artwork from the Outliers exhibition


Artist Michel Dumont­ reflects on his tile mosaic sculptures and live performance at the Outliers on Tour exhibition at Tangled Art + Disability. Dumont’s work engages how colonial oppression both shatters and re-creates his relationships to his past, present, and future as the son of an Indian Day School survivor and as a queer Métis two spirit artist.

This short documentary features a powerful performance in which Dumont uses a hammer to destroy a photograph printed on tile of an Indian Day School classroom as he reads out the names of each child. He later glues the pieces back together for him to form a mosaic.

This video was made in collaboration with Michel Dumont. Video by Anthroscope Media, created by Erin MacIndoe Sproule, and produced by Bodies in Translation.

Image description: A video still image of two taxidermy bear head forms covered in colourful mosaic tile.

a screen of the documentary Finding Language

FInding Language

In this interactive performance, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Potawatomi and Lenape neurodiverse artist, considers how systemic colonial oppression intersects with her relationship to language as a learning-disabled person. Finding Language was performed at the Cripping the Arts symposium in Toronto. 

This video was made in collaboration with Vanessa Dion Fletcher. Video footage by Kavya Yoganathan and Hannah Fowlie. Photography by Michelle Peek. Editing by Marion Gruner of Billion Ideas. Music by Ziibiwan. Produced by Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology and Access to Life.

Image description: Vanessa Dion Fletcher reads a book while the people sitting around her watch.

Image of performer at Cripping the Arts

Cripistomologies of Disability Arts Culture: Reflections on the Cripping the Arts Symposium

A special issue of Studies in Social Justice co-edited by Eliza Chandler, Katie Aubrecht, Esther Ignagni, and Carla Rice

Through reflecting on Cripping the Arts, a symposium held in January 2019 in Toronto, this collection of articles and dispatches reflects on Deaf, mad, and disability arts and culture in Canada from various cripistemological perspectives (Johnson & McRuer, 2014). Cripistemologies seek to ‘know’ disability from the perspectives of disabled people and disability experience. 

The articles and dispatches in this special issue position ‘cripping the arts’ – a project that centres disability and desires its disruptions in creating, programming, and experiencing arts and culture – as a political project, one that is connected to disability studies, rights, and justice. As a collection, these pieces demonstrate how representation through arts and culture is a matter of social justice for how it promotes cripistomologies and influence public understanding of the multiple and intersectional experiences Deafhood, madness, and disability through first-person perspectives.

Image description: A performer from Brownton Abbey stretches out a large piece of bright pink fabric, which covers their body. The performer is positioned in a forward motion. The wall behind them is a vibrant blue.

Summaries of each contribution

The special issue begins with a conversation between Vanessa Dion Fletcher (Potawatomi and Lenape) and Max Ferguson. The two artists discuss Dion Fletcher’s performance piece Finding Language: A Word Scavenger Hunt, which she performed at the Cripping the Arts Symposium. 

Andrea Lamarre, Carla Rice, and Kayla Besse elaborate on their panel discussion at the Symposium on how the crip cultural practice of Relaxed Performances is changing theatre in Canada.

Becky Gold’s article thinks through the role that interdependent relationships, leadership, and mentorship play in the professional development of disability artists. These are topics explored in the Leadership panel discussion Gold moderated at the Symposium.

Eliza Chandler, Esther Ignagni, and Kimberlee Collins describe and reflect on the process of creating an accessible version of the Symposium’s program.

Mary Bunch’s essay takes up Bruce Horak’s “Through a Tired Eye,” an exhibition mounted at Tangled during the Symposium, as an invitation to think differently about visual art, visuality, and spectatorship through her conception of “blind epistemology”.

Through reflective sketches, Jenelle Rouse offers an account of her experience at the Symposium as a culturally Deaf attendee and artist.

Stephanie Springgay thinks with Vanessa Dion Fletcher’s artistic practice and how it animates feminist Indigenous sovereignty and decolonizes understandings of neurodiversity. 

In an interview with Esther Ignagni, artist David Bobier recounts his 30-year history of working in Deaf and disability arts. Bobier and the VibraFusionLab use vibrotactile technologies to centre Deaf and disability experiences and change our cultural interactions.

Christine Kelly and Michael Orsini’s essay reflects on the neoliberal demand for arts organizations to prove their value and impact using metrics. 

Chelsea Jones, Nadine Changfoot, and Kirsty Johnson detail the Symposium’s Representation panel they facilitated, in which panelists discussed the politics of representation in arts journalism and possibilities for reviewing Deaf, mad, and disability arts in solidarity with the artists and their communities.

Taeyoon Choi, Aaron Labbe, Annie Segarra, and Syrus Marcus Ware with Elizabeth Sweeney’s dispatch details the artists’ practices and describes how Deaf, mad, and disability art, disabled people, and disability wisdoms are core to envisioning, enacting, and living into the future.

accessible meme

Better Practices: A meme-able crip public education campaign

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘best practices,’ but what are ‘better practices’? 

We know from principles of disability justice and Relaxed Performance that there is never one way to meet everybody’s access needs. Access requires flexibility and creativity as we figure out how to be together in supportive ways.

As many people across the world are working online, we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned about more accessible arts, activism, and communications from and with our communities. 

The following educational memes were produced in 2021 by Kayla Besse during her tenure as the Public Education Coordinator with Bodies in Translation, Creative Users Projects, and Tangled Art + Disability.

Accessible Curation

Accessible images

accessible online meetings

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deaf interiors

Deaf Interiors is a multidisciplinary online exhibition presenting six Deaf Canadian artists whose featured work is the culmination of a three-month online incubator.

In response to the world health crisis and to social distancing measures that exacerbate feelings of isolation, artists gathered online with facilitators Peter Owusu-Ansah and Sage Lovell to share stories, generate ideas and create work that demonstrates the interior world of Deaf culture, activism and human connection.

Presented by Creative Users Projects and Tangled Art + Disability, Deaf Interiors is a digital adaptation of Crip Interiors, a site-specific installation of grid-like arranged containers that individually and collectively highlight the ways that Deaf and disabled artists negotiate accessibility in the cityscape.

Deaf Interiors was produced by Creative Users Projects in partnership with Tangled Art + Disability, and is a Signature Project of the Cultural Hotspot, produced in partnership with the City of Toronto, with support from Bodies in Translation, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Banner image for event

Intersectionality as a methodology and practice panel

The reach of intersectionality continues to grow and resonate in a variety of fields, raising theoretical methodological and practical issues. In short, how does one “do” intersectionality in ways that honour its history and social justice aims? Knapp (2005) calls intersectionality a “fast travelling” theory with shifting meanings and applications. For Knapp, intersectionality has been reified “into a formula merely to be mentioned, being largely stripped of the baggage of concretion, of context and history.” This formula does not necessarily lead to transformative politics, but “keeps the mantra going: mention differences – and continue doing what you’ve always done.” This panel shares papers from a range of research contexts, including research in long-term care, research in knowledge translation (a field that brings empirical health research evidence to health care practice), and mad, d/Deaf and disability art. The papers uncover issues and opportunities about how intersectionality can be used to transform research praxis and knowledge-creation, and also points where it becomes diluted into supporting business as usual.

Hosted January 29th, 2021 by Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes (WGSRF), this panel, Moderated by Claire Carter, University of Regina, includes the following three presentations:

Mapping Critical Relations for Quality in Long-Term Care Research. Presented by Katie Aubrecht, St Francis Xavier University.

‘Doing’ or ‘Using’ Intersectionality? Opportunities and Challenges in Incorporating Intersectionality into Empirical Health Research and Practice. Presented by Danielle Kasperavicius, Unity Health Toronto, and Christine Kelly, University of Manitoba.

Intersectionality through the Embodied and the Embedded: What Art Offers. Presented by Carla Rice, University of Guelph, Eliza Chandler, Ryerson University, and Nadine Changfoot, Trent University.

Crip Times logo

Crip Times: A Podcast Series

Disabled people have long been experts at staying at home, and getting creative with new ways to stay in community with one another. At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, many of us were wondering how we could maintain the sense of intimacy and connection that we get from gathering in crip arts spaces. Out of this desire, Crip Times was born: a new interview podcast series produced and hosted by Yousef Kadoura, Kayla Besse, and Kristina McMullin. Crip Times is a project of Bodies in Translation and Tangled Art + Disability and hosted on Andrew Gurza’s Wheels on the Ground podcast network. 

Click here to Listen to Crip Times on Spotify

Click here to Listen to Crip Times on Apple Podcasts

Ryan O'connell

Crip Times Episode 10: The Ryan O’Connell Episode

“I will be obsessed with anything queerness and disability ’til the day I die. Like, I am just getting started. I will tell as many stories as I want about that. I will be given the space to do it”

It’s the season finale of Crip Times! Buckle up for lots of LOLs and too many puns. This week, Kayla, Kristina, and Drew are joined by Ryan O’Connell, creator, writer, and star of Netflix’s Special. He’s done other stuff too but ughhh, who cares?

We talk about cerebral palsy, the power of authentic disability representation, pushing the envelope of gay and disabled sexuality on screen, pandemic challenges specific to disabled people, and the ‘well-meaning’ ableism that can show up when we’re just trying to live our lives.

We move into a conversation about storytelling as activism, and the challenges of learning and growing in your disability politics in a very public way. How do you tell authentic stories, without catering to an abled audience? How do we deal with internalized ableism, and the feeling of ‘needing to do more’? How do we push back against societal messaging that one marginalized story is enough?

For a full transcript of this episode, as well as helpful links and key quotes, click here.

Artwork by Vanessa Dion Fletcher

Translation roundtable

The Roundtable on Translation explores artists’ reflections on how accessibility impacts experiences of art and art making. Co-presented in September 2020 by ArtsEverywhere and Bodies in Translation, and co-curated by Elwood Jimmy and Tracy Tidgwell, the Translation Roundtable features a provocation by Eliza Chandler and artistic interventions by Alex Bulmer, Taeyoon Choi, Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Elwood Jimmy, Carmen Papalia, Jenelle Rouse, Gloria Swain, and Sky Stonefish. 

Excerpt from the Introduction to the Translation Roundtable by Eliza Chandler

Disability art, a burgeoning artistic practice in Canada / this north part of Turtle Island, takes the experience of disability as a creative entry point. Drawing on the insights of disability scholar and activist Catherine Frazee (2008), not all disability art explicitly represents disability, but all of it springs from the experience, politics, and culture of disability. To fully appreciate and engage disability art requires us to directly take up and appreciate disability cultures, identities, politics, and practices…

Continue reading Eliza Chandler’s provocation and find the artists responses to it on the Translation Roundtable page on the Arts Everywhere platform.

Graphic for public call

Disability and livelihoods

With employment rates among people with disabilities at less than 50 percent, and a resulting reliance on government transfers, we ask: how do people with disabilities in Canada survive, let alone thrive? People with disabilities continue to respond imaginatively by finding alternatives to paid work to sustain themselves and their families. This disjuncture between policy and lived experiences suggests an important and under-explored research area.

The Disability and Livelihoods partnership will 1) examine how livelihoods interact with diverse experiences of disability in Canada and 2) begin to develop a strong, practical, and conceptual livelihoods approach to work and families research. Partnership: This partnership brings together key national and local organizations (DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada, Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work, Lakeside Hope House Guelph, People and Information Network, and Accessibility Advisory Committee of Guelph), with the University of Guelph’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-being, Re-Vision: Centre for Arts and Social Justice, the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute, and researchers, to contribute to three pilot projects: volunteering, arts and artistry, young women and pre-employment supports, and a broader livelihoods framework.

The partnership focuses on three areas of livelihoods which build on the strengths of our partners, recognizing that these will help identify important questions and intentionally gather what we learn into a broader framework for understanding and using a livelihoods approach. The governance structure enables partner organizations to contribute to the leadership and intellectual direction of the partnership in addition to contributing to the pilot project most aligned with their work.

Sustainable Livelihoods: Livelihoods describe means to secure the necessities of life — through paid work, caregiving, volunteering, market gardens, fishing, artistry, among others. Livelihoods are not only the capabilities, assets, and activities required to maintain life, but also the ability to sustain these in the context of stress and shocks, over time and for future generations, and contribute benefits at the local and global levels over the short and long term.

A sustainable livelihoods framework has been developed in relation to the global South, and increasingly used in Canada to assist front-line service organizations to understand and address poverty.

Guiding Questions and Goals:

The partnership will answer questions that fill the gap between policy and lived experiences and create a sustainable livelihood framework to inform future social policy and organizational decisions.

These questions include:

How do definitions of disability shape one’s livelihoods?

How do other social locations (e.g. gender, race, immigration status, language) interact with disability to shape experiences of livelihoods?

To what extent does managing impairments affect experiences and livelihoods choices?

What are the relationships between income support and other forms of livelihoods?

Do one’s livelihoods allow them to thrive, not only survive?

How do different forms of livelihood work together to enable getting the necessities of life?

How do they work together to allow for flourishing?

How do livelihoods shape and change our understandings of culture?

How do Canadian society and economy rely on diverse livelihoods in the lives of people with disabilities (e.g. unpaid volunteering to implement accessibility legislation, unpaid caregiving by people with disabilities)?

In what ways does this reliance on unpaid livelihoods reinforce ableism in Canadian society?

How does practicing diverse livelihoods contribute to new ways of thinking about, imagining and living disability.

-PI Deborah Steinstra. 

The Secret Feminist Agenda logo.

Secret Feminist agenda

Episode 4.22 of Secret Feminist Agenda: “Disability Art is the Last Avant-Garde,” with Sean Lee! From host Hannah McGregor: “This week I sat down virtually with Sean Lee, Director of Programming at Tangled Arts + Disability, to talk about radically accessible curation, the transformative possibilities of disability as disruption, and the exciting work of Tangled Arts and Bodies in Translation.”

Available wherever you get your podcasts. Full transcript and links to resources mentioned in the episode here.