Image description: Photo of a white crumpled bed sheet with the word sick written in gray lower-case letters. The inscription follows the folds of the sheet. The photo is surrounded by a frame made of a thin black line and a white border.
Artists: Johanna Hedva, Finnegan Shannon, Olivia Spring (SICK Magazine), RA Walden
Curators: Urška Aplinc, Lara Plavčak
Svetovanje in pomoč pri izvedbi / Advisory role and assistance: Vesna Bukovec and participants of the World of Art school: Jernej Čuček Gerbec, Lin Gerkman, Lara Nagy, Lara Zupan
23. 6. at 6 pm: Viewing of the exhibition for people with blindness and visual impairments with teacher of people with visual impairments Peter Rot (Inter-Municipal Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired Nova Gorica) – in Slovenian.
29. 6. at 6 pm: Book presentation Your Love Is Not Good and conversation with the author Johanna Hedva – in English, accompanied by an interpreter for Slovenian sign language. Moderator: Suzana Tratnik. Co-organised by: Azil Bookstore (ZRC SAZU).
7. 7. at 6 pm: Viewing of the exhibition with the curators – in Slovenian, accompanied by an interpreter for Slovenian sign language.
13. 7. at 6 pm: Lecture by Amanda Cachia Contemporary Disability Art: Accessibility Aesthetics and Institutional Critique – in English, accompanied by an interpreter for Slovenian sign language, equipped with English subtitles. The lecture will take place via Zoom, registration at: email@example.com.
18. 7. at 6 pm: Final viewing of the exhibition with the curators – in English.
The exhibition Sick features works by artists who identify as disabled and/or chronically ill and thus wishes to bring the experience of illness and disability, often associated with the private, into the public sphere. The exhibition includes works by international artists Johanna Hedva, Finnegan Shannon and RA Walden, as well as a reading room curated by writer Olivia Spring. In their practice and artworks, the artists explore the lived experience of illness/disability as that nexus of class, race and gender that is usually overlooked in discussions of intersectionality and political activism.
It is unpleasant to think that we will all become sick or disabled at some point. Non-disabled individuals and society collectively brush aside the thought of the inevitable, and at the same time also all those who are already facing it. The fear is not surprising, since capitalism equates the value of people with their productivity and the possibility of (ab)using their bodies for the purpose of capital. Meanwhile, it is pushing the disabled and the sick into poverty, and with the decline of social security, vulnerable groups are becoming even more invisible to the rest of society. Disability is a concept of the lived experience in an ableist society and the individual’s embodiment, not medical diagnosis and legal definition.
Embodiment in late capitalism is explored by RA Walden. In the work Crip Ecologies, the fragility of the body is tied to the fragility of our ecosystems. The installation archives the artist’s limited contact with nature, which is the result of their disability. Natural objects are preserved in alcohol in containers that resemble apothecary bottles. They seem mundane, even self-evident but are elevated as precious artefacts in the work. The booklet and video Notes From The Underlands form a performative text about the queer utopia of the disabled and the sick. By calling to action and reflecting on the relationship of people who are not-yet-disabled in relation to the community of the disabled and sick, they challenge the assumption that the body must be physically present (and non-disabled) in order to perform. Both works explore manifestations of care that go beyond binary understandings of non-disability and disability, sickness and health.
Johanna Hedva connects the practices of care with queer feminism, alternative knowledge systems and self-organisation. The Medusa and the Snail is a material, an almost visceral investigation of corporeality interwoven with alternative knowledge, culture and ancestral knowledge, intuition and dreams. For the viewer, the claustrophobic installation provokes an awareness of their own body in space. The artist and writer in their practice also otherwise interweaves mysticism, rituals and themes related to sickness, disability, marginalisation and mutual care.
But care must also become the responsibility of institutions, including cultural ones. The working principles of contemporary art institutions rarely allow for the possibility of including people with disabilities/chronic illnesses, both artists and audiences. Ableist institutions, with their hyperproduction of projects, do not envisage operating on crip time. In an equal relationship between the artist and the institution (the individual within the institution), the artist’s access rider can be an open dialogue of necessary and possible adjustments. The focus on accessibility, especially when seen as an intellectual and creative challenge, is transformative for the medium of the exhibition and the exhibition programme.
Artist Finnegan Shannon’s interventions create accessibility in physical and digital spaces. By placing benches with text as artworks in gallery spaces, they draw attention to the neglect of the basic physical needs of people with disabilities, while at the same time putting the solution into practice. The seating offers visitors a place to rest and a chance to listen to their bodies. It also provides an opportunity to interact with other works – the bench For RA Walden’s Notes From Underlands is set up for viewing RA Walden’s video. Sitting becomes a gesture of protest and one of the incentives for public space to recognise the needs of different bodies, not just normative ones. The artist deals with the private experience of illness and disability in three works, embroidered tissue boxes in the shape of a house A little pleasure for you, a sofa A little softness for you and a bed A little comfort for you. With them, they recall experiences from the lives of disabled or sick individuals, connected to the home and the private, marked by pain and the need to take care of oneself and others. The tissues and their boxes are an object of consolation that invites us to reflect on our care roles and to accept our interdependence.
In the absence of care structures, online communities have formed on social networks to support, educate and bring together. Self-publishing activities are also part of these communities, above all (fan)zines as an important medium of expression and networking for groups that are not part of the dominant culture. For the exhibition, writer Olivia Spring, founder and editor of SICK Magazine, a magazine by disabled and sick authors, has compiled a selection of zines, magazines, poems, anthologies and books covering a range of perspectives on disability and illness. The reading room aims to shake the wilful ignorance of a society that does not acknowledge the experiences and needs of people with disabilities. The duty to raise awareness must be shared and not remain an additional burden borne exclusively by disabled and sick people.
With this exhibition, we seek to place accessibility at the heart of our practice, our working methodology and our exhibition programme. The exhibition presents the different perspectives of artists, art practitioners and communities that create a space to reflect on the issues and connections of disability, art and contemporary society, through which we aim to approach different exhibition strategies for work, connection and inclusion.
Urška Aplinc and Lara Plavčak
 In Slovenian, appropriate terms around “disability” are not yet fully embraced so words like “invalid” and “handicapped”, which are stigmatising, are still in circulation. We have therefore added the English original and an explanation to the Slovenian as clarification.
 See Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality explains the overlapping sociopolitical systems of power and inequality and the experiences of oppression (or privilege) of people at the axes of these systems.
 The political engagement of disabled people is addressed in the essay Sick Woman Theory by Johanna Hedva, in which the resistance of the sick/disabled body is considered.
 There is a shift away from the word “abled” in the English language. The term non-disabled indicates that an individual’s psychophysical non-disability is mostly temporary.
 Ableism is a system of discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities. It can also be internalised.
 See the social model of disability within disability studies.
 The exhibition presents Wart Paintings, which are part of the artwork.
 Crip time, see Alison Kafer. It is a non-linear time (and space) experienced by disabled people. Crip comes from cripple, and the word is being reappropriated by some disabled people and groups as an act of empowerment and destigmatisation. The word is not suitable for use by non-disabled persons, except with express consent, if it refers to an individual or a specific group.
 A text about the needs of an individual artist for exhibition work, travel, accommodation, live events, etc.
 The adaptations, which are primarily designed for disabled people, also benefit non-disabled users. For example elevators and ramps for prams.
RA Walden (UK/GER) is a transdisciplinary artist who explores a queer disabled perspective on the fragility of the body. Their practice spans sculpture, installation, video, and printed matter, all of which is undertaken with a socially engaged and research-led working methodology. To date, their work has been shown at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Hebbel Am Ufer, National Gallery of Australia, SOHO20, Kunstinstituut Melly, Storm King Art Centre. They have been a resident of Shandaken Storm King, Wysing Arts Centre, Hebbel am Ufer, and La Becque.
Finnegan Shannon (USA) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on disability cultures. They often address barriers (e.g. stairs) and lack of adaptations in institutions with interventions that prioritise accessibility. They have worked with many organisations including the Banff Centre, ARGOS Centre for Audiovisual Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, MMK Frankfurt, LUX and Deborah Schamoni.
Johanna Hedva (KOR/USA/GER) is a writer, artist and musician. Their work explores grief, death, illness, disability, mysticism and ritual through language. They have exhibited at the Gropius Bau, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Gyeongnam Art Museum and LA Architecture and Design Museum. Their texts have been published in Triple Canopy, The White Review, frieze and Topical Cream, among others.
SICK Magazine, an independent international magazine by and for the chronically ill and people with disabilities, was founded in 2019 by Olivia Spring and designed by Kaiya Waerea. The magazine aims to strengthen their representation in publishing and the arts, and to challenge harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about disability.
Olivia Spring (USA) graduated from Goldsmiths, London. She is the recipient of the Monson Arts and Hewnoaks residencies, as well as grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Regional Regranting Program and the Indiecon Festival. She writes about illness, trauma and belief, and is currently working on her first book.
Acknowledgments: Johannes Beck, Berliner Festspiele/Gropius Bau, Deborah Schamoni, Leandra Busch, Lenka Đorojević, Izidor Bratun, Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture
Slovene proofreading: Inge Pangos
English translation: Arven Šakti Kralj
Design and cover image: Lea Jelenko
Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Photos from the book presentation Your Love Is Not Good: Sara Rman
Exhibition view: Matic Pandel
Support: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, City Municipality of Ljubljana – Department of Culture, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
Organization: World of Art/SCCA-Ljubljana, Škuc Gallery
Partners: Inter-Municipal Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired Nova Gorica, Riso Paradiso, Druga violina
Sponsor: DIOPTA, d. o. o., Ljubljana
The World of Art school programme is created in partnership with Cukrarna/MGML.