An Urgent Conversation About Ableism in the Art World

Panteha Abareshi, “(FOR PARTS)” (2020), digital edition one (all images courtesy the artist)

“What does accessibility truly look like in the art space?” This is one of the questions that artist Panteha Abareshi will pose at the Institution of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA) this Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23. Abareshi will be leading two urgent conversations around ableism in the art world, with the first focused on museums in Los Angeles and the role of curation, and the second grounded in the work of disabled artists.

“We are currently unable to realistically conceive of real, integrated accessibility, because of how deeply ableism permeates,” Abareshi told Hyperallergic over email. “I will be focusing not on giving cut-and-dry solutions to inaccessibility, but rather delving deeply into ableism as something we are all compliant within, and my personal experience as an ill/disabled body navigating an ableist world.”

Panteha Abareshi, “Unlearn the Body” (2020), performance shot on super 8mm color negative

In her performance work, Abareshi makes visible her own experiences of living with a chronic illness, known as sickle cell zero beta thalassemia — “a genetic blood disorder that causes debilitating pain, and bodily deterioration that both increase with age.” Currently, she is centering the role of prosthetics and “examining the erotics of the sick/disabled body.” Across her work, Abareshi’s goal is to make her viewers aware of their own bodies.

“Able-bodied individuals move through the world with an immense amount of privilege, and often are not conscious of how the world is built to cater to their comfort, and creates distinct discomfort for the ill/disabled,” she elaborated over email. “This topic of DISCOMFORT is vital to my practice, and to what I will be speaking on as a measure of progress within the art space.”

As a recent example, Abareshi points to the COVID-19 pandemic. “[A]ccessibility measures being implemented in response to the pandemic were in drastic response to Able-bodied inconvenience, as opposed to in response to the pre-existing need of the ill/disabled,” she said. “For me, being isolated, quarantined and alone for long periods of time has been a reality for a long time.”

Visitors will have the option to participate in these special events either virtually or at the ICA LA. The museum will have a total of 15 seats available and is instituting strict safety guidelines, which you can read more about here. RSVP is required.

When: Saturday, August 22, 3–5pm (PDT) and Sunday, August 23, 3–5pm (PDT)
Where: Google Meet and limited capacity at the ICA LA (1717 E 7th St, Downtown, Los Angeles)

More info at the ICA LA

Artist Panteha Abareshi discusses the role of curation in museums and the crucial work of disabled artists like herself.Read MoreEvents, California, disability, ICA LA, Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Panteha AbareshiHyperallergicRead More

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