Making Kin: An Evening of Readings
“People’s experiences are all different, and you don’t know what the person experienced. They know, but you don’t, so I think it’s important to listen carefully to what a person has to say. And not to force them into any direction at all but simply to model what you’ve experienced, model it and also be what I call a Listening Presence. If you’re really listening, then some of the barriers can dissolve or change.” -Pauline Olivieros, 2018
Part of the Making Kin group exhibition, this evening of readings organized by Emily Barker addresses disability, illness, culture and community through the lens of the disabled and chronically ill. Taking place at NAVEL, a wheelchair accessible communal space in DTLA structured around inclusivity, the event engages narratives that navigate around exhausted formulas of allyship. The readers, whose work span a variety of mediums and practices, include Domonique Echeverria, Kumi James, Maren Karison, and Uhuru Moor. As a sliver of artists within the disabled community, they address a need for care that extends past altruistic inclusion and accommodation in cultural spaces.
MAKING KIN: An Evening of Readings is unique in that it engages through activating a deep listening atmosphere that invokes change in an arts community structured around able bodied experiences. Through such listening, we can reflect and look inward to change how we think of our own bodies in relation to the 56.7 million disabled individuals in the United States, many of whom are artists like ourselves. In bringing together a wide range of practices, Emily Barker cultivates a multi-layered spectrum of experience often problematic, outrageous, sinister, disturbing, hilarious, resilient, and psychological. The readers engage a new corporeal imagination where ableism is dissolved through envisioning disability, sickness, and physical impairment. They ask us to cross the comforts of our own body and to dissolve our assumptions of disabilities. And it is from their perspective—the perspective of the disabled—we hope to learn from these educators symptomatically forced to self advocate on a daily basis, despite being filmmakers, successful artists, DJ’s, healers, and designers.
It is imperative and urgent that the LA arts community addresses accessibility and accommodation. Too long have individuals with disabilities been subtly ignored, among other minorities. It is a chance to re-envision gallery architecture, programming, and the restructuring of non-profit organizations. Emily Barker and the readers, cognizant of how institutions, artists, curators, and cultural figures utilize empathy to benefit their public appeal, ask us to create new modes of thought to identify false and altruistic allies. What they express breaks the predictability of normative advocacy and challenges notions of good intentioned inclusivity. Through communities and spaces that relentlessly strive to acknowledge, and provide the best forms of accommodation for artistic disabled individuals, an evolution of inclusion occurs.
Words by Ezequiel Olvera
Uhuru Moor is a member of the LA Afropunk band FUPU and a filmmaker - Uhuru’s films have screened internationally, notably in the UK.
Domonique Echeverria is a LA-based healer and artist.
Kumi James, also known as DJ Bae Bae, is an LA-based musician and artist who has toured internationally.
Maren Karlson is a Berlin-based artist whose illustrations evoke devastation through evocative dreamlike landscapes.