Haverford Exhibit Asks, What Can A Body Do?

Levy Hideo: A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard lecture in McCabe Library

Haverford’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, located on the first floor of the Whitehead Campus Center, is a wholly different kind of space than Swarthmore College’s own List Gallery.  Where the List Gallery is brightly and warmly lit, with golden wood paneling and a pretty, light atmosphere, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is a more intense, crisp, almost industrial space, with a molded concrete ceiling and a sharper black, white and gray color palette.This exhibit is a collection of works in all media from various artists with disabilities. Some artists in this exhibit created works that deal directly with physical handicaps, while other artists chose to channel their disability into their art-making process. Overall, this excellent exhibit made me acutely aware of my own senses and challenged me to stretch them to understand the artists’ points of view. This exhibit did not simply present itself. It directly interacted with the viewer, demanding attention and thought, forcing the viewer to seek its rewards.

One highlight of the show is the collection of works by Joseph Grigely, a hearing-impaired artist. His contribution was three large reproductions of New York Times clippings about the singers Eartha Kitt, Faust’s female opera singer, and Sekou Sundiata. The clippings in question all featured large photos of the singers singing. What Grigely did was ingenious: he removed the captions under the photographs, compelling the viewer to take a really good look at the three singers singing. This particular set of works forced me, in a sense, to see the sounds the singers were making when the photographs were taken. It made me focus on using my imagination, combined with the poses and facial expressions of the singers in the photos, to create an idea in my head of what the music must have sounded like. According to the blurb about the works, Grigely aimed to create the sense of “music with the sound turned off.” He succeeds marvelously.

Another highlight of the show is the display “An Eye for An Eye” by Artur Zmijewski, which is comprised of three large color photographs and a video. This series displays abled bodies working as limbs for a disabled body. Two of the works depict one disabled man with his missing leg filled in by the body of one of the abled subjects, and a third depicting the three subjects bent over, the abled ones supporting the body of the disabled one in a (literally) nakedly beautiful way.

The accompanying video shows the abled subjects helping the disabled man walk down stairs and do other tasks. This series depicts snapshots of genuine human connection and support that are quite moving and skillfully arranged.

The works of Christine Sun Kim, another hearing-impaired artist, also are truly noteworthy in this exhibit. Titled “Speaker Drawings #1-10,” they are ten wooden circles splattered with colored inks. The process behind these works is truly interesting. According the blurb about this display, these works were created during a sound performance at the exhibit’s opening in October. The vibrations caused by the sounds caused the inks to move in different patterns on the wood circles, creating ten unique works. Like the Grigely display, this work challenges the viewer to see the sound, stretching the limits of the senses.I have only discussed a few of the excellent works in this show. By engaging not only my eyes but also my ears and my imagination, this exhibit made me acutely aware of myself and of my presence in the space.

This outstanding, challenging exhibit is an important display of works by people who often lack representation, especially in the art world. It shows a range of abilities that are often overlooked. It should not be missed. I plan to return to see future shows at the gallery this year. Their lineup looks thought-provoking and will likely be worth the trips off-campus.“What Can A Body Do?” runs through December 16. The Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery is open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends.

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