hope to leave Montreal re-invigorated to continue developing it for future presentation.
- As Teaching Artist in the New York City public school system I have had (and currently have) differently abled students in my classes. I am interested in how this work group might inspire my teaching as I consider issues of access and adapting.
“If the theatre world had a concept of dance, this performance would have thrown it over.” (theatre critic on the performance Disabled Theater by the Swiss theatre company Theater Hora and the famous French choreographer Jérôme Bel)
In the context of our working group, I would like to provoke discussion on arts-based methods in the field of performance studies in intersection with disability studies. I will be presenting a current performance-research-project by the Swiss theatre group Theater Hora, a professional theatre company of performers with cognitive disabilities, as part of a planed research project at the Zurich University of the Arts, which aims to investigate Performing Arts Practices in Disability Theatre through video- based methods in a broader context.
Free Republic Hora is a long-term, open-ended performance project, which uses the stage as a laboratory: The performers, professionally trained actors with cognitive differences, are not led by a non-disabled director or choreographer any longer. They have no director, no text, no author – only an empty space, a personal budget and two assistants. “Do what you want and the way you like it” – is the only premise of the project. Instead of serving as “metaphors” or projection screen of non-disabled persons, they create their own roles and narratives on stage (Snyder/Mitchell). In the context of public “Try Outs”, the ensemble gets some feedback from the prospective audience. Questions like “What is performing art?” and “What is a performing artist supposed to do on stage?” are subject to debate. The creative process is documented by camera. As an embedded researcher, I’m filming and video interviewing the performers both as part of the artistic concept and as a means of research. That way, we are exploring how rehearsals and creative processes in the performing arts can be documented and investigated through video-based research, based on methods of Visual Anthropology and Ethnography (Banks 2007). At the same time the project aims to develop an accessible video- based research method, in order to investigate the artistic process from an actor’s point of view. Based on the thesis that usual research methods are not sufficient in terms of performers, esp. with speech differences or cognitive differences, video-based research seems to open up new prospects with regard to accessible, “inclusive research” (Walmsley/Kelley 2003).
Based on a “pilot study” with performers with different abilities in the context of my PhD (with performers from the United States and Europe), it must be asked, how to create a new language, an alternate vocabulary to describe performing arts practices by using the means of the performing arts themselves.
I recently completed my PhD in Theatre Studies at the University of Berne in Switzerland (thesis: „Beyond Performing. Performers with different Abilities“) and I’m a Research Associate at the Zurich University of the Arts, Institute for the Performing Arts and Film, which is a research institute, focused on artistic research in theatre, dance, and film. My research includes performance and disability, Swiss theatre traditions with non-professional actors, acting theories between theatre and medical history and practice-based research methods. I'm particularly interested in the question how arts-based methods can be used in the field of performance studies in intersection with disability studies. During my doctoral studies, I received a nine months Research Fellowship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities (supervisor: Prof. Carrie Sandahl) and did some field research and interviews in the United States with artists and companies like AXIS Dance company, Sins Invalid, Tekki Lomnicki, Theatre Breaking Through Barriers, Neil Marcus and Heidy Latsky.
Currently, I’m head of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funded research project Today’s Festival at the Zurich University of the Arts (in collaboration with the University of Zurich, Research Institute for the Public Sphere and Society, and University of Bern, Institute of Theatre Studies) which focuses on the social impact of community-based theater traditions in Appenzell, Switzerland. I’m co-convener of the Working Group Performance and Disability of the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR-FIRT) and I published several essays and articles in German on Performance Studies and Disability Studies, for example in the journal Forum Modernes Theater (peer-reviewed, ed. by Christopher Balme), Theater der Zeit, and co-edited the anthology Theater und Öffentlichkeit (Theatre and Public Sphere) (2012). Besides my academic work, I recently chaired and organized two conferences in the context of the NO LIMITS- festival in Berlin (which features work by performing artists with disabilities), and worked both as an assistant director in a project with performers with cognitive disabilities in the context of wildwuchs-festival in Basel (Switzerland) and followed the work of the Zurich based theatre company Theater Hora, who became famous for its performance Disabled Theatre, directed by Jérôme Bel.
Personally, I’m very much looking forward to learning about your work both in the field of theory and practice, sharing ideas, interacting and having fruitful discussions. My particular interest is practice-based methods in a disability arts context. As I’m currently developing a research project on video-based research in the field of disability performance, I would like to use the Work Group as a group of experts primarily to get some feedback for my future steps.
Within the working group on Performance and Disability, I would like to discuss a performance project that I presented as a work-in-progress at Dixon Place, NYC, in 2012. Developed with Christina Lammer and Selma Trevino, Equations draws a parallel between the training practices of performers, and a series of exercises prescribed to patients with partial facial paralysis as part of a post-operative rehabilitation regimen. The project emerged from my involvement in Christina Lammer’s “Features: Vienna Face Project,” based at the University of Applied Arts and Medical University in Vienna, Austria (2009-2013). An interdisciplinary endeavour in visual and performative ethnography, Features investigated the points of contact between the practices of surgeons, visual artists and performers, with a particular focus on the expressive possibilities of the human face. The project was grounded in an examination of images produced around medical interventions to the face, ranging from doctors’ preparatory surgical drawings (made directly on the patient’s body or on paper), to the forms of medical imaging to which patients’ bodies are subjected, and finally to the visual documentations of the surgeries themselves. In addition to documenting surgical procedures to the face within the operating theatre for Features, Lammer recorded the personal testimonies of doctors and patients, and accompanied individual patients before, during, and after their nerve or muscle transplant operations. Part of her visual ethnographic work took place outside the hospital, for instance when she recorded the daily rehabilitation exercises that patients are expected to undertake in order to maximise the potential benefits of their surgeries. Equations took these facial rehabilitation exercises as its primary starting point, expanding the prescribed movements from the face to the entire body. Just as Features established a degree of reciprocity between the work of surgeons and that of artists, so Equations drew a parallel between patients’ daily facial “expressive training,” and the artistic training of physical theatre performers who must systematically hone their bodies in order to develop them into more effective expressive instruments. Referring to my experience with Equations within this work group will allow me to address some of the limits, questionings and potentials that are brought on by working across communities, abilities, and disciplines.
Tamar Tembeck is an art historian, curator, performing artist and university lecturer. She received her Ph.D. from the Dept. of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University and is professionally trained in physical theatre and dance. Over the past decade, her artistic and academic research has addressed a broad range of visual and performative practices that are tied to the field of medicine. A number of her publications examine representations of illness and/or disability in the visual and performing arts, as well as in new media environments. Since 2012, she has also been working on issues pertaining to Media and Democracy within Media@McGill, a hub of research and outreach on media, technology and culture at McGill University.
I am basically looking forward to a platform where we can exchange ideas about certain projects I will share with the groups, and issues or questions that have come up in the process.
Heather (Dillon) Vrana
Mobility at the Margins: Central American Archives of Disability, Experts, and the State
The early 20th-century sobriquet for Guatemala City, “Paris of the Tropics,” seems to suggest that Guatemalans and other Central Americans looked to Europe for models of modernity. But whilst scholars interpret this affinity as aspirational, medical textbooks, memoirs, and curricula complicate this presumption with medical discourses of disease and disability linked to the construction of an “able” nation. The modern political charge of this word—hábil—comes to us from the word’s Latin origin, habilis. Habilis can mean “fit, proper for,” but also “most convenient for managing, treating.” The construction of an able nation required subjects who could be conveniently managed, or in the case of the infirm, conveniently treated. Thus, dis- ability intersected ideologies of race, rurality, and labor. Yet extant historical scholarship on medicine in Latin America fails to address disability as an embattled site for modernity. In fact, scholarship on disability in Latin American history is nearly non-existent. This paper is a part of a larger project that seeks to speak into this absence.
In early November 1911, the region’s best doctors gathered for the First Central American Medical Conference in San Salvador. President and renowned surgeon Manuel Enrique Araujo convened the event. Attendees included doctors from all of the Central American republics, including Guatemalan brothers Juan José and Salvador Ortega y Carrascal. Most of these doctors had been students in the mid-1870s, amidst tremendous intellectual commotion as Liberal positivism arrived to Central American universities. Yet reform came slowly to institutions that had changed little since their colonial foundation. Thus young Central American intellectuals looked to Europe for new ideas in science, medicine, and culture; the most outstanding young doctors, including the Ortega y Carrascal brothers, went to study medicine in Paris. When they returned years later to “Paris of the Tropics,” the brothers brought with them new knowledge and techniques. But what happened to this Parisian knowledge as it arrived to “the Tropics” was key.
For Hemi 2014, I will focus on a short account of physicians’ expert discourse, including textbooks, histories of the field, and conference proceedings to demonstrate the uneasy negotiations of modernity, tradition, and nation. I engage literature on 19th-century transnational circulations, Latin American modernities, and medicine. In the larger research project, Mobility at the Margins, I draw out the less-understood moments of great national myths that relied upon claims to ability, movement, and embodiment that figured disability, infirmity, race, and labor in Central America between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. I focus on archival encounters with disabled and “infirm” subjects and what these archival appearances reveal about the state’s efforts to comprehend and rehabilitate these subjects and how this suggests contentious meanings of citizenship. The larger project will attempt to begin to build a historiography of disability in Latin America and to interrogate the archive for innovative readings of historical texts. But for now, this project develops the question of the “manifest,” and “mani-,” troubling the apparent, through archival appearance and ability. It seeks to push both performance studies and history in new directions, confronting the methodological and political distinction between the disciplines, and arguing that the efforts of medical experts to interpret disabled bodies were also performances—of modernity, progress, and nation-building.
As for some more information about me, I am trained as a historian, but find intellectual affinity with performance studies, literature, critical theory, and cultural studies. My book manuscript, Do Not Tempt Us!: Guatemala University Students and the State, 1944-1996 accounts for revolutionary student nationalism, middle class formation, and a new politics of death in Guatemala City. I have also edited Beyond ’68: Anti-Colonial Texts from Central American Student Movements, a source reader of texts from 1929 to 1973, including Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
My second book project, Mobility at the Margins, draws out the less-understood moments of great national myths that relied upon claims to ability, movement, and embodiment that figured disability, infirmity, race, and labor in Central America between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Disability studies is a body of scholarship that I am newly engaging. Extending from a personal politics slowly into my scholarly work, I think I have thus far navigated empathically (or some other abstract phenomenologically-vague term). But for this project, disability studies is a crucial critical framework and thematic that I must engage more methodically. As the nation- state, progress, modernity, and capitalism are complicit in the construction of disability, so too, perhaps, is disability studies crucial to critiques of these structures.
This leads seamlessly into what I hope to get out of this working group. Because this project is in its very first stages and I want to take advantage of the collective knowledge of the group, I most hope to gain a sense of the literature on disabilities studies within performance studies. Related, I expect to begin to build an interdisciplinary bibliography on disability studies. Of course, I also hope for constructive critical feedback from group members as to how this project fits in the field.