September 11, 2019

Disability Drag Show at ArtPrize’s Project [1] @ Hyperallergic

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to reporting on the controversy surrounding the Disability Drag Show, there are many angles to consider regarding the legalities and politics of the event. Originally slated as part of opening weekend programming in the Critical Infrastructure installation at ArtPrize’s inaugural Project [1] launch, property owner and Republican Congressional candidate Peter Meijer volunteered the Tanglefoot Building as one of the three sites to host five works commissioned by ArtPrize. This move was part of a larger effort to shift the annual open-call competition to a biennial format, with smaller-scale, higher-impact interventions to be curated in the off years.

In addition to large-scale, crowd-sourced fiber works by Amanda Browder (who also covered four sky bridges downtown and the entire recreation center at the MLK Park site), Tanglefoot hosts a temporary architectural intervention by collaborative design team Paul Amenta and Ted Lott, who worked closely with former collaborators, DisArt, to design and program a performance space that centralized questions of access for disabled audience members and performers alike. However, this vision hit a snag mid-August, when Meijer pulled permission to perform from members of a UK-based performance troupe called Drag Syndrome. The group is internationally recognized for their drag work featuring performers with Down Syndrome and was invited by DisArt to be part of opening weekend and perform. Meijer cited concerns about the capacity of these performers to give informed consent, but was also perhaps responding to pressure brought to bear on the situation by conservative internet groups protesting the content of the show.

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