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

Yidan Zeng yidan.zeng at eyebeam.org
Thu Mar 14 15:35:19 AEDT 2019

Many thanks to Lola and Sarah for inviting me to contribute as a guest this
week, alongside Ezra and Anneli, who both are doing such amazing work!

As mentioned in my bio, my entry into the world of digital accessibility
happened during the Lincoln Center Accessibility Fellowship, where I was
heavily involved in website auditing, captioning, and audio description.
However, I wish I was aware of this world earlier, and as a Computer
Science major, I am astounded looking back at how absent these
conversations and skills were in my own education.

But in recalling conversations around access I’ve been a part of the past
two years, especially in spaces where disabled bodies are absent, they
often fall into the mentality of conformance, of meeting the “standard
criteria.” Obviously, budget, time, and labor are limited resources, in
addition to a lack of knowledge and awareness of specific manifestations of
disability. But on the other hand, even when accessibility standards have
been met, is the experience itself comparable? Within the context of
the Future*, how can we operate beyond objective, rigid accessibility
standards to instead a collective reimagining of the experience of

Last year, I had the pleasure of catching Alice Sheppard
<https://alicesheppard.com/>’s piece, DESCENT
<https://alicesheppard.com/disabilitydanceworks/kinetic-light/>, a powerful
duet presented on an architectural ramp by dancers in wheelchairs. The
amazement of seeing disabled dancers fly on stage aside, I was absolutely
blown away by the interactive and poetic nature of the audio description
for what was happening visually. Traditionally, audio description is
narrated in a neutral (often monotone) voice, providing “objective”
descriptions of visual elements in film for those who are low-vision or
blind. However, Alice Sheppard, along with Georgina Kleege
<https://english.berkeley.edu/profiles/45>, an English and Disability
Studies professor at UC Berkeley, recognize audio description as another
type of text, as a space of creative potentiality. During check in,
audiences were all encouraged to download an app to be used during the
performance, to which various channels of sounds, poetic text, and
descriptions of the dancers’ movements were blended into an individualized
soundtrack depending on where one’s finger is placed on the app’s screen.

I’ll leave you with a few words by Alice Sheppard herself:
”Disability is more than the deficit of diagnosis. It is an aesthetic, a
series of intersecting cultures, and a creative force."

On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 11:31 AM Lola Martinez <lola.martinez at eyebeam.org>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> 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
> 199 Cook Street
> Suite 104
> Brooklyn, NY, 11206
> M. +1 305 586 4728
> www.eyebeam.org
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu


Yidan Zeng | she/her

Production and Administrative Assistant

for *Refiguring the Future*


*Visit the Refiguring the Future exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31

199 Cook Street

Suite 104

Brooklyn, NY, 11206

T. +1 347 378 9163


<http://www.eyebeam.org/>      <https://twitter.com/eyebeamnyc>
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