Crip Aesthetics

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IIn this still from Todd Herman's "When I Stop Looking,"  a young woman with long black hair in profile warmly embraces an older woman with short grey hair. The younger woman’s face obscures the older woman’s face; her eyes are closed, and she has a thin scar running from her lips to ear across above her jawline.

Museums have traditionally been visual spaces that erect invisible boundaries between visitor and artwork. “Do not touch” signs frequently feature alongside no-go lines marked on the gallery floor. The exhibition sought to challenge this visual dominance by reimagining aesthetic experience as sensory plurality.

 

Crip aesthetics redefine traditional sensory avenues for experiencing art - offering the seeable as tactile, the audible as readable. As visitors entered the gallery, they encountered works that asked them to suspend their perceptual expectations. Todd Herman’s video installation “When I Stop Looking,” a meditation on the gaze, asks visitors to check their visual perceptions of disability at the door. Up-ending the relationship of staring between disabled and non-disabled people, Herman’s piece questions who gets to look - and how - and the way technologies of looking, from cameras to computational algorithms, interject in this relationship. In this way, it simultaneously moves beyond this dynamic to reconfigure seeing as synesthesia - as touch or even sound - collapsing the distance between viewer and subject into a more intimate exchange.

 

Prints by blind photographers Pete Eckert and Sonia Soberats redefined photography as not simply a visual medium; using the technique of light painting, these artists practice photography as a medium of touch, sound and memory. Jillian Crochet’s interactive sculpture, “My Beating Heart,” thrives on these tactile forms. Inviting visitors to enter its embrace, Crochet’s work frames bodies in painstakingly handmade loops and bathes them in warm, red light.