Carmen Papalia is an artist and disability activist who uses organizing strategies and improvisation to navigate his access to public space, art institutions, and visual culture. His socially-engaged practice expresses his resistance of support options that promote ablest concepts of normalcy, like white canes and other impairment-specific accommodations that only temporarily bridge barriers to participation in an otherwise inaccessible, policy-based system. Papalia designs experiences that invite participants to expand their perceptual mobility and to claim access to public and institutional spaces.
For the High Line, Papalia presents Mobility Device, an innovative, collaborative performance in which he is accompanied by a marching band that plays a site-reactive score as guidance for navigating his surroundings. The work transforms the white cane—a symbol of someone with visual impairment—into a collective, sonic experience that opens up ways of thinking about care, collaboration, and a normative hierarchy of the senses. Papalia will bring Mobility Device to the High Line with the Hungry March Band, an 18-person ensemble founded in 1997 for the Mermaid Parade. With this work, he urges visitors to experience public spaces through the non-visual world.
Carmen Papalia (b. 1981, Vancouver, Canada, unceded Coast Salish territory) lives and works in Vancouver. Papalia’s projects have been presented at institutions including Tate Liverpool, London, United Kingdom (2017); The 8th Floor, New York, New York (2016); Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts (2016); and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York (2014). Papalia is the recipient of the Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary from Shape Arts, London, United Kingdom (2014) and the Wynn Newhouse Award (2013).
Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support for High Line Art is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.