blind field shuttle
By Andy Blacker
On a cool spring day, faculty, staff, and students gathered on the fourth floor of the Architecture Building for an activity that can best be described as an immersive, educational work of performance art. The participants place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of themselves, close their eyes, and begin the serpentine descent downstairs led by guest artist Carmen Papalia. Instructions and warnings of obstacles and navigational challenges are shared verbally throughout the line during Papalia’s non-visual walking tour titled “Blind Field Shuttle.” The single-file line winds down five stories, up an ADA ramp from the lower level, out into the courtyard, and ends with the group gathered under the McFarland Carillon. The artwork is designed to be uncomfortable while challenging perceptions and inspiring compassion for those with other abilities and ways of being. Papalia considers the walks an equalizing gesture, introducing participants to something of potential value.
Papalia’s socially engaged art addresses access to public space, art institutions, and visual culture. Papalia describes the experience as an opportunity for the participants to unlearn visual primacy and use their non-visual senses as a primary way of knowing the world. Carmen Papalia’s visit was supported by Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts, a research initiative within the College of Fine and Applied Arts that focuses on how knowledge produced via a Crip/Disabled experience can shape and change the way we approach our respective mediums and practices.