Monday, May 5, 2008

Disability Aesthetic Meets Bay Area Poetry Community?

I just posted this on the Nonsite forum.

In June, the Bay Area will be treated to year 27 of Superfest, the longest-running disability film festival in the world. This year, filmsfrom 60 international entries were narrowed down to a select few.

Last weekend, I attended the Dance Under Construction conference hosted byUCB’s Theater, Dance and Disability Studies Departments. Academics andartists from all over the country came to discuss how integrated dance andnew explorations with differently abled bodies are reshaping the coreaesthetics of performance arts and creating a fresh movement vocabulary.The Bay Area is at the heart of this, with AXIS Dance Company residing inOakland and Dandelion Dance Theater in San Francisco.

Each year, since 1986, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impairedin conjunction with the San Francisco Arts Commission holds a juriedexhibition of visual art made by blind or low vision artists. Gestural,kinesthetic and tactile process unfolds through sculpture, paintings andeven photography.

Meanwhile, the Bay Area, home to the Disability Rights and IndependentLiving Movement in the 1970’s, today remains one of the most accessiblecities for the disabled in terms of transit, policy and programming. TheBancroft maintains an impressive written and oral archive of the movementwhile UCB and SF State offer departments that figure prominently in theburgeoning academic discipline that is disability studies.

So, I suppose my question is—how does all this energy and innovationtranslate into the poetry community? In conventional literature,disability is shackled to outmoded tropes (the saccharine triumph storiesand the throwbacks to telethon pity). It goes without saying that experimental poetry can do better—but what does such a poetics have togain by examining and embracing disability studies? How can we have adialogue around disability and poetics, not just at the political orsocial level, but at a generative level--one that begets new experimentsin writing? To live with or study disability is to be constantly questioning formand constantly working toward formal innovation—whether that is through accessiblearchitecture or the far reaches of cyber humanity. How can this betranslated to syntax and the raw stuff of poetry?

I see projects around disability and poetics as being endlessly expansive,rather than reductive (the way that some efforts to name and highlightidentity groups in the arts or social sciences can be). People withdisabilities are not easily lumped together; even those who have the samekind of impairment differ widely from one another. And it is a time-basedcategory. You may have been disabled at one time in your life and you willmost certainly, to some degree, become disabled in the future. One caneasily make voyages out of dialogue about disability and poetics intonotions about the phenomenology of embodiment. When I say embodiment as anextension of disability, I mean also multi-faceted investigations of body,space and community and I think of works by Eleni Stecopoulos(Autoimmunity), Robert Kocik and Eric Greenleaf who recently presentedtogether at The Poetry Center.

Mostly, I would love to see all this happening in practice rather thantheory—the theory will follow from that. For instance, poets workingwith disabled dancers in local troupes or texts that are reframed througha disability perspective. (I may do a project in which I ask some of BhanuKapil’s questions from Vertical Interrogation of Strangers as I work witteen girls at the annual Juvenile Arthritis retreat.)

I need more ideas and more feedback. Please comment with any suggestedreading, projects, persons to interviews, groups to form, etc etc. Whatwill an investigation of disability and poetics look like? Strange,asymmetrical, twitchy and enlivening, I hope.

on Twitter

, where this blog lives now. because it can be read and posted to through that app, one-handed, on my back, by a body of water, or in the cool olive green light above my mattress. This is articulation my spine had not dreamed of before.

My blog lived on Tumblr for a minute

because it is so much easier to access from my phone. fallinginrealtime.tumblr This is the feed. No, I don't like it. I can't add another virtual box. I'll make due with Twitter.

Real Time Archive