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Envisioning an accessible future

Tangled Art + Disability Director of Programming Sean Lee reflects on the organization’s important relationship with the AGO, and the future of the disability arts movement.

Bruce Horak, Through A Tired Eye

Bruce Horak, Through A Tired Eye, 2019. Michelle Peek Photography courtesy of Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology & Access to Life, ReVision: The Centre for Art & Social Justice at the University of Guelph.

This is a guest post by Sean Lee, Director of Programming, Tangled Art + Disability. Earlier this year the AGO and Tangled Art unveiled a collaborative video series called Tangled Art Talks. It featured six artists from Tangled’s community, each highlighting their respective practices and insights with a unique video offering.  

Let me begin with my appreciation for all the artists who have contributed their brilliance, vulnerability and creativity to the Tangled Art Talks. I am grateful to the spirit of generosity with which they have invigorated this series with. I also want to extend my warmth to the AGO, with whom we have partnered on this series. 

Tangled is an organization dedicated to enhancing opportunities within the field of disability arts. Our partnership with the AGO marks what we hope represents the beginning of a commitment to centring disability as a difference that matters. The Tangled Art Talks honour the many disparate stories of disability, while simultaneously weaving the strands of the disability arts movement together into a coherent tapestry. Disabled artists are not simply participating in the Canadian cultural domain; as disability activist Catherine Frazee notes, they are creating it, shaping it, stretching it beyond its tidy established edges.

Overlapping communities of Mad, Deaf, disabled, sick, spoonie, neurodiverse and chronically ill artists are demanding space, place and culture in ways that cannot be ignored within the arts ecology. Disability arts is changing the way disability is understood, and the Tangled Art Talks series has been a powerful platform for our artists to experiment, critique and share more about their practices. More than just a showcase for their artistic careers, these pieces are political interventions that gesture towards the possibilities of a transformed world: towards the elsewhere and elsewhen of a future in which we desire to dwell with disability.

Though all the artists in this series come from diverse artistic backgrounds and expansive identities, the throughline of this series seems to be that each piece gestures towards the possibility of a crip future, motivated by calls for disability justice and the desire for a more equitable and intersectional world. Bruce, Persimmon, Valentin, Peter, Aislinn and Vanessa all push with political intention to disrupt conventional understandings of the arts, disability, and what a body can do. 

I invite you, as you encounter the artists in this series, to consider: What does the performance of Vanessa Dion Fletcher articulate about colonization’s hold on our material understandings and our own relationships to our bodies. How do the captions of Valentin Brown’s poetry crip our traditional understandings of accessibility? What transformations would be necessary to create liberatory access as Aislinn Thomas outlines?

All of the artists in Tangled Art Talks understand the aesthetics of access as a cultural and communal offering, as much as it is a logistical one. Disability art is a way of knowing disability, and this series invokes the transformative potential of art through disability justice to enrich the expression of our differences. These are, in the words of Persimmon Blackbridge, the gifts of disability. 

Check out all six Tangled Art Talks here, and stay tuned for more updates on the AGO's partnership with Tangled Art & Disability. 

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