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Performances by Jesse Turner

Gallery 1C03


A colour photographic portrait of Jesse Turner, the artist, with a blue and cool-toned filter across the whole picture. The portrait is a head-and-shoulder shot of Jesse. She takes up the majority of the right half of the picture. She is all dressed in black and faces the viewer at an angle. Her hands are visible in the left-hand corner, resting on her motorized wheelchair's controls. In the background, a black manual wheelchair is visible. It faces her, but is empty. Participants will be invited to sit across from her to contemplate the lived experiences of being a wheelchair user.

Jesse Turner, Take a Moment to Sit in My Chair, 2019, digital image. Photo: Stefan Ingthorsson.

Take a Moment to Sit in My Chair by Jesse Turner

Durational Performance at the Opening Reception for Yearning for Comfort, Not Cure:
January 9, 4:00 – 6:00 pm

Additional Performances:
January 14, 12:00 – 4:00 pm

January 17, 12:00 – 4:00 pm
January 28, 12:00 – 4:00 pm
February 6, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

All performances will take place in Gallery 1C03.

About the Performances:
The vision of my performance art piece is to challenge the pervasive, negative social perceptions of physical disability. As a woman and artist with a physical disability, and wheelchair user, I face both physical and attitudinal barriers on a daily basis. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are perceived by others as being objects of pity and fear or seen as “super crips”, who deserve attention and praise for having “overcome” their disability. Disability is a lived experience, like any other based on race, gender, sexuality, and is not an illness/problem/condition to be overcome. Instead, society needs to reorient disability as a natural state of being. Through this piece, I hope to show that disability is a social construct, which can be reclaimed through art.

The piece is inspired by Marina Abramovic’s, The Artist Is Present, a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. Abramovic performed an interactive piece in which viewers were invited to sit at a table across from the artist. Participants were not allowed to speak to or engage with the artist, just invited to sit in quiet contemplation. Through their limited interaction, Abramovic and the participants were positioned as mirrored images to each other to expose the most basic elements of our shared humanity. Many participants expressed strong emotions by just sitting across from Abramovic, creating a shared space of connection and understanding.

For many PWDs, a wheelchair becomes an extension of the person’s body, not simply a means for mobility. By asking participants to sit in a wheelchair across from me, they are put in a position of embodying the wheelchair. They cannot be active and move the wheelchair in a traditional way, instead they must use this “chair” in a more intimate, embodied way. Often, a wheelchair is perceived as being confining, and I hope participants experience this discomfort and fear at first. As time passes, sitting silently across from me, I hope participants will contemplate the humanity of the disabled experience. As the goal of the project is to challenge people’s perceptions of disability, I ask participants to consider the following:

  • What is your perception of disability?
  • How does it feel to sit in the wheelchair
  • What thoughts and emotions did you experience while sitting across from the artist?
  • Has your perception of disability been impacted by this experience?

About the Artist:
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Jesse Turner has spent many years living overseas. She studied A-level Arts at an International School in Singapore, and has gone on to receive a BA in Conflict Resolution and Psychology from the University of Winnipeg. A long-time researcher and disability activist, Jesse returned to her artistic endeavours in 2014 by participating in Making Our Mark, a mentorship program between the ArtsAccessibility Network Manitoba and Martha Street Studio. In the past, Jesse’s mediums of choice have been drawing, painting, printmaking and photography. She is most interested in the intersections of art, disability and identity. Through her artistic practice, Jesse hopes to confront society’s idea of disability, reclaim her identity as a disabled artist and build community to honour Disability Pride.

Accessibility: Gallery 1C03 is located on ground level of Centennial Hall. There are accessible and gender-neutral washrooms on campus. Please consult the University of Winnipeg's accessibility map for more detailed information. Gallery admission is free and everyone is welcome.

For more information, contact:
Jennifer Gibson, Director/Curator, Gallery 1C03
1st floor, Centennial Hall, The University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Ave, Winnipeg MB R3B 2E9
Phone: 204.786.9253