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Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying

  • Bemis Center for Contemporary Art 724 South 12th Street Omaha, NE, 68102 United States (map)
 Sondra Perry,  ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr , 2017, video and bicycle workstation, dimensions variable, photo: Matthew Vicari, courtesy the artist

Sondra Perry, ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, 2017, video and bicycle workstation, dimensions variable, photo: Matthew Vicari, courtesy the artist

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying focuses on how the body is articulated in various discourses around health. (Note: “Crip” is a political reclaiming of the derogatory label “cripple.”) The artists in this exhibition, through artworks and practices with care-focused groups, examine how support for the body in states of illness, rest, and disability (particularly in relation to the time they operate on) can prompt us to re-imagine collective forms of existence as life under capitalism becomes impossible. Dragging on and circling back, with no regard for the stricture of the workweek or compulsory able-bodiedness, the time that this curatorial project investigates is non-compliant. It refuses a fantasy of normalcy measured by in-or-out thresholds and demands care that exceeds what nuclear families can provide.

Whether or not we currently identify as sick, we are united by the fact that we all experience fluctuating states of debility throughout our lives. In the United States, many of us are exhausted from living and working in a capitalist system rife with insufficient and deteriorating infrastructures for care. Being mindful of the fact that these failures of public health and biomedicine are felt by some disproportionately more than others (due to race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.), Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying provides a platform for exploring collective forms of healing the way these traumas are held in the body and dealing with these structural processes of exclusion. To this end, artworks dealing with care, illness, fitness, sleep, somatic sustainability, labor, alternative temporalities, and wellness culture are on view within an exhibition on life/work balance that provides a locus for ongoing conversations about relief and potential repair.

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying is a process-based show; many of the artworks will directly demonstrate what living and working on sick time demands of the body and of the artists and organizers themselves. While there is an opening event, there will also be a closing reception—a new start, to mark a different sense of time that we will negotiate together.

The works on view at the opening of the exhibition include:

Danilo Correale’s video installation, No More Sleep No More, 2015, investigates the political life of sleep, particularly the encroachment of working time on sleep in the late-capitalist push toward a never-ending production model. Juxtaposing images Correale made when he was sleep-deprived with a series of conversations with various experts on sleep, No More Sleep No More suggests that sleep is one activity that still has the potential to resist standardization and normalization.

Fia Backström’s A fluid orthographic plane, based in the movements of hands and eyes, 2016, points to the use of fluid language planes (such as smartphones or tablets) that allow us to communicate through bodily gestures at a moment when technological surfaces increasingly register both human and environmental forces. In an installation that plays with the creation of a temporary after-image on viewers retinas and draws from the history of using negative images in medical and scientific photography, Backström calls our attention to what often goes unseen and prompts us to consider the oscillating line between the self and other, and the self and material.

Jen Liu’s Pink Slime Caesar Shift, 2018, focuses on industrial production in China, where repetitive movements, long hours, and toxic working materials have extremely detrimental effects on the bodies of workers, and, due to a state-controlled media environment, it is incredibly hard for them to organize. Liu’s video imagines a future where the production of synthetic meat based on stem-cell technologies (in-vitro meat) not only solves China’s meat shortage but also provides a vehicle for worker resistance. In Pink Slime Caesar Shift, the DNA of mass-produced in-vitro hamburgers is altered using encryption to harbor secret messages of labor insurrection.

Territory: Omaha, 2018, is a site-specific performance by Zavé Martohardjono that retraces pre-colonial landscapes and recent emigrant histories in Omaha, and considers the relationship between displacement, migration, and bodily health. As a mixed-race Asian-American person raised in the West, Martohardjono uses choreography to slowly tap into buried ancestral knowledge in the body. A central question to their work is: Do movement practices have the potential to decolonize the body and undo the damage of assimilation?

The video playing on the screens atop Sondra Perry’s Chroma-key blue-colored exercise bike features an avatar of the artist generated by software that was unable to reconcile her body with pre-existing templates. In her work, Perry illustrates the duality of digital technologies: as a mechanism of power when they surveil and contain people of color, but also when reimagining networked collectivities as an outlet for human agency. In earlier bike videos in this series, Perry asked viewers to consider how forms of discrimination negatively affect the health of people of color and what revolt might look like when life-sustaining activities, be it through fitness or social media, are quantified and ultimately only valued for how they add to one’s labor potential. In her most recent bicycle workstation ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, 2017, as the avatar’s image breaks down amidst echoing laughter and coughs, Perry’s call to arms is answered through the contagious effect of the ghost in the machine.

In Cassie Thornton’s Psychic Architecture, 2017–18, the psychic burden of debt is made physical. In her practice she often guides people through “debt visualizations” where financial debt is externalized as an image or a space, to show that financialization, while now a ubiquitous social form, is not natural. Financialization is a process in which social necessities—like healthcare, education, housing, and food—are turned into profit-generators that have little to do with sustaining life. Thornton’s audio guide leads us through an obstacle course of malfunctioning supports, and, by illuminating the underlying support structures of the exhibition as well as those not clearly visible in our society and various institutions, she illustrates how leaning on the “bad support” that financialization offers ultimately blocks us from imagining alternatives.  

Rather than accept our societal emphasis on personal independence, as a care provider and recipient in a disability community, Constantina Zavitsanos understands social debt and dependency, not as necessarily negative relations. She sees them as a dynamic in which perceived lack can actually be an asset: Hard places and tight spaces can produce not only binds but also bonds. Part of an ongoing self portrait pillow series, Self Portrait (EMDR), 2009–10, is a year-long durational performance piece that leaves its traces in a sculpture comprised of wood and memory foam affected by an extended period of activity (sleep). Memory foam molds quickly to a body—it is defined by how it supports others. While recreation and rest are not often regarded as “productive” work, Zavitsanos reminds us that activities such as sleep are life sustaining.

An associated program series entitled The Warp and Weft of Care will occur as a dialogue between many of the artists in the exhibition and local communities of care. Some events will be open to the public at Bemis, while other closed-door collaborations will take place at partner organizations. The program’s engagements will draw from a long history of feminist, indigenous, black, and queer art that investigates how trauma is held and expressed through collective rituals and shared somatic experiences. As our increasingly secular society loses intergenerational knowledge and undervalues epistemologies that are not mind-centered, these programs will demonstrate how cultural rituals seated in struggles of justice are infinitely valuable to collective wellbeing.

In addition to the artworks on display and related programs, Carrie Schneider and Cassie Thornton will engage the show’s architecture by devising several spaces for care within the galleries. These spaces will critique existing institutionalized areas for care and work past the blockages of imagination that limit that which we can envision and build together. Their investigation will engage a component of the curatorial framework for the show—an installation that mirrors a medical waiting room—and unfolds from there, dependent on visitor interaction. Rather than act as the liminal space before the bureaucratic clinic or expertise of the doctor, this waiting room will emphasize embodied peer-to-peer support. It will contain writings and publications from arts collectives related to health and patient self-determination as well as publications from local care organizations that range from free clinics, support groups, services for underserved, and alternative health services. Schneider and Thornton’s investigations align with artist and writer Johanna Hedva’s belief that “the process of healing is a way of reimagining a political future for the social body as much as it is about finding ways to care for and survive in our individual bodies.” The Waiting Room is a space to respond to Hedva’s question: “How can we conceive of the care we give and receive from others as being enmeshed with our political futures?”

Further questions posed throughout this project will be:

How do we envision ways to care for others and ourselves in a manner that eschews placement of guilt on the sick individual and avoids pathologizing non-“normative” bodies or behaviors?
What is the relationship of care to reciprocity when seeking personal wellness alongside caring for others?
What is care’s relationship to rage and resistance?
In considering how we move through (and redistribute) the effects of pain, what role does immediate individual relief play versus collective long-term repair?
What is art’s role—with its potential to convene diverse publics to participate in cultural rituals that envision alternative systems and new metaphors—in forming action that can help us envision and enact such a transitional architecture?
Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying is curated by Taraneh Fazeli, 2018 Bemis Curator-in-Residence. A longer set of curatorial notes for the project can be found at

Artists: Fia Backström, Danilo Correale, Jen Liu, Zavé Martohardjono, Sondra Perry, Carrie Schneider, Cassie Thornton, and Constantina Zavitsanos

The Waiting Room features a new two-part publication by Berlin Feminist Health Care Research Group and a selection of existing publications and texts by The Black Panthers, Canaries, Danilo Correale, Data Feels, Corrine Fitzpatrick, Johanna Hedva, How to Perform An Abortion, Joan Lubin and Jeanne Vaccaro, Power Makes Us Sick (PMS), Carolyn Lazard, Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos, Cassie Thornton, The Young Lords, and others. It will also be a site for distribution of pamphlets from local care organizations that range from free clinics, support groups, services for underserved, and alternative
health services.

The 2018 Curator-in-Residence program is made possible by Carol Gendler and the Mammel Foundation. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism's Temporal Bullying is supported, in part, by Deanna and Fred Bosselman, Douglas County, Omaha Steaks, and Security National Bank. 

A previous version of this exhibition and program series took place between Houston, TX and New York, NY in 2017, where it was made possible with the generous support of EFA Project Space, a program of The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Core Residency Program; and The Idea Fund.

Access Details
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts has three galleries on the main floor that can be accessed via an ADA approved ramp on 12th Street or seven steps. There is free street parking in front of the building on 12th Street and a paid lot on the North side of the building. 12th Street is cobblestone-lined. Admission is free and no ID is required to enter the building. There are multi-stall ADA approved single-sex bathrooms on the main floor with two grab bars.

Children and service animals are welcome. Concealed carry is prohibited. Texts and programs are in English. Large format texts are available upon request. The space is not scent-free, but we request that you come low-scent. Many ill (and non-ill) people have chemical sensitivities, which mean they do not tolerate scents (i.e. please do not wear perfumes or use scented deodorants and toiletries that day). More info on how and why to do this here and here.

Seating options will include folding chairs or cushions on the floor, but we are happy to provide other seating if requested in advance. If you need to move around, twitch, pace, or not make eye contact, you are welcome here. 

While the Sick Time... artists presenting allow photographs, we ask that you do not use flash. Please refrain from photographing other visitors without permission.

Note that some Sick Time... events may be held on other floors or off-site. Access details will be included with event information online.

If you have questions or would like support with specific access needs please contact us at or 402.341.7130 at least five days prior to your visit and we will do our best to help you attend comfortably.