Rebirth in Bits and Bodies

Currently on view in Washington DC, and well-documented online, is Renascence, a juried exhibition of work by 'artists with disabilities who combine visual art and technology.' The show's title refers to a form of rebirth, and together, the work of artists Mary Behr, Hans Bernhard, Clovis Blackwell, Ju Gosling, Leon Kim, Lihua Lei, Chas de Swiet, and Kurt Weston investigates the role of new media in bringing the senses, and sensual perception 'back to life.' As such, the installations are not entirely about disability, but certainly filter the personal experience of disability through this lens, exploring its relationship to perception. For instance, Lihua Lei's installation, Phantom Pain, uses sculpture, light, film, and audio to explore the phenomena of phantom limbs. Taking up disability as both subject and metaphor, legally blind artist Kurt Weston's work explores audio-visual distortion, while Ju Gosling (a.k.a. ju90) uses multimedia performance to explore not only physical movement, but also the political movement surrounding disability arts. The show is organized by VSA Arts, an affiliate of the prestigious Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, with the mission of highlighting 'the accomplishments of artists with disabilities and promot[ing] increased access to the arts for people with disabilities.' An introductory essay to the exhibition, by artist and professor Patrick Lichty, also points to the fact that new media often present challenges to people with disabilities, for economic, ergonomic, and other reasons. The artists have clearly overcome these and other challenges, to present compelling work. This show is on view through June 28 in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Gallery. - Angela Moreno