What Can a Body Do? impels us to imagine a generative interplay between disability, creativity and beauty. The exhibition builds upon a rapidly expanding body of work in disability arts and culture as well as in the larger interdisciplinary field of disability studies. It also grows out of and responds to the Haverford College symposium “in/visible” (2011), at which scholars, critics, and artists spoke to the intersection of art, disability, and access.
The exhibition What Can a Body Do?, which opens October 26 and runs through December 16 at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, explores the idea of disability through that very question: What can a disabled body do? What does it mean to inscribe a contemporary work of art with the experiences of disability? How can perceptions of the disabled body be liberated from classifications such as “normal” and “pathological” that so limit our thinking? Curated by Amanda Cachia, the show features the work of nine contemporary artists who invent and reframe disability across a range of media.
Joseph Grigely, deaf since age 10, creates works that explore the idiosyncrasies and ruptures of language and the dynamics of everyday communication. Three prints from his Songs Without Words, which visually represents sound via images of people singing that have been clipped from The New York Times, are included in this exhibition.
Deaf performance artist Christine Sun Kim also explores sonic media without the benefit of hearing. At the show’s opening, she will participate in a sound performance, composed of field recordings of sounds from the Haverford College campus.
Park McArthur, who suffers from a degenerative neuromuscular disease, investigates the ways personal mobility is tied to social and political movements in her temporary sculpture, works on paper and short video pieces. Her video, It’s Sorta Like a Big Hug, is a record of her experience of being cared for by a collective of friends in her New York City neighborhood.
Alison O’Daniel, a partially deaf artist who combines sculpture, “sound-baths,” painting and film, will give a screening of her new film, Night Sky. The movie, which was made with a cast and crew half of whose members were deaf and half hearing, explores the friendship between two girls, one hearing and one deaf. O’Daniel will also be on hand for a conversation in conjunction with the screening.
Carmen Papalia creates experiential social practice work, such as Blind Field Shuttle, a non-visual walking tour in which participants explore urban and rural spaces on foot. In addition to leading a local version of his tour as part of this exhibit, Papalia has also produced a soundscape for the gallery of a tour he led in Portland, Oregon, over two days—a non-visual documentation of his non-visual tour.
Korean-American artist Laura Swanson explores her dwarfism by challenging cultural perceptions of size and scale in her work. What Can A Body Do? includes a new iteration of her installation TOGETHER together, which features paired objects of different size whose proportional juxtaposition prompts questions about how we see differences.
Irish artist Corban Walker also plays with notions of human scale. Walker is four feet tall and his TV Man, which appears in the exhibit, is a life-size, looped video replica of Walker standing inside the monitor of a flat-screen TV.
Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi makes wearable art that addresses bodily and social experience and social stigma, influenced by members of her family (and herself) who were born with variable numbers of fingers and toes. Her Dermis Leather Footwear uses latex, cork, rubber and thread to map the memories of medical and surgical intervention.
Polish artist Artur Zmijewski explores his long-standing interest in bodily difference through Oko za oko (An Eye for an Eye), a set of three large-format color photographs and a video that depict naked men with amputated limbs, accompanied by able-bodied people, who “lend” their limbs to the amputated men as they stroll, climb stairs or bathe.
These artists offer new representations of the disabled body and, in doing so, expand our definitions of disability itself.
The opening reception for What Can a Body Do? will feature a performance by Mellon Tri-College Artist-in-residence Christine Sun Kim and will take place Friday, October 26, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in the Gallery.
A number of exhibit-related special events will take place on campus in November:
November 1 at 4:30 p.m. in the Whitehead Campus Center: A poetry reading with poets Michael Northen, Hal Sirowitz, Dan Simpson, Anne Kaier, Brian Teare, and Kathi Wolfe featuring writings from Beauty is a Verb.
November 7 at 8 p.m. in Sharpless Auditiorium: A screening of Night Sky and conversation with filmmaker Alison O’Daniel.
November 14, 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., starting at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery: Blind Field Shuttle, a non-visual walking tour led by Mellon Tri-College Artist-in-residence Carmen Papalia. Space for this immersive, experiential art event will be limited to fifteen participants. Reserve a spot by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 16 at 4 p.m. in Sharpless Auditorium: A gallery talk by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Emory University professor of women’s studies and Greater Philadelphia Women’s Studies Consortium scholar-in-residence.
November 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery:. Exhibit curator Amanda Cachia, Greater Philadelphia Women’s Studies Consortium scholar-in-residence Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Mellon Tri-College Artist-in-residence Carmen Papalia will host an informal conversation and exhibition viewing.
What Can A Body Do? is made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Mellon Tri-College Creative Residencies Program. www.haverford.edu/hcah.
Overseen by the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is located in Whitehead Campus Center. Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 12 noon to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays until 8 p.m. For more information, contact Matthew Seamus Callinan, campus exhibitions coordinator, at (610) 896-1287 or by emailing email@example.com.