Module 2: Exploring Disability Arts and Culture

2.1 Getting Started: How do we experience art?

Connect to your own experiences:

  1. Describe the last time you encountered a piece of artwork.
    • Where and how was it shared?
    • Who else was in the space?
    • How did you engage with the piece?
    • How were you expected to experience the artwork?
  2. Describe the last time you created or took part in the creation of artwork.
    • Where did you create it?
    • What tools, methods, and practices did you use?
    • Did you create the piece alone or in collaboration with others?
    • What happened to the artwork once it was created?

2.2 Exploring the Art: How does disability shape how we experience art?

Tangled Art + Disability, one of the galleries that hosted the #CripRitual exhibit, describes practices of disability arts and culture on their website:

Disability Arts and Culture is primarily about producing artwork that celebrates diversity, reconstructs disability as a valued human condition, has disabled artists in control of art forms and disability representations, and introduces these artists and their works to audiences in forms that counter and reclaim the social constructions of disability.

The artists of #CripRitual embody a diversity of relations to disability, d/Deafness, Madness, and Sickness. They simultaneously use their art to disrupt taken-for-granted understandings of disability while using their own experiences to disrupt practices of creating art. Through the creation and sharing of their artwork, these artists take part in rituals of cultural creation that “crip”our conceptions of disability and art. And as performance artist and disability culture activists Petra Kuppers describes:

[…] disabled artists and their allies challenge and query the knowledge that governs how we see what it means to be human, but also how we see artwork itself.

Kuppers, Petra. Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 32.

Take a tour: explore the virtual gallery to understand the artists’ practices of artmaking. Select a few works that resonate with you and reflect on how the artists are engaging in practices of Disability Arts and Culture through through the questions below.

  1. How have the artists’ own lived and embodied experiences of disability, d/Deafness, Madness, and/or Sickness shaped their practices of artmaking?
    • Example: Describe how Cassidy Bankson, Faye Harnest, Earl LeBlanc, and Dawn McLeod’s experiences of navigating access and seeking interdependence has shaped their drawing practice and their creation of “With.”
  2. How do the artists invite us to explore disabled, d/Deaf, Mad, and/or Sick perspectives to experience their work?
  3. How do the artists’ work disrupt our conceptions of disability?
    • Example: Describe how Sky Cubacub’s work, “Rebirth Garments,” invites us to shift how we perceive bodies through rituals of adornment.
  4. How do the artists’ work disrupt our conceptions of art?
    • Example: Describe how Alex Haagaard’s work, “Shitty Alt Text,” invites us to rethink what we consider to be art by shifting what we attend to when experiencing “classic” works of art.

2.3 Creating: Exploring practices of Disability Arts and Culture

Reflection: Return to your descriptions of encountering and creating artwork.

  1. How do the artists in #CripRitual invite you to disrupt past encounters with art?
  2. How does the artwork in #CripRitual invite you to rethink process of art making and art sharing?

Activity: As part of the exhibit, some artists created opportunities for visitors to take part in their practice. Choose one of the prompts below to take part in this interactive exploration of Disability Arts and Culture.

  1. Jessica Watkin invited visitors to take part in a practice of reading, shaped by her experiences of blindness. Explore her work, “Knitting to Listen,” and try knitting along to her instructions. You can also explore knitting while listening to/reading an audiobook or a podcast. If you cannot get knitting materials or if knitting is inaccessible/does not interest you, think of what other creative activities allow you to read differently. Perhaps try doodling while listening/reading, or moving while listening/reading.
  2. Logan and Hannah Quinn invited visitors to take part in Logan’s practice of playing by interacting with his cars. Explore Logan’s installation “These Are My Cars,” and think about what practices of play might bring you calm and joy. What objects might you use to play? Are there any objects around you that you can play with? Create an installation with these objects, configuring them in a way that brings you joy.
  3. Through “Soft Magic,” visitors were invited to engage with the objects of artist Margeaux Feldman’s altar. Feldman further invites you to create your own altar by going to page 11 of the Soft Magic zine. This page, titled “Invitation: Altar Creation & Sensory Tour,” gives you instructions for creating and experiencing your altar through a sensory tour. Share your completed altar with your classmates by together taking a sensory tour as guided by Feldman.

2.4 Support the Learning

Read more about Disability Arts and Culture:

  1. Lee, Sean. “Crip Horizons: Disability Art Futurism.” Akimblog.
  2. Kafai, Shayda. Crip Kinship: The Disability Justice & Art Activism of Sins Invalid. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2021.
  3. Kelly, Christine, & Orsini, Michael. Mobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture, and Disability Activism in Canada. UBC Press, 2016.
  4. Kuppers, Petra. Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  5. Sandahl, Carrie, & Auslander, Philip. Bodies in Commotion: Disability & Performance. University of Michigan Press, 2005.

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