Karrie Higgins

Artist Statement

These images grew out of another series called “Parallel Stress,” inspired by Dennis Oppenheim’s 1970 performance of the same title. Oppenheim stretched his body in plank position across two concrete brick walls, straining his spine to the point of greatest stress, illuminating the relationship of the body to the built environment. I wanted to explore points of stress for disabled bodies, usually gaps in accessibility.

In-progress on this project, I lost access to my epilepsy medication, a situation that places me in constant “parallel stress.” Bruised and battered by seizures, I spontaneously added text to my photos, choosing Avenir Next Heavy Italic for a Barbara Kruger-esque vibe. Avenir means “future,” and the font’s graphic designer, Adrian Frutiger, drew inspiration from Futura Bold—Kruger’s favorite.

Whereas Kruger appropriated pre-existing images, I create my own, in part as a statement about the lack of available Dis imagery and in part because I see much of feminist art as ignoring disability. I am forcing my body into the conversation.

It surprised me how my intended medium of social media drove these images into a theatrical mode. When I started doing the self-portraits/selfies (#Hysterical; May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor), I started thinking of them as Dis Memes and the whole way I used my body changed. It’s sort of a fusion of Oppenheim’s performative situation and Kruger’s anti-ads. Ads for Disabled World!  

I often collaborate with my husband, Alan Murdock, who is also my caretaker. In a world where caretakers are given credibility and presumed competence, I am asking him to deliver forensic documentation of my Dis/stress. It’s intentionally problematic.