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By B. Hadley

In incapacity, Public area functionality and Spectatorship: subconscious Performers, Bree Hadley examines the functionality practices of disabled artists within the US, united kingdom, Europe and Australasia who re-engage, re-enact and re-envisage the stereotyping they're topic to within the very public areas and locations the place this stereotyping in most cases performs out.

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It is this aspiration to wholeness – and the disabled person’s inability to achieve this wholeness they are taught to aspire to – that makes it difficult, both privately and publicly, for disabled people to accommodate the images by which Western culture defines bodies. ‘The disabled body causes’, as Davis says, ‘a kind of hallucination of the mirror phase gone wrong’ (1995: 139). The medical profession seeks to cure this maladaptation through surgeries, prostheses and exercises that help individuals adapt to their limitations, overcome their limitations, and even artificially create the illusion of bodily wholeness for themselves or for others.

Indeed, Cunningham, Lakmaier and Jones raise the stakes for spectators struggling to respond. In the installation space, the spectator becomes a performer, on the spot and in the spotlight as they act, interact and play out a relationship with a body becoming Other in full view of fellow spectators. They must literally move, speak, or summarize their response, in a situation where the right response is not clear. For some spectators, entering the relation to the Other that Lévinas (1991a; 1991b) calls ‘substitution’ – the relation in which they identify, identify with, yet ultimately fail to fully grasp an Other – is awkward, alienating or embarrassing.

They enter into a play of mixed timing, a slight delay instigated by temporal manipulation, shapes formed into a mesmerizing relief. Images of antiquity come to mind. The sound score is reverent to the composition. Is video James streamed live/delayed, with the image flipped for directional purposes? Or is it a pre-recorded James? These questions fall away as the dance resists its mediatisation to draw The Ethics of Embarrassed Laughter 43 me towards the bodies, one [real and the other] a mere virtual reproduction.

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