I’m using acrobatics as a metaphor for day to day life with a disability. For many of us, just getting through the day sometimes requires feats of agility, creativity, balance, strategy, concentration and/or cooperation. The result is mundane: we get out of bed (maybe), we get dressed (maybe), we brush our teeth (maybe) —but the process can be as complex and demanding as a triple somersault on a trapeze. And sometimes we fall.
It takes an acrobat to operate in a world that is not set up to accommodate our particular (dis)abilities. “Jumping through hoops” certainly comes to mind when advocating for inclusion in the face of bureaucratic inertia and lack of imagination. But there’s no applause in this circus. This is when society’s “Oh you’re so heroic” attitude towards people with disabilities does a back flip into “Oh you’re such a pain in the butt”.
Acrobats are seen as daring, graceful and physically perfect. I want to valorize disabled bodies/minds/emotions by presenting us as acrobat-heroes, but in the same breath call into question the social construction of heroes by presenting us in all our awkward human wonder. I want to celebrate the creativity of our day to day acrobatics, but in the same breath critique the systems that force us to fly or fall.
This exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Geoff McMurchy, who started me thinking about heroics.
— Persimmon Blackbridge
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