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30.03. Care, Community and Contingencies: Artistic Practices Rooted in Access

Nina Mühlemann (Performance artist, researcher and co-director of Criptonite)

University of Zurich, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zurich, Room (RAA-G-15) and online

[Image description: A screenshot of the online performance Criptonite: SLOW ANIMALS. No performers are visible, just a set consisting of a background landscape of one-dimensional elements in bright, glittery colours that are reminiscent of mountains and plants, two big silver pillows draped on each side of the stage with microphones next to them, and a thick beige rope dangling in front of the pillow to the left. Also visible in the background is a square screen with a round shape next to it reminiscent of the moon. A part of the Criptonite logo can be seen at the right-hand side. At the bottom of the image, subtitles say „audio description of the set design.]

The performing arts are largely structured on the assumption that physical co-presence and complete physical availability of the artist are a given. The Covid-19 pandemic challenged those assumptions, and thus created uncertainty in the whole sector. Many disabled and chronically ill artists, however, have been working around physical availability for many years, out of a need to accommodate fluctuating conditions and to cope with inaccessible structures. How do these practices establish and nourish community and connection, when physical co-presence is not a given? As part of the ongoing research project “Aesthetics of the Im/mobile” at the University of the Arts Berne, this lecture will look at the work and practices of two disabled artists, UK-based Alexandrina Hemsley and Germany-based Angela Alves. Hemsley describes how developing a practice that is shifting has created an ongoing process in which they dismantle hierarchies (including their own), while Alves uses the creative potential of her own unavailability. How have those practices been met by the cultural sector, before and since the outbreak of the pandemic? What possibilities, conundrums (a term that stems from Carrie Sandahl’s work) or risks arise when access, of the artist and audiences, and care are at the core of the artistic process?


Nina Mühlemann (they/she) lives in Zurich and is an artist and theatre and disability scholar. In 2018 they completed their PhD at King's College London in Disability Studies and Performance Studies. Currently, Nina is working in the research project "Aesthetics of the Im-Mobile" at the University of the Arts Berne, researching the im-/mobile dance and theatre practices of disabled artists. From 2018-2019 they were artistic co-director of Future Clinic for Critical Care, a socio-cultural animated theatre practice project. In 2020, they co-founded Criptonite with Edwin Ramirez, a crip-queer theatre project that centres the work of disabled artists. Criptonite's most recent work, "Pleasure", premiered in Munich in October 2022.


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