Urban Space & Technological Systems
A wide shot of five different artworks in the exhibition. In the foreground, a black and white crosswalk frame two pedestals with headphones perched on them. A wheelchair user traverses the crosswalk. In the left of the image, a woman wearing headphones faces a television screen. In the background, a large sculpture with a graffiti backdrop spells out TEMPT. Against the back wall, a faint projection of a man in a bed wearing bespoke eyewear.
The built environment was one of the first frontiers of disability activism. Disability lore tells of renegades taking sledgehammer to pavement in the 1960s, forging wheelchair access in otherwise foreclosed territory. In 1972, the city of Berkeley installed the first curb cut, marking an early triumph for the movement. The curb cut has since become a symbol for universal design: affording wheelchair users greater mobility, it inevitably granted sidewalk access for strollers, bicycles and delivery carts. Because it is the product of human design, urban space embodies fundamental beliefs about its users. Until these interventions, that user was imagined to have a normative form - a walking adult of “average” size. The artworks in this part of the exhibition challenge that assumption and reclaim the built environment for diverse bodies who belie that norm.
Sara Hendren’s “Infrastructure Song” is an audio installation composed of numerous different global signals of audible crosswalk signals, which are everyday wayfinding infrastructure and segments of the hyperlocal soundscape. Tony Quan’s monumental sculpture “TEMPT” is an artifact born of the graffiti artist’s transition from directly tagging city surfaces to working onscreen with the Eyewriter. Reclaiming virtual space as urban space, TEMPT redefines the meaning of urban movement. Kinetic Light’s wheelchair dance film “Revel in Your Body” reclaims parking ramps and metal railings as an urban playground for joyous choreography that intimates dance as flight.