Brooklyn Rail: In Conversation with Audre Wirtanen

This writing was published in Brooklyn Rail’s April 2021 Issue. Read my introduction below, and read or listen to the full interview on Brooklyn Rail’s website.

On March 5, 2020, Audre Wirtanen danced through a stage of props—an IV stand, clipboards, doctor’s chairs—recounting experiences of mistreatment and misdiagnosis from systems that promised care. She impersonated doctors who hit on her and then ignored her, and read, word-for-word, the founder of Alexander Technique’s eugenics-laden writing. Her work, DX ME FIX ME, was one of the last performances I experienced in-person, at Gibney Dance.

I thought of this piece frequently over the past year, not only because the pandemic made ableism’s entrenchment glaringly apparent, but also because Audre’s organization—Hyp-ACCESS, founded with collaborator Laura Tuthall—has been busier than ever. Audre and Laura began Hyp-ACCESS to address the communal autonomy and quality of life of people with Hypermobile conditions. If you’ve never heard of hypermobility, I recommend exploring their website, which is a trove of information on Hypermobile conditions and disabilities, their neglect in medical systems, and their exploitation in the performing arts.

Audre and I spoke on Zoom in early March, 2021, like a strange one-year-anniversary ritual for her performance. Over a couple hours, we laughed about bad doctors, considered the fetishization of pain in dance, and imagined healthcare that actually cares.

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