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Johnathan Simms

first performed on September 19, 2020
Flux Factory
performed twice in 2020


New York, NY


“Speaking Bodies” is a durational, bio-ritualistic unwrapping, wrapping, and throwing performance centering disability. It is a slow co-creative fermentation, entangling multiple beings and scales of time.

Thinking in fermentative ways as disabled or “cripped” alchemical social processes of thinking and making, is a disability politic of “cripping the arts.” When we crip, we “open up with desire for the ways that disability disrupts,” states disability scholar and activist Kelly Fritsch. Disrupting necessitates making room for all bodies and beings. When we “crip the arts” we pay attention to the different ways that self-identifying disabled, crip, d/Deaf, Mad, Sick, Low sighted, Blind, and/or chronically ill artists and audiences contribute to, create, and experience culture, making art more inclusive, innovative, and dynamic. Our art disrupts normative understandings of difference and aesthetics, creating a multiplicity of intersectional representations, opportunities and generative transformations.

I performed the piece with a body of shoes formerly worn or recognized as compromising by self-identifying disabled people. As such, each shoe inherently holds a crip utterance that was released throughout the performance via gesture, ritual, sound, and co-witnessing. The crip utterances continue along a non-normative timeline as the linen wrapped shoes dipped in mycelium liquid culture during the performance commingles, thrives, and transforms with each shoe.

For the performance I wore torn layers of organic linen around each of my feet and long linen strips from my neck. During the performance I moved about, rummaged through a pile of shoes, selected one shoe at a time, knelt on the floor in front of the audience and slowly presented the shoe to them. Then I unwrapped one of my feet layer by layer, selected a sheet of linen, tore a strip of linen from my neck piece, then wrapped and tied the selected shoe. Beside me on the floor sat a large metal basin filled with mycelium liquid culture that I dipped the shoe into. I tapped the bowl several times with the shoe which created a long deep ring. Once the ring decayed I stood up, turned away from the audience and threw the shoe at a thunder sheet which in turn created a thunder sound. I repeated the series of gestures until 63 pairs of shoes were wrapped, dipped, and thrown. A visual describer described my gestures and actions throughout the performance. “Speaking Bodies” video documentation is transcribed with visual text.