Precarious Gestures

Leena Raudvee

Date. Video.

In a looped video, Toronto-based artist Leena Raudvee repeatedly falls and gets up again. The audio is projected into the space directly in front of the video.

Raudvee writes: 

For several years I have been falling. As the falls became more frequent, other difficulties with muscular weakness began to appear, most notably in my legs. Getting up from a chair was difficult. Getting up from the ground was almost impossible. Two years ago when I was diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease, Inclusion-Body Myositis, I resisted the use of canes and walkers, fearing the stigma, the labeling. But the falls persisted. And every time I fell I would feel defeated, helpless, struggling unsuccessfully to get up, with legs unable to hold my weight. Every time I fell I had to wait for 1 or 2 or 3 passersby to stop and grab my arms and try to lift me up. I was drenched in shame. Finally, a year ago I started to use 2 walking sticks. No longer able to pass as able bodied, I was now visually identified as disabled, a spectacle, something to be stared at, accommodated, and judged in silence. Disabled, cautious, slow as well as aged, I had also become strangely invisible.

[I developed this performance as a way] to speak from the precariousness of negotiating im/mobility through dis-ability and aging. The immediate impetus for this performance arose out of the accumulated trauma of falling. It was a public outing of my dis-abled un-abled body. But it was an opportunity to reframe my own narrative. I could be in control. 

Through this work, Raudvee mobilizes the ritual element of performance to assert control over a sense of losing control as the bearer of an aging body. Reclaiming and reframing the slow effort of rising from a prone position: rather than a moment of shame from which a passerby might look away in shame, Raudvee demands the audience witness the act of standing from a fall as a physical feat of strength and determination. The work becomes a crip ritual not only in the sense that the repeated act of standing starts to feel like a rite, but in the sense that the work itself is a documentation of coming to disability consciousness by facing shame.

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