Carmen Papalia: Open Access: Practicing Accessibility Together
On View: Sept. 18 to Dec. 29, 2017
“I often feel like the white cane separates me from people instead of bringing me towards people,” Carmen Papalia says in his 2013 video “Mobility Device.”
In the exhibition “Open Access: Practicing Accessibility Together” at Cambridge Arts’ Gallery 344, the Vancouver-based performance artist, who describes himself as a non-visual learner, experiments with alternative ways of finding his way around. The exhibition, featuring two videos documenting his experiments plus a poem, runs from Sept. 18 to Dec. 15, 2017.
The exhibition concludes the Cambridge Arts Council’s “Common Exchange,” a summer-long temporary public art and performance series on Cambridge Common curated by Dina Deitsch in partnership with Cambridge Arts and Rick Rawlins of the Lesley University College of Art and Design.
In Papalia’s anxious 2015 video “White Cane Amplified" (pictured below), he literally drops his cane and instead tries to use a megaphone to make his way along the busy streets of East Vancouver. He calls out to passersby for assistance. “I can’t see. I’m visually impaired. I need some help crossing the street,” he says into the megaphone as he finds himself at the edge of a road. “This isn’t a joke.” Finally a couple boys come along to help him cross the street. “I can’t see you. Hopefully you can see me,” he repeats as he walks, until he finds himself marooned at a busy intersection.
In his 2013 video “Mobility Device,” Papalia exchanges his cane for a high school marching band that uses music to signal him as he explores an art center, shops and a parking garage in Santa Ana, California. The 14 uniformed musicians escorting him play different tunes to warn him of steps up or down and other obstacles ahead, with happier results than the megaphone. “I was free to roam and explore. And that’s what I did,” Papalia says in the video. “I kind of just really got a sense of my surroundings I think in a more efficient way that when I use a white cane.”
Papalia’s poem “Accessing Cambridge Common, May 2017,” which runs down the gallery wall and then across the floor, was inspired by his “Blind Field Shuttle” (pictured at top), eyes-closed tours that he led through Cambridge Common this summer. “Lead with an open hand / sweep with your foot,” he writes, “feel for the—obstacle.”
Gallery 344 is free and open to the public.
Cambridge Arts Council
City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor, Cambridge, MA
Monday 8:30am - 8:00pm
Tuesday - Thursday 8:30am - 5:00pm
Friday 8:30am - 12:00pm
Saturday - Sunday closed
Cambridge Arts Council Public Art Program
In accordance with Cambridge's Public Art Program, one percent of construction costs for capital improvements is designated to support the inclusion of integrated, site-responsive public art. Since 1979, over 200 artworks have been commissioned into the Cambridge Public Art Collection for the enjoyment of all who live, work and visit the city.