Cripping as Disrupting

Performer with prosthetics doing a hand stand on wheelchair
Erin Ball performs in Crip Shorts. Photo: Michelle Peek Photography courtesy of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology & Access to Life.

“The theme of disruption carried throughout the symposium with discussions about breaking down exclusionary environments and practices, and the silos that enclose Deaf, Disabled and Mad arts. While the contemporary art world often touts diversity and equality, the spaces in which it’s programmed and the rules by which it’s governed often operate on white, settler and patriarchal models. The mission of disabled artists and their allies is not only to increase visibility for marginalized artists but to break down, or crip, the colonial and ableist structures that have alienated them.

For example, methods of Relaxed Performance, as discussed by Andrea LaMarre, Carla Rice and Kayla Besse, subvert the ableist gaze in theatre. It strives to change the etiquette on what it means to be “a good audience member” in an artistic medium which the speakers identified as having a long history of exclusion and exploitation of marginalized individuals. Having proper interpretation, allowing audience members to speak or come and go from the theatre as needed, or having the actors address the audience are some of the methods they propose to increase access. They also noted that in order to have better representation of deaf or disabled actors, they must first foster deaf or disabled audience members. Inclusion has to start at the door, not in a report or as a one-off on the marquee.”

Excerpt from On the Complexity of Cripping the Arts written by Christiana Myers and published in Canadian Art.

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