Shannon Finnegan, Do you want us here or not?, 2017

Disarming Language: disability, communication, rupture

An exhibition and programme curated by Christine Sun Kim and Niels Van Tomme

The international exhibition of contemporary art, “Disarming Language: Disability, Communication, Rupture” will open at Tallinn Art Hall on 13 December. Works by 13 artists were selected by curators Christine Sun Kim and Niels Van Tomme. The exhibition will be produced in cooperation with the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and the ARGOS centre for audiovisual arts in Brussels.


The curators consider it important to break down the biases surrounding disability and have therefore selected works by disabled artists exhibited at the top galleries of the world, from the Guggenheim to the Tate. “By exploring the wide-ranging practices of disabled artists, we ended up seeing a common thread of artists and artworks unpacking ideas relating to language and communication. The ways in which language frames disability both positively, as a way to connect and make visible, and negatively, by exclusion and erasure, are manifold,” explain Kim and Van Tomme. 


“Art is free, says the Constitution. Yet, unfortunately not all have access to art. But how can we perceive Ants Laikmaa’s painting “View from Capri”, Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli music, or some message hidden in a sculpture, an embroidery or video art if the respective senses do not work? How can we access an exhibition when there is only a narrow staircase leading to it and your only means of mobility is a wheelchair? It is touching that this exhibition seeks to – and will hopefully also manage to – overcome quite a few of the obstacles considered insurmountable. Welcome to our exhibition!” Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise added.

The only Estonian artist participating in the exhibition is the renowned textile artist Erika Tammpere. Andrea Crespo (USA) makes video and audio installations as well as print art to deal with complex cultural and historical issues surrounding psychological and physical differences. Alison O’Daniel (USA) is a visual artist and film maker who uses sound, sculpture, installation and performance in her work. Shannon Finnegan (USA) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores the culture surrounding disability. Jeffrey Mansfield (USA) presents a photo project on the architecture of schools for the deaf. Carmen Papalia (USA) uses performance art to resist ableist pressures. Heather Kai Smith (USA) works with visual archival materials on protest, collectivity and conscious community building. Sunaura Taylor (USA) is an artist and writer who received the American Book Award for her book “Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation” in 2018. Canaries is a US support network of women and gender non-conforming people with autoimmune or other chronic diseases that previously operated as an art collective. Jesse Darling (UK) has made sculptures, installations, videos, drawings and also performances. Their works have also been exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Danish textile artist Gudrun Hasle conveys dyslexic messages with her embroidery. 


Noëmi Lakmaier is a live performance artist who will perform her piece “The Task of Containing” at Tallinn Art Hall on 13 December at 4pm.


The curator of the exhibition, Christine Sun Kim, is also an internationally recognised artist who uses sound in her performances and drawing, exploring her relationship with oral speech and the sound environment. She has performed at solo exhibitions at the White Gallery in Beijing, the Carroll/Fletcher Gallery in London, De Appel in Amsterdam and many other places around the world.


Niels Van Tomme is the Director of the ARGOS centre for audiovisual arts in Brussels. He has designed exhibitions and exhibition programmes for the Berlin Academy of Arts, The Kitchen in New York, The New Orleans Center for Contemporary Art, De Appel in Amsterdam, Washington National Gallery and the New York Center for Experimental Art, P!. 


The exhibition will remain open until 24 February 2020. It is accessible to people with reduced mobility, sight and hearing. 


Guided tour in Estonian with Estonian sign language interpreter: 14.12; 11.01; 25.01; 8.02 at 2pm
Guided tour in Russian with Russian language interpreter: 12.01, 26.01, 9.02, at 4pm
Guided tour with audio-visual translation (in Estonian): 18.01; 01.02; 15.02 at 3pm