Carmen Papalia: For A New Accessibility

Carmen Papalia: For A New Accessibility,
A Participatory Workshop on the Topic of Organizing 
for Accessibility and Mutual Aid

Saturday, July 23, 2016 11am to 3pm

Monday, July 25, 2016 11am to 3pm

Carmen Papalia,  White Cane, Amplified , 2015. Image by Philip Lui.

Carmen Papalia, White Cane, Amplified, 2015. Image by Philip Lui.

Artist Carmen Papalia conducted two participatory workshops on the topic of organizing for accessibility and mutual aid. Sharing a selection of exercises, writing and documentation from his last several years of practice-based research, Papalia introduced participants to a new, relational model for access, based on assessing the conditions of social environments. Toward this end, he guided participants in unlearning the disabling practices that are at odds with fair, long-term engagement of local marginalized communities - a necessary first step toward realizing accessibility as an open cultural practice, through which those who are in need may claim support that will empower them to thrive.

For A New Accessibility: 

Open Access relies on those present, what their needs are and how they can find support with each other and in their communities. It is a perpetual negotiation of trust between those who practice support as a mutual exchange.

Open Access is radically different than a set of policies that is enforced in order to facilitate a common experience for a group with definitive needs. It acknowledges that everyone carries a body of local knowledge and is an expert in their own right.

Open access is the root system of embodied learning. It cultivates trust among those involved and enables each member to self-identify and occupy a point of orientation that is based in complex embodiment.

Open Access disrupts the disabling conditions that limit ones agency and potential to thrive. It reimagines normalcy as a continuum of embodiments, identities, realities, and learning styles, and operates under the tenet that critical care and interdependence are central to a radical restructuring of power.

Open Access is a temporary, collectively-held space where participants can find comfort in disclosing their needs and preferences with one another. It is a responsive support network that adapts as needs and available resources change.


Canadian artist Carmen Papalia makes participatory, socially engaged projects on the topic of access as it relates to public space, the art institution and visual culture. In early 2015, Papalia served as Artist-in-Residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK and at the Model Contemporary Art Centre, Sligo, Ireland, where he assumed the role of Access Coordinator, making site specific interventions in response to the long history of disabling practices at each institution. He recently finished a project in collaboration with Sara Hendran and students from the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering to develop an acoustic mobility device. Papalia’s work has been featured as part of exhibitions and engagements at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum, the CUE Art Foundation in New York City, the Grand Central Art Center at California State University, Fullerton, the Portland Art Museum, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, among others.