Crip Materiality: Disability, Plasticity, and the Art Institution after the Americans with Disabilities Act
February 4, 2019 3:30 PM
212 University Club Building
Jessica A. Cooley
Art History, UW-Madison
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, IRH
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), art museums and galleries have made strides to accommodate visitors with physical and cognitive disabilities through ramps, touch tours, and audio description. These are vital efforts. However, by focusing on physical and intellectual accommodation, art institutions run the risk of not addressing deeper structural and discursive challenges presented by the ways in which the presumed norms of ability shape not just access to art spaces but also curatorial practice, art conservation, and the pedagogical structure and mission of the art institution. Crip Materiality: Disability, Plasticity, and the Art Institution after the Americans with Disabilities Act builds on the foundation laid by scholars of disability studies and art history to understand disability as not merely a matter of representation, biography, or biology but also and especially as a style, an aesthetic, and a political tactic. By proposing a new methodological approach, what I’m calling Crip Materiality, the sub-discipline of art history and disability studies will be able to consider the question of disability in the very fibers of art materials and fabrication. I argue that despite the discourse surrounding institutional critique, the dematerialization of the art object in contemporary art, and the postmodern embrace of ephemerality, there has not been a revaluation of the treatment of the physical disintegration of art from a disability studies perspective where, within the art institution, material precarity in artworks is often framed as an unhealthy or disabled body in need of remediation or correction. Crip Materiality recognizes the extent to which ableist ideology shapes not just attitudes about our physical bodies, minds, and built environments but also unconsciously (and at times, insidiously) shapes our pedagogical, discursive, and evaluative norms regarding material objects.
Jessica A. Cooley is a scholar-curator working at the intersections of curatorial and museum studies, art of the United States, new materialism, and disability studies. Currently, Cooley is a Ph.D. candidate in the art history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is working on her dissertation, Crip Materiality: Disability, Plasticity, and the Art Institution after the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before Madison, she completed her Master’s degree in art history at Temple University and from 2006 to 2010 Cooley served as the Assistant Curator for Davidson College's Van Every/Smith Galleries where she curated a number of exhibitions including RE/FORMATIONS: Disability, Women, and Sculpture and STARING.