Posted on Apr 17, 2023 in Events, Uncategorized

Other Sights is pleased to present a short film about Carmen Papalia ‘s Mobility Device performance from October 2021. (subtitles available and a version with audio and pre-show descriptions also available)


Mobility Device is a collaborative performance where Carmen Papalia replaces his detection cane with a marching band that serves as his navigation system during an improvised walk in a public place. The performance proposes the possibility of user-defined, creative systems of access, where the care recipient maintains their agency and decision-making power in an ongoing negotiation with the people they trust. For Papalia, performances of MD are a non-institutionalizing temporary solution for the white cane, a symbol that the artist says carries the barriers and biases of the medical model of disability.

On October 3, 2021 Papalia presented Mobility Device at Kitsilano Park with Vancouver’s Carnival Band. In this special presentation of MD the Carnival Band provided musical cues to indicate fixtures of the built environment as Papalia freely explored the area between Hadden Park Field House and Kitsilano Showboat stage. Using his improvised route as a musical score, the band translated obstacles such as curbs, staircases and park benches into notes that informed Papalia’s movement.

Mobility Device is a celebration of interdependence in the area of accessibility. At a time when cities, governing bodies and public institutions are considering how to effectively serve those in the broader disability community, it increases awareness around the idea that accessibility is best approached as a living agreement that is guided by the needs in a community at any given time. It illustrates how a growing access ecology can cultivate new standards and practices that help maintain a caring culture where equity-seeking groups are not only supported in defining the terms around their participation but centered in their wholeness.

Mobility Device was originally realized in 2013 during a creative residency at the grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana California. For the inaugural performance, Papalia replaced his white cane with the Great Centurion marching band from Century High School. Papalia produced a site-specific iteration of Mobility Device on the High Line (2019) with Brooklyn-based Hungry March Band as a High Line public art program commission. Mobility Device has been featured at the CUE Art Foundation (New York, NY), the McColl Center for Art + Innovation (Charlotte, NC), Shape Arts (London, UK), Science Gallery Dublin (Dublin, IE) and in Canadian Art, Art21, ArtNews and The BBC Ouch Podcast.

Carmen Papalia is a nonvisual social practice artist with severe chronic and episodic pain. In 2021 he co-founded the Open Access Foundation for Arts & Culture (OAFAC), a pandemic-era cultural organization that aims to set a new cultural standard for accessibility by nurturing creative and justice-oriented accessibility practices. OAFAC’s activities advance disability culture and artistry within a contemporary art context through disability-lead trainings, curation, public engagements, exhibitions, performances, educational campaigns and site-specific project development with artists, curators and cultural workers.

Since 2009 Papalia has used organizing strategies and improvisation to address his access to public space, the art institution and visual culture. As a convener, he establishes welcoming spaces where disabled, sick and chronically ill people can build capacity for care that they lack on account of governmental failure and medical ableism. His work, which takes forms ranging from collaborative performance to public intervention, is a response to the harms of the Medical Model of Disability, a framework that erases disability experience by reinforcing ableist concepts of normalcy. In 2020 Papalia was one of 25 artists who received the Sobey Art Award. His work has been featured at: The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, the Tate Liverpool, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Gallery Gachet, among others.

A community driven project since 1997, The Carnival Band has ten years of history based out of Commercial Drive’s Britannia Community Centre. Musical direction is provided by Ross Barett and Tim Sars. The Carnival Band believes that community music is grounded in collaboration, with the aim of empowering the individuals involved. All are welcome.

Performance Credits

Mobility Device was created in collaboration with: Kristin Lantz, Rozzell Medina, John Spiak, Other Sights for Artists’ Projects, Raven John, Lisz Keallen, Tim Saars & the Carnival Band, Ross Bartlett. This project was supported by: City of Vancouver, Canada Council for the Arts, Other Sights for Artists’ Projects and Grand Central Arts Centre.

Film Credits Direction/Production: Eric Sanderson & Claudia Goodine

Additional Camerawork: Daniel Pierce

Sound Recording: Vladimir Fedulov

Sound Mix: Peter Robinson

Archival Footage Courtesy of Carmen Papalia

Music by The Carnival Band Audio Description: Cheryl Green & Ebony Gaytan

Narration: Cheryl Green

Video Captioning: Cheryl Green