Performing Disabled Sensorial Extension and Subversion

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Amanda Cachia, Visual Arts Department, University of California, San Diego, CA


    What imaginative and metaphorical opportunities can be affixed to current standardized usages of the prosthesis within contemporary art practices if we consider the prosthesis as a sensorial extension in disabled artists’ performances? How do artists with impairments use material and ephemeral body extensions in embodied, performative acts? How can the performance of prosthetics by disabled artists shed light on experiences of the disabled body, both for performer and audience?
    In Carmen Papalia’s work, relationships of trust and explorations of the senses unfold as the visually impaired artist leads walks with members of the public in Blind Field Shuttle as part of his experiential social and performance-based practice. This work is a non-visual walking tour where participants tour urban and rural spaces on foot. As a result of visual deprivation, participants are made more aware of alternative sensory perceptions such as smell, sound, and touch – so as to consider how non-visual input may serve as a productive means of experiencing place. Through this performance, participants are reminded of the pervasiveness of our ocular-centric culture.
    In 1977, Mike Parr, who was born with a misshapen arm, shocked an audience with a simulated “arm chop” performance as he pretended to chop off his left arm, stirring deep-rooted fears of mutilation and castration. The metaphor of loss, trauma and abjection “hand in hand” with Parr’s twisted control over his representation, demonstrates how such disabled identifications can be wielded differently. In his act of subversion and transgression in Arm Chop, Parr is taunting and playing with his audience, fueling their fears and confirming stereotypes and prejudices towards amputee embodiment.
    Deaf artist Christine Sun Kim “writes the body” through the eruption of a variety of bodily sounds – speaking, murmuring, sound distortion, noise, poly-vocality, silence and especially screams within media-based performances. She then uses these sounds to generate sounds as the basis for drawings that are created from the ink and powder-drenched quills, nails and cogs that dance across boards to the vibrations from subwoofers and speakers. Kim’s performative “aural violence” or “sound trespass” offers a transformative yet uncomfortable politicized space where the “other” can resist their peripheral positions.