power-of-disability, Social Justice, Podcast, Community

The Power of Disability Part 3 — with Carmen Papalia

May 06, 2021
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“At the heart of disability justice is the idea of mutual aid, which means building a capacity for care that isn’t otherwise available.” — Carmen Papalia

Non-visual artist Carmen Papalia speaks with Al Etmanski about the rampancy of ableism across institutions — from the art world to healthcare, to the symbol of the white cane. Carmen and Al discuss how institutions can be sites of retraumatization that can often overlook and underappreciate variations in ability.

Carmen also explores some key ideas central to disability justice, provides some suggestions on how to be a good ally, and considers how accessibility is dependent on the social, cultural, and political conditions of a space and the people within it. Carmen speaks about some of his works, including White Cane AmplifiedMobility Device, and Open Access, drawing out his own positions on the topic of disability, and the importance of mutual aid within the disability community.

About Our Guest

Carmen Papalia

Carmen Papalia is a social practice artist who makes participatory projects on the topic of access as it relates to public space, art institutions and visual culture. His work has been featured as part of exhibitions and engagements at the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, National Art Gallery, Banff Centre, Vancouver Art Gallery, Gallery Gachet and the Tate Liverpool. 

Carmen has received many awards for his work including the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary and the Wynn Newhouse Award. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University, Vancouver and a Master of Fine Arts from Portland State University.

His current work includes a movement building campaign for Open Access. One of the tenets of Open Access is, “Open Access interrupts the disabling power structures that limit one’s agency and potential to thrive.” Accessibility isn’t relevant only to people with disabilities, Papalia says, “it is an affirmation of mutual trust.” Along with his collaborator mia susan amir, they have created the The Open Access Foundation for Arts and Culture.


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