[-empyre-] [–empyre–] Refiguring the Future, Week 2: In/Visibility feature

Ezra Benus ezra.benus at gmail.com
Thu Mar 14 14:09:23 AEDT 2019

Hi empyre community- My name is Ezra Benus and I’m a disabled artist and educator, and worked with Lola and Sarah for Refiguring the Future. thank you to Lola and Sarah for inviting me to respond and add to this conversation. More info on me and my work www.ezrabenus.com 

Right to it! 
Isolation is one of the hardest parts of being chronically ill/disabled, because inaccessibility means not taking part in cultural spaces, social spaces, political spaces, as it exists now, and our work and experiences aren’t well represented in galleries, museums, etc. So I want to posit that spaces, in brick and mortar and virtual spaces, are only accessible if EVERYONE can take part. For many disabled and chronically ill identified folks like myself can attest, there are hardly any accessible environments to how we might define it to be accessible- because access work is on going and will always be changing. It is too often done in ADA compliance as opposed to how disability justice leaders are framing it as “Access is Love”- please look it up. 

Access/accommodations are only necessary because our normative non disabled societies have long built worlds/spaces/environments that are inherently disabling to folks whose bodies fall out of the normate idealized non disabled body. historically dominant regimes have actively and  killed, siloed, and separated disabled people from each other. Unfortunately too, folks who aren’t disabled don’t understand this until they too become disabled or care for a close one who is disabled. Instead of waiting for that then, what will it take to actually have accessible environments then in our present and future? Well, I posit that besides the unrealistic expectation of overthrowing hierarchies, racism, colonialism, capitalism, etc. we must unite and form our own communities of access. If we in the disability community continue to cultivate collective and political understandings of our experiences, which art has potential for, then we can live in the world we know we need.
I’m so empowered by the work many disabled artists and activists are already doing to build our own accessible worlds, but it’s all within the context of the larger non disabled world. What if we became the makers of society though?

As it happens, I’ve found lots of comfort and rigor in cultivating disability arts community, in which many disabled artists are creating new aesthetic forms coming from/informed by disability embodiment and experience. This is the work that is shifting the notions of what kinds of worlds are possible through creating work that gives representation to the breadth and intersectional identities found in disability community. I’m honored to be making art in this vein, and be in dialogue alongside some fantastic disabled artists worth checking out so please do: Romily Alice Walden, Barak adé Soleil, Shannon Finnegan, Kevin Gotkin, Jerron Herman, Park McArthur, Carolyn Lazard, Jordana Bernstein, Madison Zalopany, Jeff Kasper, Bojana Coklyat, Kevin Quiles Bonilla, Laura G Jones, Marissa Perel, Sharona Franklin and their Hot Crip disability meme account, Alice Sheppard, Kayla Hamilton. I know and love many more so this is not an exhaustive list, but our work is a great way to engage and learn. 

Bring us into your cultural spaces, exhibit our work, listen to us when we tell you what access needs we have, pay us for our work, time, and for our knowledge and consultation that too often goes uncompensated. We need to live and work just like all the other non disabled artists so as long as we live under capitalism we need those measures of value to engage on those same terms.  

Interestingly, many of these connections can, do, and will exist because we connect virtually and are rethinking how to build our worlds, community, and artistic languages through virtual methods of dialogue, critique, and promotion. My work specifically addresses notions and relationships of care, pain, medicalization, and isolation in regards to illness and disability. I do painting, sculpture, and performance- and through my involvement in disability arts community my work has been pushed to ways of thinking and enacting access and pedagogy as part of my artistry engaging in disability arts and aesthetics. 

Sent from my iPhone

> On Mar 11, 2019, at 11:28 AM, Lola Martinez <lola.martinez at eyebeam.org> wrote:
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> Following last week’s reflections on the exhibition as an ecosystem, we continue onto week 2 with conversation on Refiguring the Future’s engagement with accessibility.
> Sciences and technologies have continually reinforced existing conceptions of access. As dictated by mega-corporations, whose platforms render accessibility features invisible, the scope between accessibility and experience is limited. In light of this, blind, chronically ill, D/deaf, and disability communities have expanded notions of accessibility by utilizing emerging technologies and digital medias to provide resources and representations. Yet what does it mean to build community within these platforms? How can we collectively examine the impulses within new media that impact accessibility, and in turn experience? Our intentions is to create a space for speculative dialogues where artists, educators, and technologists can provide new insights into discourses which are reinforcing apparent and unapparent disability.
> I’m honored to be joined by Ezra Benus, Anneli Goeller, and Yidan Zeng. Each one of them played an active role within the exhibition and conference, be it through advising, organizing, or participating, and have generously provided their expertise and knowledge as we continue to learn and work through notions of access and disability.
> Ezra Benus studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, the University of Amsterdam, and graduated with a degree in Studio Art (honors) and Jewish Studies at CUNY Hunter College. Benus was an Erich Fromm Fellow at Paideia Institute in Stockholm, and is currently the Access and Adult Learning Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum. He has spoken publicly about his art practice and disability arts activism at venues such as CUE Art Foundation, York College, and Princeton University. He has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally at a number of venues, including Jerusalem, Stockholm, New York, Dayton, and Calgary.
> Anneli Goeller is an artist who uses 3D simulation and artificial intelligence to speculate that the creation of algorithmic selves expands the concept of personhood. They have been exhibited internationally at institutions such as the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center in New York, Peripheral Forms in Portland, Lithium Gallery in Chicago as well as the Palazzo dei Cartelloni in Florence. In virtual space their work has been featured in The Wrong - New Digital Art Biennale and The Universal Sea. They are currently a MFA candidate in Film, Video, New Media, Animation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
> Yidan Zeng (曽一丹) is an intimacy investigator currently wandering/wondering through New York. She uses fabric, movement, and touch to explore multi-sensual forms for connection. She's been a Digital Accessibility Fellow with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (2017), a Create Change Fellow with The Laundromat Project (2018), a visiting glass artist at The University of Hawai'i in Mānoa (2018), and a recipient of the Queens Arts Intervention Grant (2019). She’s also half of a performance duo, Os&En, and has performed in Miami, Providence, and on and off the streets of NYC. Yidan received her BA and BFA from the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program in Computer Science and Glass.
> --
> Lola Martinez | they/them
> Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow
> Visit Refiguring the Future: Exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31
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