Review of Re-coding Crip Tech

Without knowing anything about crip aesthetic, I attended the opening of Re-coding crip tech at SOMAarts in San Francisco. An exhibition of art made possible by entirely blind artists and artists with other forms of disability. Technology is the realization of our limitation and our way of re-coding people if people were computers, to which I say, “aren’t we computers now?” It’s a question that is arising more frequently because artists and curators consider nonconventional art enthusiasts. Why is art primarily visual, when much of the population has an issue with their sight? Claude Monet was half-blind.

For her 2011 book “Blind,” the artist Sophie Calle asked non-sighted people what they imagined seeing to be like, then placed photographs of what they described next to their portraits. Calle and the curators of Re-coding crip tech are framing art practice about accessibility. Almost all art made today and throughout history is visual – shows like Re-coding crip tech fight against the dominance of visuality in the art world. Tactile examples of textural elements of sculpture were available for examination with fingers. ReCoding Crip Tech deals with issues of accessibility for blind art lovers. At a group art show exhibiting artists that deal with various forms of disability, samples of the textures of some of the artworks were made available. The layout of the show considered enough room for wheelchairs but curator Vannessa Wang and couldn’t have predicted such a big turn out opening night. This show was not for the non-disabled of the art world; it was firstly for the Bay Area’s community of disabled artists.

Crip tech is the confluence of accessibility, technology, and art. Recoding Crip tech is re-coding viewers to see themselves as aided by the same technologies that disabled artists use by framing art practice about disability. The show brings to mind questions about technology, and what is a tool when it replaces a part of our body? The smartphone acts as a remote part of our brain organ, a prosthetic. The group show leads to the ghettoizing of artists, but necessity makes it unavoidable. Photography, sculpture, interactive installations, 3d printed sculpture, and projections of video with sound situated in close conversation amongst themselves.

Sonia Soberats is a blind photographer. Her photos deal with human figures cast in light and darkness. With little difficulty, her models tell the viewers that they need seeing. For those who can not see, being seen or looked upon holds a double psychological weight. Her photos invite the eyes of the viewer to be in a close space with the vision of the artist. The viewer asked to see what the artist sees even though the artist is blind. Feeling and seeing merge and the shared experience is human intimacy. Her photos bring us into her sensual communication with her subjects, somehow going beyond our visual experience.

Sandi Yi is an artist that makes skin like fashion accessories. Crip couture is a line of wearable art that is custom made to fit the contours of the disabled body. Yi makes silicone and latex look like body tissues that are in a state of being shed like the skin of a snake. This second skin both accentuates the wearers’ unique features while also making them seem even more stark. The new materials were available for physical examination for blind art lovers.

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Alejandro Elias Perea

Alejandro Elias Perea

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MFA and MA Writing Visual Critical Studies Candidate - California College of the Arts 2023