Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying

The Waiting Room (installation view)
Photo: Colin Conces

March 22–June 2, 2018

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying focuses on how the body is articulated in various discourses around health. (Note: “Crip” is a political reclaiming of the derogatory label “cripple.”) The artists in this exhibition, through artworks and practices with care-focused groups, examine how support for the body in states of illness, rest, and disability (particularly in relation to the time they operate on) can prompt us to re-imagine collective forms of existence as life under capitalism becomes impossible. Dragging on and circling back, with no regard for the stricture of the workweek or compulsory able-bodiedness, the time that this curatorial project investigates is non-compliant. It refuses a fantasy of normalcy measured by in-or-out thresholds and demands care that exceeds what nuclear families can provide.

Whether or not we currently identify as sick, we are united by the fact that we all experience fluctuating states of debility throughout our lives. In the United States, many of us are exhausted from living and working in a capitalist system rife with insufficient and deteriorating infrastructures for care. Being mindful of the fact that these failures of public health and biomedicine are felt by some disproportionately more than others (due to race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.), Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying provides a platform for exploring collective forms of healing the way these traumas are held in the body and dealing with these structural processes of exclusion. To this end, artworks dealing with care, illness, fitness, sleep, somatic sustainability, labor, alternative temporalities, and wellness culture are on view within an exhibition on life/work balance that provides a locus for ongoing conversations about relief and potential repair.

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying is a process-based show; many of the artworks will directly demonstrate what living and working on sick time demands of the body and of the artists and organizers themselves. While there was an opening event, a closing reception was also held—a new start, to mark a different sense of time that we negotiated together.

Sondra Perry
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Video and bicycle workstation
Dimensions variable
Photo: Colin Conces
Courtesy the artist

The works on view at the opening of the exhibition included:

Fia Backström’s A fluid orthographic plane, based in the movements of hands and eyes, 2016, points to the use of fluid language planes (such as smartphones or tablets) that allow us to communicate through bodily gestures at a moment when technological surfaces increasingly register both human and environmental forces. In an installation that plays with the creation of a temporary after-image on viewers retinas and draws from the history of using negative images in medical and scientific photography, Backström calls our attention to what often goes unseen and prompts us to consider the oscillating line between the self and other, and the self and material.

Danilo Correale’s video installation, No More Sleep No More, 2015, investigates the political life of sleep, particularly the encroachment of working time on sleep in the late-capitalist push toward a never-ending production model. Juxtaposing images Correale made when he was sleep-deprived with a series of conversations with various experts on sleep, No More Sleep No More suggests that sleep is one activity that still has the potential to resist standardization and normalization.

Jen Liu’s Pink Slime Caesar Shift, 2018, focuses on industrial production in China, where repetitive movements, long hours, and toxic working materials have extremely detrimental effects on the bodies of workers, and, due to a state-controlled media environment, it is incredibly hard for them to organize. Liu’s video imagines a future where the production of synthetic meat based on stem-cell technologies (in-vitro meat) not only solves China’s meat shortage but also provides a vehicle for worker resistance. In Pink Slime Caesar Shift, the DNA of mass-produced in-vitro hamburgers is altered using encryption to harbor secret messages of labor insurrection.

Territory: Omaha, 2018, is a site-specific performance by Zavé Martohardjono that retraces pre-colonial landscapes and recent emigrant histories in Omaha, and considers the relationship between displacement, migration, and bodily health. As a mixed-race Asian-American person raised in the West, Martohardjono uses choreography to slowly tap into buried ancestral knowledge in the body. A central question to their work is: Do movement practices have the potential to decolonize the body and undo the damage of assimilation?

The video playing on the screens atop Sondra Perry’s Chroma-key blue-colored exercise bike features an avatar of the artist generated by software that was unable to reconcile her body with pre-existing templates. In her work, Perry illustrates the duality of digital technologies: as a mechanism of power when they surveil and contain people of color, but also when reimagining networked collectivities as an outlet for human agency. In earlier bike videos in this series, Perry asked viewers to consider how forms of discrimination negatively affect the health of people of color and what revolt might look like when life-sustaining activities, be it through fitness or social media, are quantified and ultimately only valued for how they add to one’s labor potential. In her most recent bicycle workstation f fffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, 2017, as the avatar’s image breaks down amidst echoing laughter and coughs, Perry’s call to arms is answered through the contagious affect of the ghost in the machine.

In Cassie Thornton’s Psychic Architecture, 2017–18, the psychic burden of debt is made physical. In her practice she often guides people through “debt visualizations” where financial debt is externalized as an image or a space, to show that financialization, while now a ubiquitous social form, is not natural. Financialization is a process in which social necessities—like healthcare, education, housing, and food—are turned into profit-generators that have little to do with sustaining life. Thornton’s audio guide leads us through an obstacle course of malfunctioning supports, and, by illuminating the underlying support structures of the exhibition as well as those not clearly visible in our society and various institutions, she illustrates how leaning on the “bad support” that financialization offers ultimately blocks us from imagining alternatives.  

Rather than accept our societal emphasis on personal independence, as a care provider and recipient in a disability community, Constantina Zavitsanos understands social debt and dependency, not as necessarily negative relations. She sees them as a dynamic in which perceived lack can actually be an asset: Hard places and tight spaces can produce not only binds but also bonds. Part of an ongoing self-portrait pillow series, Self Portrait (EMDR), 2009–10, is a year-long durational performance piece that leaves its traces in a sculpture comprised of wood and memory foam affected by an extended period of activity (sleep). Memory foam molds quickly to a body—it is defined by how it supports others. While recreation and rest are not often regarded as “productive” work, Zavitsanos reminds us that activities such as sleep are life sustaining.

The Warp and Weft of Care

Cassie Thornton
Secret Chakra, 2018 (workshop view)
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), May 11, 2018
Courtesy the artist

An associated program series entitled The Warp and Weft of Care occurred as a dialogue between many of the artists in the exhibition and local communities of care. Some events will be open to the public at Bemis, while other closed-door collaborations will take place at partner organizations. The program’s engagements drew from a long history of feminist, indigenous, black, and queer art that investigates how trauma is held and expressed through collective rituals and shared somatic experiences. As our increasingly secular society loses intergenerational knowledge and undervalues epistemologies that are not mind-centered, these programs demonstrated how cultural rituals seated in struggles of justice are infinitely valuable to collective wellbeing.

Three games for two rooms, a visualization workshop with Carrie Schneider
Friday, March 30 | 5:30–8 PM

Calling in Sick, a bodily communication workshop with Taraneh Fazeli
Thursday, April 26 | 6–8:30 PM

Secret Chakra, a yoga class teaching feminist economics with Cassie Thornton
Friday, May 11 | 5:30–8 PM 

Closing Reception featuring performances by Fia Backström and Zavé Martohardjono
Friday, June 1 | 6–9 PM

6:30 PM – The Growth and Its Perennials, a performance by Fia Backström 
7:30 PM – Territory: Omaha, a performance by Zavé Martohardjono

In addition to the artworks on display and related programs, Carrie Schneider and Cassie Thornton engaged the show’s architecture by devising several spaces for care within the galleries. These spaces critiqued existing institutionalized areas for care and work past the blockages of imagination that limit that which we can envision and build together. Their investigation engaged a component of the curatorial framework for the show—an installation that mirrors a medical waiting room—and unfolds from there, dependent on visitor interaction. Rather than act as the liminal space before the bureaucratic clinic or expertise of the doctor, this waiting room emphasized embodied peer-to-peer support. It contained writings and publications from arts collectives related to health and patient self-determination as well as publications from local care organizations that range from free clinics, support groups, services for underserved, and alternative health services. Schneider and Thornton’s investigations align with artist and writer Johanna Hedva’s belief that “the process of healing is a way of reimagining a political future for the social body as much as it is about finding ways to care for and survive in our individual bodies.” The Waiting Room is a space to respond to Hedva’s question: “How can we conceive of the care we give and receive from others as being enmeshed with our political futures?”

Further questions posed throughout this project were:

  • How do we envision ways to care for others and ourselves in a manner that eschews placement of guilt on the sick individual and avoids pathologizing non-“normative” bodies or behaviors?
  • What is the relationship of care to reciprocity when seeking personal wellness alongside caring for others?
  • What is care’s relationship to rage and resistance?
  • In considering how we move through (and redistribute) the effects of pain, what role does immediate individual relief play versus collective long-term repair?
  • What is art’s role—with its potential to convene diverse publics to participate in cultural rituals that envision alternative systems and new metaphors—in forming action that can help us envision and enact such a transitional architecture?

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying is curated by Taraneh Fazeli, 2018 Bemis Curator-in-Residence. A longer set of curatorial notes for the project can be found at temporaryartreview.com.

Artists: Fia Backström, Danilo Correale, Jen LiuZavé MartohardjonoSondra PerryCarrie Schneider, Cassie Thornton, and Constantina Zavitsanos

The Waiting Room features a new two-part publication by Berlin Feminist Health Care Research Group and a selection of existing publications and texts by The Black Panthers, Canaries, Danilo Correale, Data Feels, Corrine Fitzpatrick, Johanna Hedva, How to Perform An Abortion, Joan Lubin and Jeanne Vaccaro, Power Makes Us Sick (PMS), Carolyn Lazard, Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos, Cassie Thornton, The Young Lords, Theodore Kerr, and others. It will also be a site for distribution of pamphlets from local care organizations that range from free clinics, support groups, services for underserved, and alternative
health services.

The 2018 Curator-in-Residence program is made possible by Carol Gendler and the Mammel Foundation. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying is supported, in part, by Deanna and Fred Bosselman, Douglas County, Omaha Steaks, and Security National Bank. 

A previous version of this exhibition and program series took place between Houston, TX and New York, NY in 2017, where it was made possible with the generous support of EFA Project Space, a program of The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Core Residency Program; and The Idea Fund.

Access*

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has three galleries on the main floor that can be accessed via an ADA-approved ramp on 12th Street or by seven steps. 12th Street is cobblestone-lined. There is free street parking in front of the building on 12th Street and a paid lot on the North side of the building. Public transportation is available via Metro bus and every bus has wheelchair/mobility device accessibility. The nearest bus stops are located at 13th & Douglas Streets and 16th & Leavenworth Streets. Admission is free and no ID is required to enter the building. There are multi-stall ADA approved single-sex bathrooms on the main floor with two grab bars.

Children and service animals are welcome. Concealed carry is prohibited. Texts and programs are in English. Large format texts are available upon request. The space is not scent-free, but we request that you enter it low-scent. Many ill (and non-ill) people have chemical sensitivities, which mean they do not tolerate scents. If you come wearing perfumes, there is soap in the bathrooms to wash it off. More info on how and why to do this here and here.

Seating options at programs will include folding chairs or cushions on the floor, but we are happy to provide other seating if requested. If you need to move around, twitch, pace, or not make eye contact, know that you are welcome here.

While the exhibiting artists allow photographs, we ask that you do not use flash. Please refrain from photographing other visitors without permission.

Note that some programs may be held on other floors of Bemis Center or off-site. Access details will be included with event information online.

If you have questions or would like support with specific access needs please ask at the front desk or contact us at access@bemiscenter.org or 402.341.7130. For programs, we ask that you contact us at least five days prior to your visit and we will do our best to help you attend comfortably.

 

*Why is this here? Known as an “Access note,” these details are increasingly being provided by art organizations on their websites. Access notes traditionally reflect on limits to the built environment which may impede access for persons with disabilities. The organizers of Sick Time... felt it was important to look more broadly at access, and, by sharing these details, hope to start a dialogue on the effects of other structural limitations. They would like to hear from you if you have input on how Bemis Center can be more accessible. Please contact them at access@bemiscenter.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 South 12th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Admission and Parking: FREE
Phone:: 402.341.7130
E-mail: info@bemiscenter.org