See You Again

May 31, 2015 at the Portland Art Museum

Utilizing performative caucus-form voting, See You Again is an evening cocktail event where members of the public are invited to actively participate in voting for a socially-engaged work to be proposed to the museum for permanent collection. The SP MFA students will each champion one artwork.

Arianna Warner championed Carmen Papalia's Blind Field Shuttle walking tour. Ultimately, MFA Candidate Amanda Leigh Evans won over the caucus with a piece by Stephanie Syjuco. Below is the rough outline used by and created by Arianna Warner in collaboration with Carmen Papalia. 


When I first was asked what social practice artist’s work would I like to see be acquired by a museum I thought about what it meant to the artist, to the museum, and to the community the museum is in. I thought about all the experiences I had going to museums since I was young and how those works either affected me, or how might each piece affect someone else. So I decided to define what a Museum is. According to the Webster Dictionary, a Museum is “a building in which interesting and valuable things are collected and shown to the public. It is an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value.” Let me re-iterate that last part, “an institution devoted to the procurement, CARE, STUDY, and display of objects of lasting interest or value”. Hm… So my question changed from what I want to see in a museum to, what do I want to be cared for, studied, and have real public engagement with lasting interest and value. Carmen Papalia’s Blind Field Shuttle was the first project that came to mind.

Papalia’s nonvisual walking tour, Blind Field Shuttle, is an experience in which more than 50 people can walk with the artist through urban and rural spaces while closing their eyes. Each instance of Blind Field Shuttle is an invitation to explore the possibilities for learning and knowing that come available through the nonvisual senses. Participants line up behind Papalia, link arms and close their eyes for the entire hour-long experience. After using their non-visual senses for a prolonged amount of time, participants begin to recognize looking as one of the many ways to engage with and interpret a place. Blind Field Shuttle has been shown as part of exhibitions at the L.A Craft and Folk Art Museum, the CUE Art Foundation in New York, Pro Arts in Oakland, Gallery Gachet in Vancouver, and as part of engagements at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the California College of the Arts, the Mellon Tri-College Creative Residency, the Mildred’s Lane Residency and the Open Engagement: Art + Social Practice conference.

What Carmen and I are proposing is not only a project but a paradigm shift within Museums, and other visually centered institutions, to cultivate and utilize a more holistic, openly accessible methodology in engaging their publics by honoring / embracing  the theoretical foundation upon which this project is situated. Carmen, a self-identified Disabled person / non-visual learner, and alum of the PSU Art and Social Practice Program, actively is in search of different methods to interpret non-visual spaces. As a contingency to acquire this work, the Museum must also accept and actively explore / assess what nonvisual space has to offer, how nonvisual spaces in the museum are used / curated, and what this may mean in the larger context of art practice—with regard to curation, art criticism and study in visual culture / history. This is of relevance given current discourse regarding how to curate, exhibit and collect works of social practice since the position of the participant (which works of social practice often require the viewer to assume) is one of being present in the body, or  embodied.

-Papalia will support community members in conducting an independent accessibility audit of the Museum—where the terms of the audit are based in their subjective perceptions regarding what is accessible.

-Papalia will serve as an accessibility consultant for the Museum, assessing the institution and its processes under the tenets of Open Access.

-Each new staff member at the Museum will participate in a workshop by papalia in which they will be introduced to ideas regarding Open Access and non-visual space via BFS and other engagements / exercises.

-The Museum will collect documentation from past instances of BFS.

As defined by Carmen, 

-Open Access relies on who is present, what their needs are and how they can find support with each other and in their communities. It is a perpetual negotiation of trust between those who elect to be in support of one another in a mutual exchange.

-Open Access is radically different than a model in which a set of policies is employed in order to facilitate a common experience for a marginal group with definitive needs. It acknowledges that each participant carries a body of local knowledge and is an expert in their own right.

-Open access is the root system of embodied learning. It cultivates trust among those involved and enables each member to self-identify and occupy a point of orientation that is based in complex embodiment.

-Open Access interrupts the disabling power structures that limit one's agency and potential to thrive. It reimagines normalcy as a continuum of embodiments, identities, realities and learning styles, and operates under the tenet that care and a shared accountability among participants are core components of liberated space.

-Open Access is emergent, collectively-held space in which members can find comfort in disclosing their needs and preferences with one another. It is a responsive support network that adapts as needs and available resources change.

-Open Access is the heart murmur of the collective body.

Museums disable me as a viewer. Everything, from the artwork to the explanatory text, assumes a subject that uses their visual sense as a primary way of knowing and I am a non-visual learner that requires a different frame of reference. Sometimes I will participate in a touch or audio tour but feel like these programs are misguided since they offer me an experience that is a derivative of the privileged visual experience of art. Contrary to their purpose, access programs do not make the museum more accessible to me, they subjugate the ways in which I learn and govern my participation in contemporary art.
— Carmen Papalia