The Graduate Program in Visual & Critical Studies & the President’s Diversity Steering Group at
California College of the Arts, San Francisco present:
What Can A Body Do? Investigating Disability in Contemporary Art
Friday February 17, 2012
Carmen Papalia Blind Field Shuttle (walking tour)
4-5pm, on the CCA San Francisco campus (meet at 1111 8th St)
Round Table Discussion, 7-9pm, Florence and Leo B. Helzel Boardroom, San Francisco campus
with Georgina Kleege, Carmen Papalia, Ann Millett-Gallant, Katherine Sherwood, Tobin Siebers,
Laura Swanson, Sunaura Taylor and Rosemarie Garland Thomson.
Moderated by MA Visual & Critical Studies candidate Amanda Cachia.
Support for Blind Field Shuttle and What Can A Body Do? Investigating Disability in Contemporary
Art is provided by Southern Exposure’s Alternative Exposure Grant Program, the California College
of the Arts President’s Diversity Steering Group and the Department of Visual and Critical Studies.
ASL Interpreters will be available at the event.
The Blind Field Shuttle (walking tour) is a non-visual shuttle service in which Portland-based artist
Carmen Papalia transports groups of people to and from given locations: tourist spots, art
galleries, restaurants and so on, from his vantage point as one with a visual impairment. As a
special feature of the round table discussion What Can A Body Do? Investigating Disability in
Contemporary Art, Papalia will be leading a shuttle around the CCA San Francisco campus and
nearby streets on Friday February 17 from 4-5pm. During the performance of the Blind Field
Shuttle, participants will form a line behind Papalia—each person grabbing the right shoulder of
the person in front of them. Papalia then serves as a tour guide, leading the group and passing
useful information to the person behind him/her. Participants are asked to keep their eyes closed
for the duration of the walking tour—an element that requires an exchange of trust between
Papalia and the participant. The trip culminates in a group discussion regarding the experience. As
participants traverse familiar landscapes non-visually, they become aware of their sensory
perceptions and the many ways in which one can experience and explore space.
For the first time, the Department of Visual & Critical Studies and the President’s Diversity Steering
Group will present a one night round table discussion in order to explore the dominant paradigms
at the intersection of disability & contemporary art. How can reductive representations of the
disabled body, ranging from the freak, cripple, deformed, grotesque and the monster, as seen in
Western artistic and curatorial discourses, be de-stabilized? How can the contemporary art world
begin to shift these negative perceptions and meanings of the disabled body in order to make
room for its more nuanced, complex representation across diverse artistic fields? What are some
new methodologies and strategies being employed by artists today in conveying a new visual and
textual language around the association between visual representation and identity? Disability
studies and feminist scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson states: “there is a critical gap between
disabled figures as fashioned corporeal others whose bodies carry social meaning and actual
people with atypical bodies in real-world social relations.” If what is at stake is that
“representation informs the identity – and often the fate – of real people with extraordinary bodies”
what alternative frameworks can be employed by scholars, curators and artists in order to fill this
gap and determine a new fate for the disabled figure in contemporary art and in life? Eight
scholars, curators and artists will explore these questions collectively in an animated discussion
through interaction with a live audience.
Biographies for participants:
Amanda Cachia is from Sydney, Australia and is currently completing her Masters in Visual &
Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Her thesis is entitled What
Can A Body Do? Inscribing and Adjusting a Disabled Experience in Contemporary Art focusing on
the work of artists Laura Swanson and Corban Walker. Cachia recently held the position of
Director/Curator of the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (2007-2010), where
she curated numerous traveling exhibitions containing the work of Canadian, American and
international artists. She received a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Creative Arts from the
University of Wollongong, Australia in 1999, followed by a Masters in Creative Curating from
Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2001. She recently curated Medusa’s Mirror: Fears,
Spells & Other Transfixed Positions for Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, that included 8 artists
challenging the able-bodied gaze on the disabled subject and is the Chair of the Dwarf Artists
Coalition attached to Little People of America.
Dr. Georgina Kleege joined the English department at the University of California, Berkeley in 2003
where in addition to teaching creative writing classes she teaches courses on representations of
disability in literature, and disability memoir. Her collection of personal essays, Sight Unseen
(1999) is a classic in the field of disability studies. Essays include an autobiographical account of
Kleege’s own blindness, and cultural critique of depictions of blindness in literature, film, and
language. Many of these essays are required reading for students in disability studies, as well as
visual culture, education, public health, psychology, philosophy and ophthalmology. Blind Rage:
Letters to Helen Keller (2006) transcends the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction to re-
imagine the life and legacy of this celebrated disability icon. Kleege’s current work is concerned
with blindness and visual art: how blindness is represented in art, how blindness affects the lives
of visual artists, how museums can make visual art accessible to people who are blind and visually
impaired. She has lectured and served as consultant to art institutions around the world including
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.
Dr. Ann Millett-Gallant is a lecturer for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she
teaches art history and liberal studies courses. Her research, like her teaching, crosses the
disciplines of art history and disability studies. Her first book, The Disabled Body in Contemporary
Art, (2010) analyzes the work of disabled artists and on the representation of disability in visual
culture. She has published a number of journal articles, as well as several art and film reviews. She
is also an amateur artist who enjoys painting, drawing, and collage.
Carmen Papalia is an artist, writer, and publisher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC and is currently working towards his Master of Fine Arts in
Art and Social Practice at Portland State University. He co-founded the Memewar Arts & Publishing
Society -- a Vancouver based not for profit organization which is responsible for three main
projects: Memewar Magazine, Short Line Reading Series, and the publishing imprint MemePress.
Papalia has had work published in a number of publications, such as subTERRAIN, West Coast Line,
and Disability Studies Quarterly.
Katherine Sherwood’s acclaimed mixed-media paintings gracefully investigate the point at which
the essential aspects of art, medicine, and disability intersect. Her works juxtapose abstracted
medical images, such as cerebral angiograms of the artist’s brain, with fluid renderings of ancient
patterns; the paintings thus explore and reveal, with a most unusual palette, the strange nature of
our time and current visual culture. Sherwood’s work was exhibited in the 2000 Whitney Biennial
and at Yerba Buena Art Center in 2003. Sherwood has had solo exhibitions recently at Gallery
Paule Anglim in San Francisco, Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans,
Hemphill Gallery in Washington DC and Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles. The interdisciplinary
relevance of her work has led to her recent participation in “Visionary Anatomies” at the National
Academy of Science in Washington DC, “Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women’s Health in
Contemporary Art” at the Kemper Museum in St. Louis and “Human Being” at the Chicago Cultural
Center. She co-curated the exhibition “Blind at the Museum” at the Berkeley Art Museum, and
organized an accompanying conference at UC Berkeley, where she is also a professor in the Art
Department. Sherwood was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship 2005-2006 and a Joan
Mitchell Foundation grant 2006-2007.
Tobin Siebers is V. L. Parrington Collegiate Professor of English and Art and Design at the
University of Michigan. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Body Aesthetic: From Fine
Art to Body Modification (Michigan 2000), Disability Theory (Michigan 2008), and Disability
Aesthetics (Michigan, 2010). Recent essays have appeared in American Literary History, Cultural
Critique, Michigan Quarterly Review, and PMLA.
Laura Swanson was born in 1978 in Minneapolis, MN. She received her MFA in Digital + Media
from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 and BFA in Design & Technology from the San
Francisco Art Institute in 2008. Her work has been exhibited within the United States at the RISD
Museum of Art, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and Camera Club of New York, and
internationally at Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video in Berlin, Germany, the Media Arts Gallery
in Warsaw, Poland, and in South Korea at the KyungHee University Museum of Art in Seoul and Jeju
Museum of Contemporary Art in Jeju. Her awards include a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and the John
Renna Art Scholarship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives and works in Brooklyn,
Sunaura Taylor is an artist, writer and activist living in Oakland, CA. Her artworks have been
exhibited at venues across the country, including the CUE Art Foundation, the Smithsonian
Institution and the Berkeley Art Museum. She is the recipient of many awards including a Sacatar
Foundation Fellowship, a Wynn Newhouse Award, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2008), and an
Animals and Culture Grant (2010). Her published work includes many articles and she is currently
working on a book on animal rights and disability studies, forthcoming from Feminist Press. Taylor
worked with philosopher Judith Butler on Astra Taylor’s film Examined Life (Zeitgeist 2008). Taylor
is also an artist contributor to Rebecca Solnit’s book, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. She
graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in the department of Art Practice with her
MFA in May, 2008.
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory
University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her fields of study are feminist theory, American literature, and
disability studies. Her scholarly and professional activities are devoted to developing the field of
disability studies in the humanities and in women's studies. She is the author of Staring: How We
Look (Oxford UP, 2009), Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature
and Culture (Columbia UP, 1997); editor of Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body
(NYU Press, 1996), and co-editor of Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities (MLA Press, 2002).
She is currently writing a book called Cure or Kill: The Cultural Logic of Euthanasia, which traces
eugenic thought through American literature.