Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Heidi Rae Cooley


This is a multipart thesis focused on the intersection between disability and art. What does it mean as an artist to engage the topic of disability? Relatedly, how do artists, art objects, and various aspects of culture contend with or confront disability? It is my contention that many disability artworks work to produce mediations of embodied, lived experience for their audiences. In other words, this kind of art takes the concept of disability, which we might otherwise experience only intellectually, or at a remove, and make that concept material, corporeal, and sensuous – creating an object which makes power relations more visible. This in turn opens an audience onto a condition of possibility. This is a powerful renunciation of the medical discourse of disability—where the afflicted individual is worked upon by the medical scientist, such that (s)he can be “fixed”—in favor of other methods of perceiving disability.

To examine these other perceptions of disability, I attempt to briefly sketch out the commonly held discourse of disability as seen in popular media, and I take up Michel Foucault’s notion of counter discourse, turning to the performance art group Sins Invalid and the artist Mat Fraser. Having undertaken this analysis of disability in art, by way of concluding my critical practice I turn to the creative. That is, my own creative practice, and the second half of my thesis, Poesis/Prothesis: An Interactive, Experimental, Document of Disability. This project seeks to extend its audience’s empathic understanding by explicitly intervening into the medical model of disability, and the problematic of disability simulation.


© 2018, David Adelman