The #CripRitual Exhibition is curated by three members of the Critical Design Lab, Aimi Hamraie, Cassandra Hartblay, and Jarah Moesch, with support from other lab members, and in collaboration with our project partners at the Doris McCarthy Gallery and Tangled Art+Disability. The curatorial practice that undergirds the exhibition (and thereby generates knowledge and novel epistemological configurations to be explored in the symposium and developed into scholarship) draws on the past experience of the three lead curators as scholar-creators. Below, please find three works with relevance to the current project, one by each of the three lead scholar-creators.
Work Sample 1: Jarah Moesch
Title: the J-4000, a bio-art and video installation
Medium: wood, video, interactive tech, audio, bacteria, agar, plastic
Exhibited at: Macricrocosm at Area 405 Gallery, Baltimore, MD
The J-4000 uses the queer sick body to challenge the limits of the phenomenological, extending life and consciousness beyond the edges of the skin.
By demonstrating that one’s sense of self is entangled within larger techno-material frameworks, the J-4000 explores the assemblages of blood, anti-bodies, and protocols to explore where our consciousness ends and our fleshy bodies begin? What happens when other people’s blood product is infused into our own? Beyond potential pathogens, beyond the anti-bodies that give bodily strength where there was only muscle weakness before, what other strengths and weaknesses come along on with the infusion?
Jarah’s work examines the permeability of the boundaries between the individual self and the ways in which the sick body becomes a collaborative space, where power and control elide and collapse into physical metrics of touch, where permission and consent take on new meanings, and perceptions of self collapse into designed systems of control.
Relevance to proposed Connections project:
Jarah Moesch (MFA, PhD) is an artist-scholar whose work explores issues of justice through the design, production, and acquisition of embodied knowledges. As a member of the curatorial team for the #CripRitual exhibition, Moesch brings expertise in contemporary art creation, in the labor and practice of producing gallery exhibitions of contemporary art, and long experience creating artworks and curating exhibitions that address what it means to live and survive in a sick body. In other artworks, including a solo show, Moesch has explicitly explored the concept of ritual and its relationship to reinscribing social inequality (Ritual Effects 2007).
Jarah’s work is grounded in the social and physical effects of embedded histories of racism, gender, and disability, inequitable distributions of wealth, food and water, and colonization of land and people. This research investigates the production, distribution, and maintenance of knowledge pathways, and then builds new possibilities, from physical modeling and prototyping, to policies for designing different worlds.
Jarah’s artwork ranges from traditional forms of art to contemporary new media practices, and tactical social interventions. This multi-modal work explores the tangled relationship between technologies, systems, and embodied knowledges through the performance of everyday life.
Jarah’s artwork has been shown across the United States as well as internationally in festivals and exhibitions. Jarah holds an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College, and a PhD in American Studies from University of Maryland.
Work Sample 2: Cassandra Hartblay
Title: Do you like this installation?
Materials: plexiglass, wire, signage, digital interface
Exhibited at: Cripping Cyberspace: A Contemporary Virtual Art Exhibition, Curated by Amanda Cachia, 2013, Canadian Journal of Disability Studies and various material spaces.
Symposium on Innovations in Ethnographic Methodology, Center for Ethnographic Research, UC Berkeley, 2016.
Project website now retired.
Image & Description:
Do You Like This Installation? is an interactive art project that has both online and material interfaces. It is composed of three components: (1) a material installation in a gallery space, (2) an interactive online interface and (3) data analysis. The project grows out of 11 months of fieldwork studying social inclusion and disability in the city of Petrozavodsk in northwestern Russia. As an ethnographer interested in the lived experience of people with disabilities, I found an unexpected richness in the ways that crip movement in cyberspace was intertwined with barriers and access in the material world.
In order to explore these interdependencies of embodied and cybernetic access, I chose to highlight the act of voting.
Voting is an apt focus for two reasons – first, because of its symbolic importance as a distillation of political participation, and second because of it offers a literal illustration of how barriers and access affect us all. Casting a vote is a metonymic act – that is, it is an act that is simultaneously constitutive of its own meaning, and symbolic of a larger idea, i.e. democratic participation. Casting a vote is a classical marker of democracy. In ancient Greece, white male landowners – those included in the democratic “we” – would walk across a forum, and drop a stone into a vessel symbolizing the candidate they wished to side with. Today, voting still requires moving through space to reach a particular place where a vote may officially be cast through a performative gesture. Democratic participation is particularly fraught in Russia, where “free and fair elections” are watched by the international community and judged as harbingers of progress or repression.
This installation invites its audience “participate” – to cast a vote. It poses a question about how people navigate or redesign physical and virtual terrain as they participate in the voting process – or chose not to participate. How might the design of election processes might preclude or proffer particular results? How might voters foil these biases? What can crip perspectives can tell us about the politics of participation, understood as disabled and non-disabled movement in and between the physical and virtual worlds?
Relevance to proposed Connections project:
This project uses a research creation method by engaging the process of contemporary art installation to explore an ethnographic problem based on observations during fieldwork, namely, a question about how accessibility in the material space and in digital space are interrelated. Through experimentation, fieldnotes, and dialogic observation during the development and exhibition of an installation extending this concept, Hartblay generated new theoretical insights complicating the assumption that digital infrastructure is “more” accessible than material infrastructure. The exhibition of the artwork in two scholarly venues led to the publication of an article relecting on the research creation method in the journal Ethnography, titled “This is Not Thick Description: Conceptual Art Installation as Ethnographic Process” (Hartblay 2017). The work demonstrates Hartblay’s expertise and experience creating research creation works of critical disability studies at the intersection of ethnography and disability arts.
Work Sample 3: Aimi Hamraie
Title: Mapping Access
Date: 2014 to present
Medium: Digital Participatory Mapping
Mapping Access is an activist research creation methodology and participatory mapping digital humanities project developed by Aimi Hamraie and implemented through a series of workshops around North America based in the core belief that everyone can be a critical maker, and that studying and enacting accessibility can be forms of direct action in the built environment. The methodology uses “Map-a-Thon” events, community conversations, user-generated surveys, and critical crowdsourcing to develop a participatory culture around accessibility. In this way, the mapping access methodology is a participatory digital humanities project that mobilizes community knowledges to produce accessible, public resources for disability justice, and to train students and workshop participants in techniques of spatial reading developed by disability activists communities and documented through Hamraie’s research. In turn, these workshops produce new knowledge about techniques for accessibility education. To read more about the Mapping Access methodology, follow the link to: Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice,” American Quarterly, 70.3 (2018): 455-482.
Image: Above: A screenshot of a digital image from the participatory mapping project at Vanderbilt University. Below: A gold and black poster advertising an Accessibility Map-a-Thon at Vanderbilt University, April 8, 2016. The caption says “help make Vanderbilt a more inclusive campus for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”
Image: A screen shot from the video introduction to the Mapping Access methodology. Watch the video
Relevance to proposed Connections project:
The Mapping Access project exemplifies Hamraie’s expertise in mentoring and training students and the public, in mobilizing communities around disability access advocacy, and in generating highly regarded scholarship out of workshops and digital humanities events. In this way, Hamraie’s contribution to the #CripRitual project draws not only on their renowned status as a scholar and historian of disability access, but also on their capacity to mobilize knowledge and translate knowledge across academic, technical, and activist domains, and to develop cutting edge scholarship out of workshop-based activities. In Mapping Access, scholarly knowledge is generated not only “from” creative and interactive workshops with community members, but in collaboration with those communities.