poster draft of symposium image of Yulia


Link to Disability/Culture: Research in Motion youtube video

University of Michigan Initiative on
Disability Studies Conference 2012

Disability/Culture: Arts-Based Research

Feb 2nd 2012, 2.30-5.30
Performances and Presentations
followed by poster session and social

Duderstadt Video Performance Studio
North Campus

Aesthetic Access

Wobbly Dance Company
(Yulia Arakelyan/Erik Ferguson,
Aimee Meredith Cox
(Fordham University)
Sadashi Inuzuka (UM)
Petra Kuppers (UM)
Neil Marcus (Berkeley)
Ariel Osterweis (Wayne State)
Melanie Yergeau (UM)
Margaret Ames
(Aberystwyth University, UK)
Pam Block (SUNY Stonybrook)
Sue Cheesman
(University of Waikato, NZ)
Jennifer Eisenhauer
(The Ohio State University)
Cheryl Kaplan Zachariah

contact: Conference convener Petra Kuppers,
UMInDS administrator Precious Early,
Supported by UMInDS, Art and Design, English, Social Work, and the Global Scholars Program

Symposium Program

Join us in our fifth annual arts-based research symposium:
Disability/Culture, January 31st to February 2nd 2012

Symposium Program (all events in the Duderstadt Video Performance Studio on North Campus, unless otherwise stated. Events marked ‘open’ are open to the public, just walk or wheel in. If you want to participate in other workshops, please email the symposium director,, so she can send you relevant information or readings)

Tuesday, January 31st

11-12: Slow Start/Hang Out: Lisa Steichmann/Petra Kuppers (both UofM): Under the Echo/Spherical, artist's books and sound art. Informal artist talk and poetry reading, Slusser Gallery, Art and Design Building, North Campus (open)

2 Symposium Opening and Welcome

3-4 Sue Cheesman (Dance Education, University of Waikato, Aotearoa/New Zealand): movement workshop (open)

4-5: Disability Culture video interviews (in studio, one-on-one)

6-6.30 Studio visit with Sadashi Inuzuka (Art and Design ceramics studio, across the street from the Duderstadt, open)

6.40-8.15: Roundtable: what is/are disability culture(s)?
Presentations by Jennifer Eisenhauer (Art Education, The Ohio State University), Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson (Independent Artists, Portland, OR), discussion with Melanie Yergeau (UofM) and symposium fellows, open

Wednesday, February 1st

10-11.30 Margaret Ames (Theatre, Aberystwyth University, Wales, and Cyrff Ystwyth dance company): performance workshop

11.45-12.45 Neil Marcus (independent artist, Berkeley, CA): Special Effects, followed by Olimpias Somatics/Expression taster workshop (Petra Kuppers, UofM) open

1.00-2.00 lunch

2-3 Ariel Osterweis (Dance Department, Wayne State University) and Aimee Meredith Cox (African and African American Studies, Fordham University): Embodied Translations: A Movement Workshop

3.30-4.30 Pam Block (Cultural Anthropology, Occupational Therapy, SUNY Stonybrook): accessible self-defense workshop, open

4.45-5.45: Cheryl Kaplan Zachariah (independent theatre artist, Chicago): performative debriefing

Thursday, February 2nd:

10-1: time to devise a short performance piece for the afternoon

2.30:  UM Initiative on Disability Studies Spring Conference (open)
- Performance by the whole group
- Presentation by Sadashi Inuzuka (UofM), on his work in disability settings in Japan, and on his professional journey as a blind sculptor
- Video Screenings: introduced segments from work by Touch Compass Dance Company, Aotearoa/New Zealand; by Cyrff Ystwyth, theatre work with developmentally disabled artists; by Melanie Yergeau, and by The Olimpias: The Journey to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a video shot during the 2011 arts-based research symposium)
Q+A with audience

4.30-5.30: Poster Session, Central Collaboration Area (open)
Poster presentations by members of the university and the wider local community, with videodance work by Wobbly Dance

Supported by UMInDS, Art and Design, English, Social Work, and the Global Scholars Program; Spherical supported by Institute for Research on Women and Gender

Call for Fellowship Applicants

Disability/Culture: 2012 UMInDS Spring Conference and Practice-Based Research Symposium

with Wobbly Dance Company (Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson), Aimee Meredith Cox, Sadashi Inuzuka, Petra Kuppers, Neil Marcus, Ariel Osterweis and Melanie Yergeau. January 31st to February 2nd 2012, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Deadline for applications: Nov. 1st 2011, notification: Nov. 15th.

For our fifth arts-based inquiry symposium we invite scholars and artists to explore together the realm of disability culture(s), the slashes between disability and culture, the connects and disconnects between embodiment, enmindment, aesthetic access, interdependence and community. Professional development, networking, and socializing are also part of this symposium. It is a forum for sharing work by doing work together: running workshops for one another, sharing our queries and insights through practice. Paper giving will not be our main mode of working.

We invite up to five fellows (graduate students, faculty, independent artists and activists) to come together with the organizing team for three days. Before the symposium, a small reading/viewing pack sourced from all participants will be mailed out, to prep us for our time together. During the symposium, each fellow will have one hour to present material and engage the others in practice. We will be in residence at the Duderstadt Video Performance Studio on the University of Michigan's North Campus, with multiple performance technologies and innovative tech wizards at the ready. Together, we will work toward a roundtable for the Thursday afternoon University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies Spring Conference. The symposium begins at 1pm on Tuesday the 31st, and ends at 4pm on Thursday the 3rd. You are welcome to stay on for the UMInDS Spring Conference poster session and social, arranged by the UM Allies for Disability Awareness Community Organizing group.

Each invitee will have transport and accommodation costs reimbursed up to $300 dollars. The conference hotel offers rooms for about sixty dollars a night, and we will assist people who want to be hosted by graduate students.

Application Process: please email us a short CV, a sample of your experimental, performative or critical writing, movement practice or visual art, and a brief statement about why you would like to participate. Youtube links are fine. Alternatively, send a DVD or CD with performance or visual arts material, also accompanied by a statement, to the symposium director, Petra Kuppers, University of Michigan, 435 S. State Street, 3187 Angell Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003,

Deadline: November 1, 2011 Notification: November 15th, 2011

Special Guests:

Wobbly Dance Company (

Yulia Arakelyan is a Russian speaking Armenian born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1982. She discovered dance in 2002 when she attended a performance by Light Motion Dance Company in Seattle, WA. Nine months later she was on stage, dancing with the company in her first performance. Yulia has been dancing and performing non-stop ever since. From 2004-2005 she trained with CandoCo Dance Company in London, England as part of their Foundation Course in Dance. In 2007, Yulia was the first wheelchair user to graduate from the University of Washington with a BA in Dance. Some of her most influential teachers not in any particular order are: Sheri Brown, Mizu Desierto, Jurg Koch, Miguel Gutierrez, Natsu Nakajima, and Katsura Kan. Yulia has performed with Performance Works NW, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre (UK), Long Distance Project, Impetus Arts, VSA Vision Gallery, University of Washington, Polaris Dance Center, The Headwaters and Scratch PDX. For the past year, Yulia has been researching her family history and Armenian history. She's putting all that research into a series of solo and the first solo, Boud-a-getchere (This, too, will pass) was performed at the 1 Festival this past July in Portland, OR.

Erik Ferguson is an anti-virtuoso movement artist living in Portland Oregon. He got his start studying improvisation with Alito Alessi in Trier Germany in 2003 and has performed and taught DanceAbility and contact improvisation throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as the UK, Oaxaca, and British Columbia. He has most recently studied improvisation with Deborah Hay and Barbara Dilly. He is a perpetual student of Butoh who has studied with various teachers including Akira Kasai, Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, Mizu Desierto and many others. His performances range from storytelling to dance theatre exploring themes of embodiment, gender identity, and extremes of human emotion. Erik is also a practitioner of visual arts including drawing, painting, and printmaking as well as multi-disciplinary pursuits combining art, assistive technology and social networking.
 Based in Portland, OR, Wobbly Dance is a multimedia duo using performance, film, improvisation, digital interaction and visual art to create multi-sensory environments and explore themes on embodiment in the natural world. Currently they are working with choreographer Mizu Desierto on a full length show, Underneath, to be premiered in October 2012.

Sadashi Inuzuka:

Born in Kyoto, Japan, Sadashi Inuzuka has established his career as an installation artist who explores the innovative and poetic potential of clay. He has exhibited, lectured and worked as an artist-in-residence nationally and internationally. He is a professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan.
'Since 1999, I have led ceramics classes and workshops for individuals who are blind, visually and/or cognitively impaired. My background as a ceramic artist and as a person who is visually impaired made me want to do something about bringing the low vision and sighted communities together through the medium of clay. So the programs began as a way to foster better understanding across physical, cultural, economic, and generational divides through art. For people with disabilities, I believe working collaboratively in ceramics helps independent thinking and working, self-pride and self-respect, social skills and communication.'
'For many years I focused on the physical part of art - the long hours in the studio, the effort of making large ceramic sculptures. I was absorbed by the demands of the material and found inspiration within my own mental and emotional states while in the studio. Later in my career, as I began to look around me, my work shifted. Still physically involved in making hundreds of elements for large installations, I began to explore my relationship to the larger world and the fragile balance of society and the environment. These installations were intuitive interpretations of pressing issues - water ecology, invasive species, gene modification. It was during this time that I began to mix traditional materials to new technologies.
In my new work, I have returned to an interest in the body - that my consciousness is connected to my experience of the world through the senses, of form, touch and reflection. My concern for the future of the natural world and society may not be as evident, but it is still there just deeper and less obvious. The inside and outside worlds still meet, and this time my work is that skin.'

Organising team:

Aimee Meredith Cox is a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of performance and African and African American Studies at Fordham University. Dr. Cox's research and teaching interests include expressive culture and performance; urban youth culture; public anthropology; Black girlhood and Black feminist theory. She is currently completing a book entitled, Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship in Post-Industrial Detroit. Shapeshifters is an ethnographic exploration of the performative strategies young black women in low-income urban communities use to access various forms of self-defined economic and social mobility.
Dr. Cox is also a choreographer and dancer. She trained on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, toured extensively as a professional dancer with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble/Ailey II, and is the founder and creative director of The BlackLight Project, a youth-led arts activist organization currently working in partnership with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project.
Aimee is a long-standing Olimpias collaborator, and was one of the co-leaders of the Anarcha Project, which investigated the connections between black culture(s) and disability culture(s) through a focus on slavery medicine and its reverberations in contemporary health care inequalities.

Petra Kuppers is a community artist and disability culture activist, Artistic Director of The Olimpias Performance Research Series, and Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan. She also teaches on the low residency MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.
Her academic book publications include Disability and Contemporary Performance: Bodies on Edge (2003), The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art (2007), Community Performance: An Introduction (2007), and Disability Culture and Community Performance: Find a Strange and Twisted Shape (2011), a book that charts many Olimpias performance experiments. A poetry/cross-genre book, Cripple Poetics: A Love Story, with Neil Marcus and Lisa Steichmann, appeared with Homofactus Press in 2008. Her edited work includes, most recently, Somatic Engagement, an collection of artists on the poetics, politics and publics of embodiment (2011).
Currently, she is at work on a series of experiments in fictocritical poetry writing created in response to conversations about disability culture, Aboriginal survivance and art practice, experienced during a fellowship at the Australian National University in fall 2010. Material from this series has appeared in Performance Paradigm, and is forthcoming in Antipodes.
She's also developing The Olimpias's current performance series, WEFT, a social somatics/participatory performance action to honor international labor. The current focus is on the industrial production of clothing, and on how our bodyminds make sense of these materials that touch us all the time, and whose origins are often so mysterious or invisible to many of us.
Fragments of WEFT happened in 2011 with the MFA crowd at the American Dance Festival; with people from the AXIS summer intensive at People's Park, Berkeley, sharing food and actions with homeless people; with community artists in Montreal, Canada; as part of the Dance and Disability roundtable at the University of Washington; and in Gotenburg, Sweden, where the action aimed to highlight affect and emigration, remembering the fact that a third of all Swedes emigrated over the course of 50 years.

Neil Marcus is a performance and visual artist, and poet. "Disability is an art - an ingenious way to live." This award-winning playwright, actor, poet, and performance artist earned national acclaim when he crafted his experiences as a man living with dystonia, into a powerful staged work. Storm Reading, first produced in the late eighties, challenged audiences to reevaluate conventional ideas about disability and set a standard for performing artists with disabilities, and for performance access technologies. Voted one of Los Angeles' top ten plays of 1993, it enjoyed a nearly decade-long run. Since then, Marcus' passionate stance toward life has infused his artistic choices. Believing that "life is a performance," he has cast his creative net wide, participating in a range of diverse projects.
In 2008, he published Cripple Poetics: A Love Story, with Petra Kuppers and Lisa Steichmann, and circled the globe performing from this book, to audiences at disability arts festivals, poetry centers, universities, community centers and Centers for Independent Living. His current book, Special Effects: Advances in Neurology, appeared in 2011 with the Portland Publication Studio.  More than a document of the early days of the disability rights movement, the book is also a window into California zine culture of the 1980s. Art in revolution: social justice, the human growth movement, art in the everyday. From flourishing dystopia to speech storms, Neil documents living artfully in Berkeley, California, and in Disability Country.
In 2011, Neil choreographed a videodance on Richard Chen See, an ex-Paul Taylor dancer, and he's currently working on a piece on the relationships between jazz aesthetics and speech difference.

Ariel Osterweis is Assistant Professor of Dance at Wayne State University. This fall, Osterweis earns her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (dissertation: 'Body Impossible: Dynamics of Race, Sexuality, and Virtuosity in the Dance of Desmond Richardson'). Osterweis? writing has been published in Dance Research Journal, Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, e-misférica, In Dance, Dancer Magazine,Studio: The Studio Museum in Harlem Magazine, and is forthcoming in TDR/The Drama Review and Mediated Moves: A Popular Screen Dance Anthology (published by Oxford University Press). In addition to writing at the intersection of race, gender, virtuosity, and performance in the U.S., Osterweis also researches contemporary geo-choreographic practices in West and Central Africa. She has also co-organized conferences at UC Berkeley on dance and disability and African and Caribbean performance.
Osterweis danced professionally in New York with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Heidi Latsky Dance, Homer Avila, and Mia Michaels R.A.W., among others. She has also choreographed works based on pregnancy, doubling, and the experimental 'Drawing Poems' of Robert Grenier. Most recently, Osterweis has been theorist/dramaturge for performance artist Narcissister, working with issues of race, feminism, and the explicit dancing body.

Melanie Yergeau is an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan. A recipient of the 2009 Kairos Best Webtext Award, she researches how disability studies and digital technologies complicate our understandings of writing and communication. She has published in College English, Disability Studies Quarterly, Computers and Composition Online, and Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. Additionally, Melanie is an editor for Computers and Composition Digital Press, an imprint of Utah State University Press. Along with John Duffy, she served as a guest editor for the Summer 2011 special issue of DSQ on disability and rhetoric.
Melanie is also a disability rights activist. She is a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Autism NOW Center, a joint initiative of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and The Arc. Additionally, she serves as the board chair of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and formerly directed its Central Ohio chapter. During her time with ASAN, she has organized several protests against Autism Speaks and its lack of Autistic representation, its support for eugenics, and its ableist advertising practices.
Currently, Melanie is working on an academic book project that explores autism and its construction as an arhetorical condition. She blogs semi-regularly at


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