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Art & Politics

Who cares? Jeremy Wade examines what we can learn from disability culture

The performance artist has slipped into a nurse outfit as he and the Future Center for Critical Care lead the symposium 'Take Care', Nov. 10-12 at HAU2, as part of the No Limits Festival

Pictured (L-R): Jeremy Wade as The Battlefield Nurse, Matthias Vernald, Maika Knoblich. Photo by Alexa Vachon

Nov. 9, 2017 – Child care, health care, nursing, assisted living, special needs, emotional labor. Care has been a crucial aspect across human evolution, and more recently has become a hot topic in academic and political realms. Wearing a sexy nurse outfit, performance artist Jeremy Wade is aiming to bring critical care theory into practice – namely, the Future Center for Critical Care. This weekend, he'll be joined by disabled and non-disabled artists, activists, social workers and theorists for a critical reflection on the topic of care via lectures, discussions and performances. SIEGESSÄULE spoke with Wade to find out more

This symposium is presented by The Future Clinic for Critical Care, which had little or no presence before the symposium was announced. Who or what is the Clinic, and how did this come about?

The event happening this weekend in HAU is connected to the No Limits Festival, which I am curating together with James Leadbitter, a mad/neurodiverse artist and activist based in the UK. The Clinic is connected to a larger project I am working on called The Battlefield Nurse. She is a fictional character, a drag mother in mourning. The Nurse is the mother, lover, sister of every soldier who died in battle. The Nurse is the person, and her Clinic is whatever location she chooses for various practices.

The FCCC is a hybrid of art, activism and social work, in order to unpack the concept of “care”. It started at aquarium, next to Südblock, and this weekend's symposium is at Hebbel am Ufer. She will be bringing the Clinic out of the theater into difference diverse public spaces. The Nurse views care not just a medical issue but also as a political issue. For her, disability studies is a pinnacle aspect of understanding critical care as a social, political and artistic methodology for bodies in crisis.

The description of the event includes the Audre Lorde quote, "Self-care is a form of political warfare" to invoke "new and radical forms of interdependence". What is the connection between those two seemingly contradictory notions, self versus inter?

The metaphor that Lorde might use is, “From the body, into the world” – this idea of taking back care of the self from biopolitical regimes, mechanisms that just want to clean you up, that address symptoms rather than structures. This quote from Audre Lorde is also about caring for oneself, caring for one's community – for those who slip through the cracks of the health care system and are dealing with systemic oppression. I look at her writings, or queer sci-fi writers from the 70s and 80s, as not having any majority belonging whatsoever. They were charting out new spaces in fiction in order for themselves to exist. 

But at the same time, self-care is tricky. Care has been sold down the river like everything else – the neoliberalist agenda wants us to take matters of support and health into our own hands. Systems are crumbling. Governments are telling us we must fend for ourselves. There has to be a balance between larger systems of support and individual modalities of resistance that reinterpret the violent norms of care in a political way. Like, “Hey, it's not only personal that you're depressed, honey – it's also structural!”

What can the LGBTI/queer community learn from disability culture and activism?

We'll have to hear that directly from some of the fiercest disability activists who will be present at the symposium. Disabled activists who are fighting for their basic needs over and over, in the face of the austerity politics of governments around the world are the folks who can articulate an emancipatory version of care better than anyone else. Whether you are disabled or not, you need to hear these people speak. They know the ins and outs, the pros and cons, the politics of care. 

To speak about what I've learned personally, I've learned to not take care for granted, to place care in the same realm as relational ethics – maybe even replace the term. The word “care” can be full of paternal narratives: who is sick, who is well, who has power and who doesn't. We know care can be attached to forms of control. Care can also be part of the neoliberal agenda of self-improvement. 

On the other hand, it can be embodied as consensual and attentive communication in the pursuit of interdependence. We need that interdependence. We need positive formulations of dependence in order to get out of the cult of the self that neoliberalism produces. 

Interview: Joey Hansom

Take Care
Nov. 10-12, HAU2
w/ Jeremy Wade, Eliah Lüthi, Eva Egermann, Hannah Hull, Jessica Huber, Jessica Thom, Johanna Hedva, Johanna Zinecker, Kim Noble, Lena Grünberg, Liz Crow, Loree Erikson, Matthew Pountney, Matthias Vernaldi, Michael Zander, Michaela Maxi Schulz, Neve Be, Rebecca Maskos, Rebecca Yeo, Robert McRuer, Simon Geils, the vacuum cleaner (James Leadbitter)




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