August 22–23, 2020
Artist Panteha Abareshi provided a two-part research series that shed light on systems of ableism in art spaces. Abareshi presented and facilitated dialogue around assumptions of universal ability and exclusion of the disabled body too often overlooked and unaddressed. Beginning the presentation with a definition of ableism, Abareshi offered critical insights from the disabled perspective. Both events were held in person (with a maximum of 15 participants) as well as on Google Meet with closed captioning.
August 22: On the first day of Field Workshop: Action Projects, Abareshi examined accessibility in museums to then investigate ableism in the architecture, curatorial infrastructure, and exhibition spaces of museums. The session, “Ableism: Defining Foundational Presence Within the Museum & Art Space,” emphasized the need for crip/sick/disabled critical perspectives in the internal spaces and external programming of cultural spaces.
As a chronically ill/disabled artist existing with multiple medical illnesses, Abareshi shared their personal frustrations with defining ableism due to the complex nuances of marginalization. Perpetuated by assumptions of university ability, ableism continues to dominate the foundation of art spaces. For example, exhibition spaces often present what Abareshi calls “inaccessible immersion” due to the absence of sound and video transcription. Other examples of ableism occur in the access to artworks or installations that demand participation. Such observations confirm the idea of the museum as a societal microcosm that both reflects the current standards of ableist exclusion and sets the standard for the continued erasure of the disabled experience.
August 23: The second day, “Embodied Practice: Imagining the Disabled Body, Amplifying the Disabled Experience” transitioned into the discussion of disability in art practice and artmaking. Disabled/sick artists such as Jesse Darling, Sue Austin, Bob Flanagan, and Frank Moore (among others) were introduced to the in-person and online audience. In their performance work, Abareshi “pushes their body to, and often beyond, the limits of its ability,” allowing for a continued exploration of their bodily deterioration, and its connection to ideas of fragility, fear, pain, and mortality.
Abareshi’s Action Project underscored the importance of representation of disabled/sick artists, that will ultimately lead to necessary changes in curation and structure. In the wake of the pandemic, Abareshi’s two sessions highlight the importance of the disabled experience in the midst of health crises. There is a vital need for reassessing structures and systems of power that make ableism exist with no consequences. Illness then becomes fundamentally radical. In order to reverse the resistance to and ignorance around disabilities in the cultural landscape, the validity of the disabled experience through representation is necessary.
— Habiba Hopson, 2020 Getty Marrow Intern, ICA LA