Indexing disability performance

Indexing disability performance

Keywords: disability, performance, documentation  

Short summary: This post summarizes how to document performances that relate to disability in the Emergency Index during the year 2015.

In Emergency Index Vol. 3 (2013) there are five performances indexed under Disability. The index is an ongoing project dedicated to documenting performances annually with both a photographic image and visual description as composed by the artists themselves. This is an index, as Yelena Gluzman (editor) writes where: “each performances receives equal space, and, as editors, we do not distinguish between them.”  The non-curatorial approach as taken by the Index team reveals the importance of how performers describe their own work. The performance is thus contextualized by the maker of the piece, who determines the outcome of how a descriptive text is written. This is useful for artists and makers who prioritize visual description as a means of access for their readers.

The five performances indexed under the subheading of disability:

  1. Nevada (k. m. mustatea)
  2. A Fierce Kind of Love (Suli Holum and David Bradley)
  3. Salamander (The Olimpas, Petra Kuppers and Neil Marcus)
  4. Consulado Movil/Mobile Consulate (Omar Pimienta)
  5. Long Departed (Irene Loughlin)

 

Emergency Index is a compendium of performances that is published once a year. The next volume will index performances made in 2015. If you made a performance in 2015 that you would like to document in this way, see this year’s call here (Deadline January 30th):

Once again the Index team is opening up their call for performances that took place during the year 2015.  The non-curatorial approach as taken by the Index team reveals the importance of how performers describe their own work. I invite people to work alongside this team to increase the presence of work produced by disabled artists, and works that are generated around the theme of disability. Please share this opportunity widely to ensure that the Index represents a diverse range of work. The deadline for submissions of performance work is January 15th, 2016.

Further information is stated below:

Emergency INDEX is an annual 500+page volume documenting hundreds of performance works from all over the world and from genres as diverse as dance, game studies, visual art, music, poetry, activism, advertising, medical and scientific research, philosophy, theater, translation, therapy, data visualization, disability studies, community art and many more.  Every year, Emergency INDEX invites authors (artists, researchers, advertisers, activists, etc.) to document performances they made in the previous year, and asks them to document the work in their own words. By including performances regardless of their country of origin, their genre, aims, or popularity, INDEX is the only print publication of its kind, revealing a breathtaking variety of practices used in performance as it actually exists today. Submissions are now open for the third volume, documenting works made in 2013. Look at the website for examples from previous volumes and for information on how to submit:

http://www.emergencyindex.com.

 

Crip01_Cover copy

Call for Contributions to Crip Magazine No02

Please find this call for contributions from Eva Egermann, who is currently based at UC Berkeley for a research project.
Crip Magazine began in 2012 as a self-published art-zine and collection of materials on crip issues, art, culture and representation contradicting categories of normal/abnormal. The first number featured various articles and interviews as on radical crip movements, an anarchist outcast night as well as subcultural, left and queer contexts of disability, experimental texts like an extra-terrestrial song text, eccentric pieces of writing, cosmic creatures or uncanny imaginaries on feeling bad.
 
The idea that “writing” is a “technology of cyborgs,” was taken up in the magazine. As Donna Haraway puts it in the “Cyborg Manifesto,” cyborgs struggle with perfect communication, the one “code” that translates and transmits all meaning perfectly. This is why cyborgs insist on noise and demand pollution. Noise Publishing.
 
The upcoming issue will be a collection of all possible kinds of crip materials (e.g. images and artworks, essays, interviews, short stories, etc. etc.) We encourage contributions that focus on crip pop culture, art, radical social movements or deal with pain/suffering and works that open up a transformative perspective on body issues and bodily relations.
 
The magazine will be bilingual (English/German) and visual or artistic contributions are especially welcome. For accessibility, visual contributions should include audio descriptions. Works can be sent in a format (A4 or US letter format) or as raw texts or image files. Please send your proposal until 30 November (final contributions are due by 30 December).
 
Note on accessibility: Crip Magazine progresses in process. We offer audio descriptions as well as various formats that can be read by e.g. Speech software. The magazine will be available online and can be downloaded free of charge.

Submission Opportunity: Indexing Performance Works

I have been kindly invited by the Emergency INDEX team, a group of collaborators working to index performances on an annual basis, to expand the presence of disability and related themes into the Index’s repertoire of documented performances. As a contributing editor for this upcoming edition, I am working towards increasing the visibility of artworks produced both by disabled artists and works that are generated around themes of disability within this particular anthology.

I own both the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Emergency Index anthologies – it is an impressive compendium of works. I greatly encourage all members to submit works for their upcoming edition. Please share this opportunity widely to ensure that the Index represents a diverse range of work. Please feel free to contact me for further information for this exciting opportunity.

Please note that the deadline for submissions of performance work closes on January 15th, 2014. Share widely and apply today! Further information is stated below:

Emergency Index is an annual 500+ page volume documenting hundreds of performance works from all over the world and from genres as diverse as dance, game studies, visual art, music, poetry, activism, advertising, medical and scientific research, philosophy, theater, translation, therapy, data visualization, disability studies, community art and many more.  Every year, Emergency INDEX invites authors (artists, researchers, advertisers, activists, etc.) to document performances they made in the previous year, and asks them to document the work in their own words. By including performances regardless of their country of origin, their genre, aims, or popularity, INDEX is the only print publication of its kind, revealing a breathtaking variety of practices used in performance as it actually exists today. Submissions are now open for the third volume, documenting works made in 2013. Look at the website for examples from previous volumes and for information on how to submit: www.emergencyindex.com. The deadline is January 15th, 2014. We especially welcome submissions from genres outside performance art and theater/dance.

Contact me for information regarding access to the Emergency INDEX website.

Watch the Sins 2009 online, and why.

Sins Invalid, An Unashamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility.

Sins Invalid is one of my favorite American projects, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a performance based collective ‘that incubates and celebrates’ artists with disabilities, particularly ‘artists of color and queer and gender-variant, as communities who have historically been marginalized.’ In 2009, I was fortunate enough to be in the audience of one of their shows, which so happens to be available online with small donation of $2, between now and the 11th August. For all UK viewers who are unfamiliar with their work, if I’m guessing correctly, you might know of Mat Fraser, who makes an appearance in this show.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film. I can’t simply say I enjoyed it, which of course I did, but the skilled way in which it evokes a deep rooted emotion in me negates such niceties. Watching the show I was confronted with new ideas about both disability and sexuality. Whilst discussing the experience of the disabled body, I noted how I objectified this body then, even being guilty of locating it within the medical gaze. For me, Sins Invalid has the ability to ask questions about identity politics, freeing the body up from the confines of the medical discourse, showing, instead bodies that are complex. Patricia Berne, one of the co-founders, states:

We weren’t seeing folks who were holding the complexity of our identities — as people of color, as queer, as people impacted by male supremacy, as people with disabilities — all in one place. We wanted to create a space that could hold all of who we are, where we wouldn’t be the token person of color, or the token person with a disability, or the token queer person (not that Leroy is queer — he’s an ally).

The quote above, taken from Huffington Post’s article ‘When it Comes to Sex, Are Your Sins Invalid?’ offers a good comparison between disability justice and social justice more broadly. Such a progressive discussion breaks away from mere tokenism; significantly embodying the human experience.

To view the show click on the following link: Watch the Sins now!

Conversation: What About the Superhumans? Part 2.

Summer 2012, there are two buzz words in circulation, independently and in conjunction with one another: superhuman and inspiration. At the ugly end of the spectrum, ‘inspiration porn’ is making its appearance across social networks; a larger man with artificial limbs leans down to a young girl, also with artificial limbs, written across this image is ‘The only disability in life, is a bad attitude.’ Due to the popularity of this discussion, I shall end it here (at the end of this blog, there are some suggested readings).

The model of inspiration within the disabled community has perpetually been a valuable currency to trade on. Lawrence Clark, for instance, has been making full use of this alarming rhetoric this summer, with his new show ‘Inspired.’ Clark’s show is about “Asking awkward questions. Are all Paralympians special? What about those who come last?” I like this – what about the people who can’t have it all, who are just “rubbish”, as Clark suggested? To excel, to push our incredible machines to the max is an interesting process in and of itself. How does one arrive at this point? The writer/interviewer Richard Downes goes on to state that ‘To be heroic is a form of self-feeding that we can get into which will lead to another form of damage.’ In modifying our bodies, how far does one go?

So, Channel 4 is hosting this year’s Paralympic Games, and the advertisement has incited the disabled and the non-disabled community to ask many questions, one being: is this another employment of the ‘overcoming disability’ discourse? If not, it certainly still embodies the rhetorical device of the Supercrip. This is the assumption that the disabled body overcomes its inherent difficulties, to align itself with the normalcy of ‘those able bodies.’ During the latter part of the advertisement, the following text appears across the screen: ‘Forget everything you thought you knew about strength, forget everything you you thought you knew about human, it’s time to do battle, meet the superhumans’.

Part 1 of this conversation, by Nina, addresses the fact that this advert is appealing to the “non-disabled” audience. I never thought of the advert within this context, appealing to the masses only to turn up the heat and people’s desire to see Supercripness in action. However, to my mind, no discussion of this advert is complete without recognizing its glaring flaw. In a text that ostensibly celebrates, and serves to ‘normalize’, disabled people, it falls at the first and most common hurdle, the primary employment of non-disabled musicians and artists. Bay Area hip hop artist, Leroy Moore, recently led a discussion with fellow facebook users about this issue. Moore recognised the need for disabled artists to have a visual presence during such events: “The whole message is so bad and coming from non-disabled people sets us back on the international stage by a Hip-Hop group that is supposed to be one of the most political groups in Hip-Hop, Public Enemy! Sad that even conscience Hip-Hop groups don’t get it!” This discussion eventually lead to the point of analysing what critical thinking is, and how it pertains to the media. Which, I feel, is the most relevant question when approaching a media text such as the Superhuman. Critical thinking is the ability to recognize problems, and draw attention to the unstated assumption, in other words, expose the underlying rhetorical devices that are silently employed in all media. How do the media and activists come together to find a workable change to this well-rehearsed narrative, that caters both for the attention of disabled and non-disabled audiences?

After rewatching it several times, I’ll admit that the clip is fast, furious and sexy. My interpretation of this advert, that in fact these disabled athletes have a palpable sexual agency, juxtaposes the image of the infantile ‘Tiny Tim’, a character that often consumes the representation of disabled people. The advert certainly deconstructs this stereotype very well, even within the two minute time frame. Yet, the unfortunate ‘overcoming disability’ narrative is alien to most people with disabilities, not all individuals have access to this level of status, this degree of relatability. Therefore, this Paralympics advert arguably composes a narrative that dooms many to exclusion: failing to reach this level of success suggests an abject failure. It is either Superhuman or barely human.

The quick flashes of a car crash, a pregnant woman, the hand-to-hand combat of the battlefield, reveals to viewers that not everyone is immune to the impact of disability in their lives. I would like to rephrase this slightly. What is at stake here is an academic concept, that of ‘temporary able bodiedness’, which suggests that all members of society experience only temporary able bodies. If someone breaks their arm – they become disabled, albeit temporarily – suggesting more radically that, in fact, disablement is fluid. The question I have to ask now is, do non-disabled people perceive this narrative? Namely that fluidity between disability and ability is much closer to the surface than mainstream society could ever imagine.

Suggested Reading:

Richard Downes: Laurence Clark talks about his Unlimited commission ‘Inspired’

Philippa Willitts Bad attitudes do not cause disability any more than good attitudes guarantee health