Site Unseen 2009: (Dis)abling Conditions

Matthew Owens_Agenbite of Inwit3_SiteUnseen08.jpg

Matthew Owens_Agenbite of Inwit: Matthew Owens in “Agenbite of Inwit,” part of Site Unseen 2008 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Photos by John W. Sisson, Jr.

A Site-Specific Performance Event
Takes Over the
Chicago Cultural Center

November 9, 2009,
6-9 pm


For one night only on
Monday, November 9, 2009, from
6-9 p.m., the
Center will host
Site Unseen, a site-specific performance event featuring
theater, dance, music, and visual art by individual artists and
ensembles of local and international acclaim.  

Presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the
performances, installations, and video works will all consider issues
around disability. 
Works will be created specifically for the architectural spaces of the

Center, located at
78 E. Washington Street. 
Admission is free.


Now in its sixth annual edition,
Site Unseen 2009 will feature works by local artists that bring visibility to a broad range of disabilities. 
The theme emerged because Julie Laffin, the project’s ongoing
curator, has become increasingly disabled by environmental illness and
complications from chronic Lyme Disease. 
This year’s presentation reflects her own struggles with new
disabilities and the effects on her artistic collaboration with Chicago
DCA Theater Director Claire Geall Sutton. 
Along with this year’s assistant curator, Clover Morrell, Laffin
is presenting a piece that will bring her virtual presence to the

Participating artists creating audio, performance, spoken word, movement-based, and media installation art include Mike Ervin
and Rahnee Patrick
Judith Harding in collaboration with Still Point Theatre Collective,
James Kubie and Katrina Chamberlin, Marissa Perel and Madeleine Bailey,
Debra Tolchinsky, Unreal-estates (Annette Barbier and Drew Browning),
and Project Onward.

Performances will take place concurrently throughout the galleries, halls, rooms, and even elevators of the
Center and need not be viewed in any particular order. 

The performances and installations in
Site Unseen include:

May I Have by Judith Harding in collaboration
with Still Point Theatre Collective

Randolph Cafe

An integrated ensemble of
eleven performers with and without developmental disabilities create a
movement-centered work that address issues of inclusion and transparent
barriers faced by those with developmental disabilities.


Elevator Music by Unreal-estates (Annette Barbier
and Drew Browning)

Randolph Street Elevators

Writings, interviews, and
documentary sounds from both the disabled rights activists and the
medical community are used to consider the differences between these
groups’ differing approaches towards disabilities.  The
spoken words are processed so that, while understandable, they become
musical as well, cloaking what may for some be an uncomfortable message
in an aesthetically pleasing form.


shared body by Marissa Perel and Madeleine Bailey

Preston Bradley Hall

Utilizing sound and
sculpture, this performance installation looks at the survival with and
metamorphosis from disabilities through confinement and exposure.


From the Fat Off Our Bones by James Kubie and
Katrina Chamberlin

GAR Memorial Hall and Rotunda

James Kubie and Katrina
Chamberlin act as intermediaries between the living and the dead,
ritualizing the acts that take place in the slaughterhouse. 
Through video and performance, the audience experiences the
slaughter and transition from body to soap and bone china, culminating
in an act of ceremonial foot washing. Presented in collaboration with
Joseph Belknap and Yoni Goldstein.


But what is it on the back?
By Debra Tolchinsky

Crossover Corridor between
Preston Bradley Hall and Claudia Cassidy Theater

Debra Tolchinsky’s ongoing fascination with bodily obsession and brain aberrations is ever apparent in her new installation. 
Her video and light installation evokes neurons firing on the
brain, but as the lights cease to respond in the expected quick and
coordinated fashion, the work takes a personal, anecdotal twist. 


The 2327 Commandments for Communicating with the Handicapable: Disability Etiquette 101
by Mike Ervin and Rahnee Patrick

Dance Studio Theater 1st Floor

Self-described disability guerillas Mike Ervin and Rahnee Patrick present their own style of original, activist comedy. 
Sending up one of life’s many minefields of false politeness,
the wife and husband team present this workshop providing 2327 rules of
“disability etiquette.” 


Remote Intimations by Clover Morell and Julie Laffin

Claudia Cassidy Theater

Inspired by Claire Geall
Sutton’s commitment to accommodate Site Unseen curator Julie Laffin’s
disability, this work allows audience members to engage in conversation
with her via live video feed as assistant curator Clover Morell offers
Laffin, who has curated Site Unseen since its inception, is unable to enter the public sphere due to chronic illness and severe environmental sensitivity. 
As she communicates and interacts from home, her image is projected in the theater allowing the public to witness the dialogue.


The Project Onward Project by DCA’s Project Onward

First Floor Garland Room

Project Onward is the
Department of Cultural Affairs studio program for artists living with
mental and developmental disabilities. For
Site Unseen, the visionary work of these artists comes to life
in a series of live music and spoken-word performances, video
projections, and multi-media projects. 
Additionally, The Project Onward Project features documentary
footage of the artists along with first-hand accounts of their
experience and large-scale projections of their work. 
Performances include Louis DeMarco’s musical exploration of his
imaginary world Loudemar and a dramatic reading of work by David


Chicago DCA Theater offers
downtown audiences an off-Loop theater experience with an exciting look
at the vibrant emerging theater companies that call
Chicago home. 
For more information about Site Unseen and Chicago DCA Theater,
312.742.TIXS (8497) or visit

The enhanced website features more information about DCA Theater
performances and programs, including a blog, photo galleries, and
visitor information.

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