Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, guest edited by Bronwyn Preece, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner, described by Katie Murphy. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely.
In this our third chapter, the CSPAreports on the DISART SYMPOSIUM, a gathering of thinkers and makers discussion access and the arts In Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2017.
The Dis Arts Festival & Symposium was held April 6-8,
2017, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event combined performances and an
exhibition with a 3-day symposium, gathering a broad spectrum of artists who
create from a disabled perspective, or who engage with concepts of disability.
Keynote speakers included Riva Lehrer, an artist, writer and
curator– known for her complex portraits, which were featured in an
accompanying exhibition—and Sara Hendren, an artist, design researcher, and
professor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Each day of the event was framed
with a theme: Identity, Design and Community. The Quarterly was able to attend
April 7th, “Design,” and witness other talks via the event’s live
Sara Hendren spoke about her individual design work, as well
as her work with the adaptation + ability
group at Olin College. That groups’ work begins with an assertion, “We presume competence. This exhortation
is a central one in disability rights circles, and we proceed with it in mind
as we work with our design partners. We don’t claim our end-users are
‘suffering from’ their conditions—unless they tell us they are. We speak
directly to users themselves, not to caregivers or companions—unless we’re
directed to do so. We speak the way we’d speak to anyone, even if our partners
don’t use verbal language in return—until they request we do otherwise.” The
resulting works included engineering for eating utensils, ramps with kinetic
lights, and an acoustic mobility device. Hendren’s individual work involves
explorations of ramps and their cultural presence, among many other things.
Beth Bienvenue, the director of the Office of Accessibility at the National Endowment for the Arts, discussed that organizations’ recent efforts to support disabled artists and projects pushing ideas of accessibility. Artist Benedict Phillips discussed growing up dyslexic and the tremendous impact it had on his worldview, leading him to create hilarious works like “The Div,” (“It is berleevd that some were between 90% and 95% of the populasion of the UK are Lecksick. These people fined it hard to spell in interesting ways and are genraly exskloodid from dislecksick culcher.”)
The space of the DisArts symposium was carefully considered
according to a variety of needs. In the main hall, sign language interpreters
translated all the speakers, who were also broadcast via a closed-captioned
live feed. Visitors could watch the live feed from a lobby with couches and
fidget spinners—for families and other folks who have a hard time being quiet
or sitting still—or from a deliberately quiet corner that looked onto the stage
from a window. Snacks and hot drinks were available throughout the day. The
result was a cozy, welcoming, multifaceted space, less intimidating—but no less
rigorous—than the average conference setting.
Friday evening’s symposium concluded with performances by
Kris Lenzo and performance legend Terry Galloway, known for her performance
work “Tough” and her book “Mean Little Deaf Queer.”
DisArt began as a collaboration with Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) and Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) in the spring of 2014, and is now a 501(c)(3) organization. In presenting its symposium and festival, and offering consulting on disability access, the organization promotes a social model of disability, which “looks at cultural environments (physical and social) as the main sources of disabling practices. . . people are disabled by the cultural stereotypes and misconceptions heaved on to them by nondisabled standards of health and wellness; they are disabled by attitudinal and architectural barriers.”
Lead Editor’s note: We will be publishing excerpts from Q18: dis/sustain/ability, in order to make the content accessible to blind readers with audio screen readers. We’ll also be including audio descriptions of the Quarterly’s original layout designed by Stephanie Plenner, described by Katie Murphy. Please stay tuned for future posts and share widely.
In this our second chapter, Jennifer Natalya Fink and Julie Laffin creatively explore chemical sensitivity and disability in The Remote Everyday.
The First Rule is there are no rules. No maps, no guides, no three wise men. You’re on your own, baby.
The Second Rule is I lied. You want a rule? Here’s a rule for you, sweetheart babydoll: no interrogations. Don’t ask me, “Can N do this? How about this? Can’t she even do that?” as you decide whether N is allowed to be a person. When you ask such questions about her personhood, you’re only proving that you’ve forfeited yours, asshole.
Assume competence. It’s tricky, right?
If you pay attention, you will discover who she is and what she can do. And why you think you get to arbitrate.
Jumping swinging running laughing. Explaining everything you don’t want to know about artichokes. The joy and ing of her.
Everyone pays all this money to all these bullshit saints, zen masters, art gods etc to be present. Here. Now. This. Moment. Save your money: N is here. Now. This. Moment.
I used to say, “N is in her own world, and we’re in it, too.” There’s one world though. Hersandours. Watch oh it shimmers.
The Third Rule is also the First and Only Rule: please kindly go fuck yourself with your pity. It’s jagged, rusty. Relentlessly sharp. It will hurt.
You are a visitor. A rule-follower. I am this house, its three. N’s.
Remember: I don’t love you.
There are days you want normal. You know it’s a fiction, a lie, a cheat. You don’t care. You want that high. The odorless rose, the deathless life. Aren’t we all a little addicted. Don’t you just want a normal child, you whisper. One without any issues. Just like you, right? Oh my parsnip, my pear. You have no ‘issues’, no needs? Ah! So you’re dead. (See Rule #9.)
And remember: I don’t love you.
Begin by shopping carefully. The potential for cross contamination, second-hand or third-hand residue is very high.
The similarity between cologne and pesticide is remarkable. Once you acquire a highly deranged sense of smell, there is a terrible sameness to it all.
Most failures occur during prep because of the high rate of contamination from having to prep in one’s not so clean living space or car.
Take everything out of your bedroom including all the furniture and mattresses.
Begin washing all your bedding and clothing in sanctioned laundry soap months in advance of a visit.
Rip out all carpet and remove draperies.
Don’t enter the house without a respirator for several days until all the volatized substances have been cleared out.
Re-introduce your personal things into the space your body most frequently inhabits– your chemical-free safe room, your oasis.
Make sure there is no pesticide application happening inside your living space or that there has not been for at least several years. Also, make sure herbicides are not being used outside your door.
And though you have gone through numerous, time-consuming and mind-boggling tasks, it will all seem pointless once you put on my clothing. No so! All the preparation has made the chances of my tolerating your presence in my living space in the realm of the possible. Once you have detoxed yourself and then put on my things, then and only then, is there is a snowball’s chance it hell that it will actually work out.
Assholes and Their Mothers(Genetics)
Early on, maybe two months after N’s diagnosis, a friend with a neurotypical brat, I mean kid, called me. She was High WASP, an erstwhile academic who was generously donating her Harvard-educated brain to the PTA. The helicopter of all helicopters. She took her daughter to the ER for a single sneeze. She was one of the first people I told about The Diagnosis. Two days later, she called me: “Do you know of any kids’ theater groups that do a sensory-friendly version of their show? But it has to be free, because there are only two kids with autism, and why should we pay for just those two?” My head exploded. Steam tunneled out of my ears. I was in a comic book. Correction: I was a comic book. Finally, someone to dump my rage upon. You, my friend, are actually less accommodating than the Americans with Disabilities Act. A plain wool Republican coat of a law. So basic even a Bush could buy it. Every child is entitled to an equal education. Every. Child. You’re in violation of the LAW, do you get that? You’re under arrest.
I said none of that. I said I didn’t know of any theater that would perform for free etc. I got off the phone and punched in a wall. That was the last conversation I ever had with her. I never returned the fancy mauve tricycle she’d lent us.
Now I would handle it differently: I would be patient, I would be good. I would punch no wall. I would view it as my duty to explain the concept of equal access, of accommodation and inclusion. The social model: places and people (you) are the obstacle, not the difference itself. Hopefully she would come away with a clear understanding of the ADA and its purpose. Hopefully she would better understand her impairment. I’m so sorry that you suffer from being an asshole. It must be so challenging. I see your daughter inherited your enormous asshole; did you consider how unfair it was to pass along this defect when you chose to have children? Your daughter will go through life an enormous gaping asshole. Is it really fair to ask society to pay for her special needs? There’s no cure for being an asshole, you know. Is she able to imagine other people as human? Is she able to empathize? Is she able to stop staring and shut her fucking mouth? No? Well what can she do? Maybe she can go live in some sort of assisted living home for assholes. I hear there some wonderful places that will take assholes like her.
Jennifer Natalya Fink is the author of four novels, including the Dana Award-winning and Pulitzer-nominated The Mikvah Queen. She is a professor of creative writing at Georgetown University. She founded The Gorilla Press, a non-profit aimed at promoting youth literacy through bookmaking, and cofounded the Disability Studies Cluster at Georgetown. jennifernfink.com.
Julie Laffin is an artist living with disabling environmental illness. In anotherlife she made large scale, public performances while wearing overly long gowns. Now living an isolated lifestyle due to myriad environmental triggers, Laffin has turned the camera on herself as a means of navigating her illness and reinventing her artistic practice.julielaffin.com
In an era marked by myriad crises (ecosystem collapse, political and social unrest, growing economic inequity), CSPAQ Issue 25: Time and Attention compiles various frameworks, tactics, and propositions for tuning our attention and contextualizing our place in time. An experimental philosopher, prisoners, a child, and others contribute their diverse perspectives, collectively and constructively building a discourse for how we might direct our time and attention. Guest Edited by Ryan Thompson.
Our first-ever issue takeover! The Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology takeover of the CSPA Quarterly proposes generative spaces of experiment and failure for a speculative, sustainable aesthetics. The issue grapples with the metaphors of compost and glutinous narratives. It paints with the eerily luminous colours of climate breakdown, and offers instructions for post-(r)evolutionary survival. It stays with the troubles of enlisting nonhumans as labourers of detraumatization, and presents cyborg witches as unholy guides towards reparative tactics for modest hope. Edited by Ida Bencke and Dea Antonson. Designed by Zille Bostinius.
Expanded scenography is everywhere. On the streets, in hospitals, at airports, parks and shopping malls and most recently, in the form of knitted pink beanies and protest banners at political rallies. Space ‘performs’ in the everyday, quotidian, and the mundane, providing much inspiration for scenographers both in and beyond conventional theatre. While it could be argued that ‘expanded scenography’ has existed since the beginning of human culture, performance design’s focus on the ‘expanded’ over the last decade has opened up new approaches and artistic insights. Gone are the days when being a stage designer was restricted to ‘working on other people’s shows’ in traditional theatre spaces. Instead, scenography now represents an exciting pathway for imagining and inspiring new realities beyond the confines of the theatrebuilding and its (often elite) audiences (Beer, 2017).
I recently had the pleasure of editing the newest edition of the CSPA Quarterly on ‘Expanded Scenography’ with fellow ecological artists Ian Garrett and Meghan Moe Beticks. Expanded Scenography is an emerging area in the field of stage design that is being increasingly embraced. But what is it? ‘Scenography’ is already a contested term, with multiple definitions, but essentially one that describes the art of creating performance environments. Since the last half of the 20th Century, the term ‘scenography’ has rapidly replaced ‘stage design’, ‘theatre design’ or ‘set design’ in contemporary performance scholarship, and now represents a progressive field that is moving far beyond traditional scenic illustration and naturalistic representation.
I use the term ‘expanded scenography’ to acknowledge an increasing number of performance designers working outside of traditional theatre, and whose passion for socio-ecological issues is at the core of their practice. Expanded scenography uses scenographic strategies (i.e. spatial, narrative, dramaturgical, performative and multi-sensory) as a way of engaging with the world beyond the theatre. I like to think of expanded scenography as stage design that ‘has left the building’ to intersect with daily life. The idea of scenography ‘leaving the building’ can be both literal and metaphoical, but the central premise is one of questioning normative practices and re-imagining what scenography is and what it can become. It is not bound to the schackles of theatre buildings, disciplinary rhetoric and formal expectations. Here, the scenographer is seen as both a designer and artist in their own right (as well as a producer, facilitator and instigator of creative work).
Ecoscenography works across both in expanded scenography and ecoscenography, but it is in the ‘expanded’ realm that I am finding myself the most these days. Perhaps, it is because the ‘expanded’ allows me to be free to explore the possibilities of ecoscenography — to create new ways of working that integrate ecological thinking without the constraints of unsustainable conventions of the mainstream. For example, projects like The Living Stage and This is not Rubbish could be described as ecoscenography within the realm of expanded scenography.
I hope that one day I can also create ecoscenographic designs in more traditional settings. I want to demonstrate that ecological projects can also take place in the beautiful theatres that first inspired me as a young artist. Regardless of whether designers want to work across conventional or more expanded contexts, one thing is clear: opportunities for performance designers have never been more diverse and inspiring. I look forward to seeing more scenographers using their theatre training to explore the potential to expand their practice outside of traditional contexts in the coming years.
Our special issue on ‘Expanded Scenography’ features artists who have ventured outside of the more traditional boundaries of theatre-making and performance design to find their own way of responding to the complex problems that haunt us in today. While incredibly diverse, it is our collaborative desire for contributing to the wider world and being part of the political debate as artists in our own right that unites us in this issue. We hope that this publication opens up discussions that reframe traditional perceptions of scenography and introduces new audiences to its potential. The full journal edition can be accessed here.
More information about Expanded Scenography can be found here.
Ecoscenography.com has been instigated by designer Tanja Beer – a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, Australia, investigating the application of ecological design principles to theatre.
Tanja Beer is a researcher and practitioner in ecological design for performance and the creator of The Living Stage – an ecoscenographic work that combines stage design, permaculture and community engagement to create recyclable, biodegradable and edible performance spaces. Tanja has more than 15 years professional experience, including creating over 50 designs for a variety of theatre companies and festivals in Australia (Sydney Opera House, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre) and overseas (including projects in Vienna, London, Cardiff and Tokyo).
Since 2011, Tanja has been investigating sustainable practices in the theatre. International projects have included a 2011 Asialink Residency (Australia Council for the Arts) with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a residency with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London) funded by a Norman Macgeorge Scholarship from the University of Melbourne. In 2013, Tanja worked as “activist-in-residence” at Julie’s Bicycle (London), and featured her work at the 2013 World Stage Design Congress (Cardiff)
Tanja has a Masters in Stage Design (KUG, Austria), a Graduate Diploma in Performance Making (VCA, Australia) and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne where she also teaches subjects in Design Research, Scenography and Climate Change. A passionate teacher and facilitator, Tanja has been invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at performing arts schools and events in Australia, Canada, the USA and UK. Her design work has been featured in The Age and The Guardian and can be viewed at www.tanjabeer.com
The CSPA Quarterly, our print and digital publication on issues related to Sustainable Development and the Arts, is now offering advertising space! Support this excellent publication and the CSPA while reaching a unique audience.
Ad space purchased in the digital and print versions include cross-platform promotions our homepage.
Lars Jan’s HOLOSCENES is an epic public art and performance installation that is a visual, visceral response to climate change. Presented in public space, the centerpiece of HOLOSCENES is a large aquarium that floods, drains, and floods again by way of a hydraulic system that moves 12 tons of water in a minute. The aquarium is inhabited by a performer conducting one of many everyday behaviors sourced from collaborators across the planet.
We can’t wait to see how this project evolves. It is a bold, thoughtful response to an issue we will all undoubtably face- and perhaps currently fear. You can help support this incredible work by visiting theHOLOSCENES Kickstarter.
We see our tenth issue of the CSPA Quarterly, this very issue you have in your hands, as an opportunity to renew, refresh, and even rewind a bit. Since our first issue, the CSPA has grown in reputation; we have travelled the world with special projects, have increased our global membership, and have published well over 2,000 posts online highlighting projects, tools and reports in service of sustainability through art making practices. Our Knowledge Network is expanding quickly, and this Quarterly has been a critical tool in sharing information at conferences, in-person meetings, and with our membership.
This issue contains content from contributors who were part of Issue #1, along with a few new perspectives. We have lovingly called this issue 1.0. As an experiment in looking back, we’ve re-published Sam Goldblatt’s comprehensive report on greening events from 2009, which cites the London 2012 Sustainability Plan. We’ll check in on this plan in a later issue this year. We are also re-running a call to action from Thomas Rhodes in this issue- on renewable energies in organizations. Have we progressed as a movement since these two writings were initially published?
We’ve invited updated articles from frequent contributor Meghan Moe Beitiks, now part of a new “performance research collective” based in Chicago, as well as Olivia Campbell, writing on site-specific dance and it’s relationship to sustainability. Linda Weintraub has contributed a fantastic essay on the curator’s role within our complex arts ecosystem.
And, of course, we feature Dianna Cohen’s latest works in our issue 1.0. Since our first issue, Dianna’s work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums internationally. She has delivered one of the most memorable TED talks on plastic pollution in our oceans, and continues her work with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
We thank our collaborators in this issue, and our membership for their ongoing support. The issue is available from MagCloud, both in print (on-demand) and as a digital reader.
Our issue on Science/Art features a preview of the CSPA Fusebox Festival study, writing from Sarah Moon and Alyce Santoro, a report from Moe Beitiks on the first annual Moscow Science Art Conference, and an excerpt from Lina Weintraub’s new book. Through this issue, we explore the connection and complex relationship that exists between science and art.
Includes: Alyce Santoro, Amanda Gartman, Fusebox Festival, Linda Weintraub, Meghan Moe Beitiks,Moscow Science Art Conference, Sarah Moon
CSPA Quarterly #8 is now available for purchase through MagCloud. Members, your print and digital editions will find their ways to you shortly!.
Our third international issue focuses on projects that call attention to topics that extend well beyond national borders. With a focus on interdependence, and an abundance of contributions about water, ice, and sea rise, this issue addresses the space between national borders- our oceans. Featuring work from Moe Beitiks, Chantal Bilodeau, Eve Mosher, Michael Pinksy, Christopher Robbins, and Liz Ward.
We’ve been noticing a flurry of work that exists at the intersection between art and science. This includes installation and performance pieces that challenge scientific claims, and work that utilizes science to prove a point, or to reach a new audience. It’s about fact-imbedded art, or emotions and reasoning co-existing.
CSPA Quarterly 1.0
Our tenth issue anniversary! For this issue, we will breathe new life into our pilot issue, and will check in with those participating artists.