Tangled Art + Disability


For GivingTuesday, Tangled will be raising funds for "MIXER: The Catalogue," Canada’s first arts publication dedicated to disability arts and a reflection of the ongoing work by disability-identified artists, activists, academics and advocates to authentically record and preserve the legacy of the Canadian disability arts movement.

In my capacity as Curator in Residence throughout Tangled Art Gallery’s inaugural season, I have seen firsthand the vital role Tangled exhibitions are playing in establishing disability arts as a key component of Canada’s arts and culture sector. As public interest in disability arts grows, there is a tangible desire for knowledge and resources on the history of this contemporary arts movement and creative reflections on the evolving topic of disability aesthetics. Artists with disabilities have a long history of being treated in a paternalistic manner by the mainstream arts scene. One of the most common attitudinal barriers faced by disability-identified artists is the assumption that their work is therapeutic in nature, rather than professional. In order to counter these stereotypes, it is imperative that disability arts and artists have opportunities and resources that support the essential contributions we are making to contemporary arts in Canada.

This publication of MIXER: The Catalogue will further the move towards a more inclusive and creative arts sector. In July 2017, Creative Users and Tangled Art + Disability invited 5 disability identified artists from culturally diverse backgrounds to participate in an extended studio period designed and co-facilitated by the Co-Curators. Wy Joung Kou, Kanika Gupta, Anique Jordan, Najla Nubyanluv and Melisse Watson engaged in an immersive creation process and ultimately developed new collaborative installation work. Several themes and outcomes from the resulting exhibition Crip Interiors: MIXER will be explored in this catalogue: the often hidden daily labour, creativity, and love that goes into negotiating public and private spaces built and organized without disabled bodies in mind; the intimacy of a collaborative process designed to accommodate access needs; and the insightful discoveries that surfaces when disability-identified artists of color within varied artistic disciplines creatively engage with each other in ways that are experimental and expansive.

“We’re all very different -- apart from our politics, the aesthetics of our work, the type of work we do, our backgrounds and our lived experiences, but in so many ways it felt as if we were so similar because we all embodied and shared a set of values of respect, compassion, tolerance, and understanding. No one ever asked anyone questions, no one ever put up a fuss if someone needed something, there was just this shared understanding that you belong in this space just as much as I do.” -Kanika Gupta.

As a disability-identified artist navigating multiple identities of race, disability, and queerness, I realize that Tangled’s intersectional approach to disability arts must be preserved as a revolutionary art space that engenders aesthetics of disability arts through its rejection of normative presentations of visual arts. This approach is garnering interest nationwide from artists, arts leaders, academics and audiences who look to Tangled as a thought-leader in the field of disability arts.

This catalogue - in revealing the complexities of embodied experiences as disabled artists of colour - will illuminate the need for this kind of approach in progressing the evolving conversation on who gets to define what is disability arts? This catalogue helps to contextualize the ways in which this exhibition disrupted normative standards of artist residencies, providing long overdue attention to professional disability-identified artists and the ways in which their perspectives, as noted by UK-based disability activist and artist Yinka Shonibare, might truly be the last avant-garde. For Shonibare, the role of aesthetic experimentation in disability arts mobilizes a powerful dynamic that rejects formal frameworks of ableist arts presentation and training methods. In addition to essays, interviews and an interactive online audio archive, numerous four-colour reproductions from each artist and of the installations will be included in this 50-page catalogue.

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