Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life (BIT), is a multidisciplinary, university-community research project that at its core, aims to cultivate and research activist art.

In this project, ‘activist art’ refers to: disability art, Deaf art, Mad art, aging and e/Elder art, fat art, from a decolonizing and cripped lens. We, the researchers, artists, curators, practitioners, and community members on this grant, explore the relationship between cultivating activist art and achieving social and political justice. We believe that activist art holds the power to represent these aggrieved communities who are routinely represented as non-vital, a representation that often produces violent and even deadly effects– differently; as artistic, creative, agentive, political, community-connected, and full of vitality.

Co-lead by Dr. Carla Rice (Canada Research Chair in Care, Gender, and Relationships, University of Guelph) and Dr. Eliza Chandler (School of Disability, Ryerson University, and former Artistic Director at Tangled Art + Disability), BIT sets in motion a creative and intellectual wave of leading-edge artistic creation research, technological innovation, and critical inquiry within and beyond Ontario. Blending theories and practices of disability arts, feminist arts, and community arts, this grant explores how, and to what ends, we can cultivate arts that re-figure bodies/minds of difference.

Why we do this research:
We now have legislation in the province of Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA), which seeks to make Ontario “fully accessible” by 2025. While the law can do much to advance inclusion, it can’t legislate desirability, cultural recognition, or welcoming in. We argue that this is what art and cultural production can do. Without being teach-y or preach-y, we argue that art can open dialogue about charged and difficult topics. Without telling people what to think or feel, art can make people think and feel, moving and affecting audiences to new understandings and more inclusive ends. Our grant will give opportunities for non-normatively embodied people to imagine themselves into the representational field and to be seen as cultural producers. This is urgent as many impactful legal & policy decisions are being made with limited public understanding about what is at stake for those most affected.

This research is a project of Re•Vision: The Centre for Art and Social Justice at the University of Guelph and expands upon our partnership with Tangled Art + Disability. 

Bodies in Translation is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.