Let’s Review: UC San Diego’s Calit2 art show rethinks ‘disabilities’
By Will Bowen
As we grow and evolve individually (or collectively as a society), we come to see people and things differently. Art can help quicken the pace. The exhibition that recently opened at Calit2 Gallery on the UC San Diego campus does just that. “Senses of Care: Mediated Ability and Interdependence” offers a radical, new look at disabilities, care-giving and different forms of embodiment through photographs, videos, artifacts and art objects such as an artificial leg made of LEGO bricks.
The show is a step forward in how we perceive those who need some form of assistance. It helps break down social stigmas, so that we may begin to see others as unique individuals with different experiences of being in their bodies. It moves the concepts behind the new Americans With Disabilities Act from just being about the reconfiguration of space and signage into the interpersonal realm.
The project developed from a UCSD Communication Department seminar led by professor Brian Goldfarb. Nine of Goldfarb’s students decided to continue meeting after the seminar ended. They came up with the idea of an art show that would bring together artists who deal with disability. Trish Stone, the Calit2 Art Gallery curator, liked the idea and helped the group coordinate the project.
“I thought it was important that this show be here on campus,” Stone said. “We have many students with some form of disability and it’s important to hear from them and gain their perspectives. Likewise, it’s also important to help the average person on campus to relate to the experiences of someone with mediated ability, that is, someone who requires assistance from some form of technology.”
The participating artists:
1) Cathy Greenblat is a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and author of 16 books. Since 2002, she’s been engaged in a cross-cultural photography project on aging, dementia and end-of-life care.
2) Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney are working on creating a new icon for disability — one that connotes latent abilities.
3) Christine Sun Kim is a performance artist developing programming initiatives for deaf audiences.
4) Petra Kuppers is a professor at the University of Michigan who creates environments where people with disabilities can come together. Her Salamander Project invites them to float together in the weightless buoyancy of a swimming pool.
5) Park McArthur is a New York artist addressing domestic workers rights and in-home assisted care.
6) Sins Invalid is a project that celebrates disabled performance artists.
7) Christina Stephens is an occupational therapist who relates her journey after losing a leg in an accident and who made the artificial leg out of LEGO bricks.
Chun-shan (Sandie) Yi is an art therapist creating “crip couture,” fashion for those with disabilities.
Jamie Rau is one of the graduate students who continued on with professor Goldfarb. She said she worked for two years in Mexico at a farm run by a veterinarian who required a wheelchair for mobility. The veterinarian had all the children who came to his “zoo,” view it either in a wheelchair or on crutches so they could get the “disabled” perspective.
“That was a very good thing to do in Mexico because people there still see people with disabilities as invalids … people without worth,” Rau said.
She has spent time at the United Nations in Geneva working on the rights of people with disabilities and has consulted with the U.S. State Department to make federal websites easier to use for those with poor vision.
Communication doctoral student Ivana Guarrasi also continued on with Goldfarb. She is from Slovakia and interested in nursing education. “How do we teach nurses about patient care? What are the best ways to care? These are some of the questions I wonder about,” she said.
Art patron Fred Rabe works on developing cell phone applications to improve communication between doctors and patients. He attended the opening reception.
“This exhibition challenges your thoughts about caregiving,” Rabe said. “We are just discovering how much care for the elderly costs us economically as a society. It’s in the billions of dollars! Eventually, all of us will need this care for ourselves. It’s wise for us to consider what the best way to go about it is.”
Composer and filmmaker Michael Winn-Myrow was also at the opening and said, “Ever since my hair turned gray, people have been treating me differently. They expect me to act in certain ways based upon my age.
“I started to think, maybe other people are having similar experiences facing socially conditioned responses and expectations. I came here hoping to find out what to do about it because, obviously, the judgments we have about people get in the way of relationships!” u
If you go: Calit2 Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday at Atkinson Hall, First Floor, 9500 Gilman Drive, UCSD campus. Admission is free. gallery.calit2.net
• Screening: “When I Walk,” 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, Robinson Auditorium (parking at Pangea Drive structure)
• Accessibility Mapping Day:
May 10, the community joins students to assess whether UCSD buildings are accessible, and then uses mobile apps to add that information to Google Maps.
- UCSD Visual Arts students open their doors for special exhibit
- Let’s Review: UCSD art exhibit forces you to confront how you’re feeling
- Can you Kazoo? Find out at special event on Jan. 28 at Geisel Library, UCSD campus, La Jolla
- La Jolla reception offers sample of upcoming Kyoto Prize lectures
- Tall Ships will bring high drama to San Diego’s Festival of Sail over Labor Day weekend
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