Karrie Higgins

 

THE BEGINNING IS ALSO THE END

 

OBVIOUSLY A MAJOR MALFUNCTION

 

EVIDENCE OF PEDESTRIAN USE

Artist statement:

These three photos are part of a series called Parallel Stress, inspired by Dennis Oppenheim’s classic 1970 performance of the same title. In Oppenheim's performance, he stretched his body in plank position across the gap between two unfinished concrete brick walls, his abdomen in a deep u-shape, straining his spine to the point of greatest physical stress. It was an investigation into the body’s relationship to the built environment—or more specifically, an able body’s relationship to the built environment. 

Dennis Oppenheim, 1970. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Dennis Oppenheim, 1970. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I wanted to explore the disabled body’s relationship to the built environment and the points of greatest stress—often gaps in accessibility created by ableds. So much of performance art demands extreme bodily distress, even to the point of injury, and I wanted to explore a question: Does performance art self-select for inherently ableist images? For example, my performance where the sidewalk ends: I have Syringomyelia, most likely caused by cerebral spinal fluid buildup as a result of my neural tube birth defect, Chiari Malformation. The fluid forms a syrinx or cavity in my spinal cord:

Syrinx.jpg

It causes a host of problems, including poor balance, dizziness, motor deficits, numbness, and pain, which is why I use a walking cane. And yet, nobody knows I have a hole in my spinal cord just by looking at me, and on a "good day" when I can walk in a straight line without stumbling, the only sign of disability might be my walking cane. For me, the position in this photo is excruciating and dangerous, and yet, would it ever be considered “extreme” the way Oppenheim’s was? Or because ableds find it easy, will it be written off? I collaborate on these photos with my husband, Alan Murdock, and it introduces further complexities regarding caretakers and their role in a culture that generally grants them greater credibility."

 

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