All _Perspectives

07/30/2021 _Perspective

Watch Your Back, Girl!

The Story Behind The Dress for the Hunchbacked Girl by Poetic Designer Kamila Iżykowicz

While I was designing and cutting a classic dress, my tutor asked, “Why aren’t you cutting this straight? You don’t have a hunchback.” Rather than inform her of the multiple operations to correct my scoliosis, I thought, “Well, what if I did?” The Dress is a dialogue with my own disability, an exploration of an alternate present without the corrective procedures that rendered my disability invisible. It was made by draping material on a specially created model using cut-outs from the classic dress. It’s a design that asks inherently political questions of society’s relationship with disability and beauty standards. Fig. 1: The Dress for the Hunchbacked Girl. | Image: Irina Grishina & Kamila Iżykowicz, model: Viktoriia Zybina, set: Kamila Iżykowicz. “A very special date for all your calendars – save the date!” I just found out that we’re in the middle of International Scoliosis Awareness Month and that there’s a specially dedicated day on 27th June. [1]. As instructed, I saved the date. It was surprising to find that I’d never heard of this awareness campaign for my lifelong, agonizing health condition, and even more of a surprise to find its online literature accompanied by an image of a woman holding the face of a young girl, forcing it into a fake smile. “International Scoliosis Awareness Day (ISAD) falls on the last Saturday of each June. It’s a very special day for all of your calendars – save the date 27th June 2020” | Image: Scoliosis Association UK. [2]I spent a long time thinking about what I might have in common with this image, what it represents, and – as an art historian once upon a time – how best to read the message behind this visual representation. Having suffered from severe scoliosis my entire life, a condition which put me through a very special kind of physical and mental hell, why couldn’t I understand what this picture was meant to be saying? Convinced it was some kind of mistake, I began to draft a message to the association promoting the awareness campaign, in a bid to find out what was going on, but finally I couldn’t bring myself to send it. I guess it was because I secretly knew what the image meant. I just didn’t really want to say it out loud. When you are ‘disabled,’ there is always someone that you have to lean on, someone who…

07/30/2021 _Perspective

Quarantined Voices

On the Transformative Impact of COVID Narratives at a Time of Crisis

1_The Story of a Year As I sit at my desk in the winter of 2021 in my home in New Jersey, USA, thinking of the story of COVID, and, also of my story of COVID, that has emerged over the past year, I struggle to find a starting point. There are many places I might begin. But this story has never been told before and its ending has not yet occurred. The uncertainty of the unfolding story throws the entire story into flux. Every day we hear new information, as well as heart-wrenching stories of illness and loss in the United States set into fatal motion in the final year of the presidency of Donald Trump. But that is not my only obstacle. I am writing with long-haul COVID, and this intellectual project is mentally taxing in a way I did not anticipate so far into my illness. As we embark on an exploration of COVID narratives, of the shapes they are taking, and of the impacts they have already had, my struggle to begin is both relevant and ironic. Indeed, we are deep in uncharted waters that have called for innovative collaborative narrative forms emerging within the uniquely limiting contexts of the global pandemic. Let’s begin here, a year after the first documented cases of COVID-19 hit the United States. Media outlets have recently reported on the experience long haulers have lived for months — that COVID patients in the grips of relentless illness have found one another online, sharing their despair and their stories with each other. In her piece for The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables delves into the isolation of COVID patients: “They face doctors who don’t believe them; media that often ignore them; friends and family who don’t understand why they aren’t better; and a virus that, with each passing month, pushes them deeper into the unknown.” As Melanie Montano, administrator for the well-known COVID-19 group on Slack, puts it, “We’re not dead but we’re not living.” [3] Dozens of social media groups for COVID patients have formed; many offer general support while others are for more specialized groups, such as parents of children with long COVID or those suffering from brain fog. Such forums offer places where patients are seen and heard. Many people write posts that begin with statements such as, I am new here. This is my story. Others write in desperation,…

12/18/2020 _Perspective

Troubling the Border

Global Poetic Trans* Dislocations

This essay was originally conceptualized as a part of a larger PhD project on transpoetics. Therein, I conceived of transpoetics as describing poetry and other forms of creative practice committed to the exploration and critique of the strictures through which bodies, personhood, and animacy [1] (or proximity to the animate) are recognized and organized. In this sense, transpoetics is fundamentally a mode of becoming, and an investment in the processual, not the […]

09/03/2020 _Perspective

Queer Love within, through and beyond Creative Queer African Collaboration

Representations of queer people on the African continent have been dominated by public health discourses on HIV [1] and heteronationalist discourses about queer people as perverse and ‘unAfrican.’ [2] In many countries, these are supported by colonial-era domestic laws that prohibit same-sex sexuality. As a result, queer people, affiliations, and identities are largely construed through the framework of sexual pathology or sexual deviance, [3] and queer people frequently experience rejection, violence, and social exclusion. […]

09/03/2020 _Perspective

“I Am Trying to Improve the Care of Women, That Is My Goal.”

In Conversation about Love and Abortion with Giessen-based GP Kristina Hänel

In its “Berlin Declaration for the Protection of Unborn Life”, the Bundesverband Lebensrecht demanded “love and responsibility instead of abortions.” [1] The confederation is the umbrella organization for several ‘Pro-Life’ groups in Germany which organize every year the ‘March for Life’ in Berlin. But what has love got to do with this? […]