Eco Soma

Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters

2021
Author:

Petra Kuppers

Modeling a disability culture perspective on performance practice toward socially just futures

In Eco Soma, Petra Kuppers asks readers to be alert to their own embodied responses to art practice and to pay attention to themselves as active participants in a shared sociocultural world. Reading contemporary performance encounters and artful engagements, this book models a disability culture sensitivity to living in a shared world, oriented toward more socially just futures.

Petra Kuppers breathes us through connections between embodiment and the earth, weaving queer studies and disability studies into self-guided explorations. Her imagistic text evokes dancing—the pull of gravity and the shifting perspectives of bodies in flow. She moves, she writes, we respond to her autobiographical narratives of environmental spaces and social places.

Anita Gonzalez, Georgetown University (cofounder of Georgetown University’s Racial Justice Institute)

In Eco Soma, Petra Kuppers asks readers to be alert to their own embodied responses to art practice and to pay attention to themselves as active participants in a shared sociocultural world. Reading contemporary performance encounters and artful engagements, this book models a disability culture sensitivity to living in a shared world, oriented toward more socially just futures.

Eco soma methods mix and merge realities on the edges of lived experience and site-specific performance. Kuppers invites us to become moths, sprout gills, listen to our heart’s drum, and take starships into crip time. And fantasy is central to these engagements: feeling/sensing monsters, catastrophes, golden lines, heartbeats, injured sharks, dotted salamanders, kissing mammoths, and more. Kuppers illuminates ecopoetic disability culture perspectives, contending that disabled people and their co-conspirators make art to live in a changing world, in contact with feminist, queer, trans, racialized, and Indigenous art projects. By offering new ways to think, frame, and feel “environments,” Kuppers focuses on art-based methods of envisioning change and argues that disability can offer imaginative ways toward living well and with agency in change, unrest, and challenge.

Traditional somatics teach us how to fine-tune our introspective senses and to open up the world of our own bodies, while eco soma methods extend that attention toward the creative possibilities of the reach between self, others, and the land. Eco Soma proposes an art/life method of sensory tuning to the inside and the outside simultaneously, a method that allows for a wider opening toward ethical cohabitation with human and more-than-human others.

Petra Kuppers is a community performance artist and disability culture activist. She is professor of English and women’s and gender studies at the University of Michigan and serves on the faculty of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Her most recent books include Theatre and Disability and Studying Disability Arts and Culture: An Introduction.

Petra Kuppers breathes us through connections between embodiment and the earth, weaving queer studies and disability studies into self-guided explorations. Her imagistic text evokes dancing—the pull of gravity and the shifting perspectives of bodies in flow. She moves, she writes, we respond to her autobiographical narratives of environmental spaces and social places.

Anita Gonzalez, Georgetown University (cofounder of Georgetown University’s Racial Justice Institute)

There is absolutely nothing like Eco Soma in any field. Petra Kuppers provides a much-needed model for what interdisciplinary arts-based research can be, and her work is always put into the context of the lived reality of minoritized communities. She shows us how to write about bodies as she does—unflinchingly, while maintaining respect and dignity.

Carrie Sandahl, director, Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities, University of Illinois at Chicago

Petra Kuppers’s grounded and reflective investigation encourages generative dialogue within and beyond disability performance studies. Sharing many vivid examples drawn from diverse community scales and sites, her eco soma method both illuminates and prompts creative reimaginings of relations between self, land, other humans, and more-than-humans. Answering the urgent call for multidisciplinary work to address climate catastrophe, she reveals the profound power of art-based methods to engage the body, forge connection, and enact change.

Kirsty Johnston, University of British Columbia (located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) people)

Contents

Preface: From Ecosomatics to Eco Soma

1. Social Somatics: Tentacular Methods on the Horizon

2. Edges of Water and Land: Indigenous/Settler Eco Soma Collaborations

3. Un/Bounding: Writing Water Worlds

4. Crip Time, Rhythms, and Slow Rays: Speculative Embodiment

Coda: Oracles

Acknowledgments

Bibliography

Index