Category Archives: Disability

Carmen Papalia, Mobility Device (2019)

Carmen Papalia with a 18-piece band

Carmen Papalia – Mobility Device – 2021


“Carmen Papalia is an artist and disability activist who uses organizing strategies and improvisation to navigate his access to public space, art institutions, and visual culture. His socially-engaged practice expresses his resistance of support options that promote ablest concepts of normalcy, like white canes and other impairment-specific accommodations that only temporarily bridge barriers to participation in an otherwise inaccessible, policy-based system. Papalia designs experiences that invite participants to expand their perceptual mobility and to claim access to public and institutional spaces.

For the High Line, Papalia presents Mobility Device, an innovative, collaborative performance in which he is accompanied by a marching band that plays a site-reactive score as guidance for navigating his surroundings. The work transforms the white cane—a symbol of someone with visual impairment—into a collective, sonic experience that opens up ways of thinking about care, collaboration, and a normative hierarchy of the senses. Papalia will bring Mobility Device to the High Line with the Hungry March Band, an 18-person ensemble founded in 1997 for the Mermaid Parade. With this work, he urges visitors to experience public spaces through the non-visual world.”

Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle (2010-)


a blind man leading a row of walkers

Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle (2017)

In 2010–in response to the failures that I experienced as a recipient of disability support services–I started resisting support options that promoted ablest concepts of normalcy and self-identified as a nonvisual learner. The choice was in line with an effort to distance myself from marginalizing language like “blind” and “visually impaired”, and helped me realize the position that I occupied as a liberatory space. Using my nonvisual senses as a primary way of knowing the world lead to Blind Field Shuttle (BFS), an experience in which groups of up to 90 people line up behind me, link arms, and shut their eyes for the duration of a roughly hour-long walk through cities and rural landscapes.

Conducting BFS helped me exercise my nonvisual senses and find a community with whom I could develop a critical methodology for engaging nonvisual space. By 2012 I considered BFS a form of practice-based research and produced a series of nonvisual tours that aimed to uncover the unseen bodies of knowledge in fields influenced by visual primacy. One engagement–at the Guggenheim in 2013–was a touch tour that set a precedent for me to make further work about the potential for critical haptic engagement to become a viable practice within contemporary art and criticism.

Now I perform BFS as a way to demonstrate my proposal for Open Access (2015), a relational model for accessibility that centers considerations of agency and power in relation to the social, cultural, and political conditions in a given context. When performed as part of the Open Access movement building campaign–an ongoing tour across the US, UK, and Canada–BFS establishes an organizational space where participants model trust and mutual support while practicing new, process-based systems of access together.

sensory map

Blind Field Shuttle has been initiated in Portland OR in 2010, Blind Field Shuttle has taken place in: London UK, Sligo IE, Vancouver BC, Surrey BC, Kelowna BC, Ottawa ON, Regina SK, Oakland CA, San Francisco CA, Los Angeles CA, New York NY, Hudson NY, Beach Lake PA, Haverford PA, Greensboro NC, Louisville KY, Boston MA, Cambridge MA, Chattanooga TN, Ann Arbor MI, and Baltimore MD.)

Martin Kersels, Tripping (1995)

As a large man, Kersels often makes work dealing with his imposing physical presence. He examines stereotypes associated with his gendered body size: clumsy, pathetic, dangerous. These staged photos play into those stereotypes about awkwardness, while the precision of the staging can be interpreted to contradict this reading. (credit: Walk Ways catalog)

“Martin Kersels is much larger than most people. He was once described as a “man-mountain” by his friend and colleague Leslie Dick. As a man who stands 6’7” tall and weighs 300 pounds, Kersels draws attention to his body, its size, and the things he’s able to do with it. …

Physicality permeates Kersels’ work. He uses himself as a subject for expressing the emotions we share by virtue of being corporeal. One of these emotions is vulnerability, which Kersels exposes in photographic series that capture him tripping, falling, and riding a bicycle that is too small for his frame. As people, we share embarrassment at the thought of falling in public or in watching someone else trip. However, Kersels’ Tripping series shows us just the thing that embarrasses us. The artist photographed himself tripping on public sidewalks in populated areas and in broad daylight. Tripping highlights Kersels’ desire to connect to others by exposing himself in an embarrassing, although staged, moment. …

Established themes of vulnerability, the body, humor, and playfulness create a thread of continuity among his photographic and sculptural works. …

About the Artist:

Martin Kersels was born in Los Angeles, California in 1960. He began his undergraduate degree in 1978 at the University of California, Los Angeles. After applying to film school and not being accepted, Kersels decided to pursue art history. Kersels then took studio art courses after he decided that art history was not for him; he thought he was a ‘horrible writer.’ He received his bachelors degree in art from UCLA in 1984. After he graduated, he became a member of a neo-dadaist performance art group called SHRIMPS.

Kersels described his performance work with SHRIMPS as movement-based, using very few words and a high level of slapstick comedy, based on the fallibility of the body. Others describe SHRIMPS as a group known for their bizarre costumes and lumbering movements. The women in SHRIMPS were small and muscular and the men were all 6’7” or taller. The first series of SHRIMPS performances were about redefining views of big men being unkind or threatening. The performer Weba Garretson, who later worked with SHRIMPS, described meeting the group by saying, “I was scared of them, even though they seemed like such nice people.” When funding for performance-based art work began to disappear in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kersels decided to go back to school. In 1993, Kersels was accepted to graduate school at UCLA, where he concentrated on integrating his performance work with the human body with object making.

Kersels received his Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA in 1995. When Kersels helped the artist Paul McCarthy videotape his performance work, it helped change Kersels’ perspective about making interdisciplinary art. Kersels served as co-director of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Program in Art from 1999 until moving to the Yale School of Art in 2012, where he became Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Sculpture. Kersels has exhibited his work in major exhibitions including the 1997 Whitney Biennial, as well as in many solo exhibitions.” (credit)

Amy Sharrocks “Season for Falling and Invitation to Fall” (2013)


Season for Falling – archived webpage

woman falling out door

Image Credit

Season for Falling: “For the duration of her 3-month residency, Sharrocks has been falling. Sometimes using her own body and often inviting groups to join her in acts of vulnerability, attempting to understand falling as the natural way of things. She is exploring the meaning and experience of both physical and conceptual falling. She questions the feelings of exposure and shame of being un-surefooted, the difficulties of being out of control and the liberation of inelegance.”

Sharrocks makes work about falling, exploring the trips and stumbles of everyday life.[13]:91 She focuses not only on the physical act of falling, but also the conceptual framework around the experience and meaning of falling.[14][15] Sharrocks won the Sculpture Shock Award from the Royal British Society of Sculptors, which resulted in the exhibition Season for Falling.[16] She also created An Invitation to Fall on the King’s Road with the Museum of London. The work was an open invitation for participants to fall, and questioned notions of risk and shame, and explored the complicity of acts of witness. In 2012, Sharrocks hosted a Study Room Event at the Live Art Development Agency called A Guide to Falling; a full slide show is available at the LADA Study Room.[17] She has recently written about the work for the journal Performance Research, in a long form essay titled ‘An Anatomy of Falling’,[14] which was subsequently reproduced in the Live Art Almanac.[18]