Kyla Harris

From Harris’s personal website:

Kyla Harris’ recent body of work stems from numerous NHS appointments and her experience of restricted mobility. Her installations and sculptures are of surrealistic domestic objects made from primarily used or expired medical supplies. Notions of dis/comfort, sustainability and the home are left as remnants of subverted interiors for the viewer to experience. Because of Harris’ disability, much of her sculpture is collaborative. She has carers or personal assistants that construct and assist in the making of her work.

Her Blocks series introduces large white blocks into public spaces – the message is clear that everyday objects like steps and toilet cubicles and telephone kiosks are designed without taking into consideration the disabled sector of society. Since trying to access these public places would become a relative obstacle course, Harris is encouraging us to re-examine our ideas of public space design, following the credo of the social constructionist model of disability.

Her Access Sex series, a collaborative project with photographer Sarah Murray, depicts Harris’ body as an object of desire, but in each image there is a disruption in the visual field. These barriers are shown as drawings (constructed) or physical (wheelchair, bed lifting pole), and prevent our access to the object of desire. Harris says: “One of the first questions I’m asked when I meet a stranger is, so… can you have sex? When people meet me they are inquisitive. I am a relatively attractive young woman in a wheelchair. The reason why I’m asked this may be because of a lack in social graces, curiosity or plain ignorance. This and other catalysts, spurred me to work on a photography project with Sarah Murray called Access Sex, looking at disabilities and sexuality. The main reason why this issue needs to be addressed is because of misrepresentation (or lack of) of people with disabilities in the media.”

One of the main issues that disabled people have to deal with is a repositioning of their sexual selves in relation to their disability. Often they are not considered sexual, or as ugly, monstrous; rising to this challenge, however, some subjects have stated that their disability has in fact liberated them sexually, forcing them to experiment with new ways of achieving pleasure that they would otherwise never have tried. Harris’s work adequately deals with the sexual experience of disability, the fragmentation of the body, and the fact that disability subsumes the identity and physicality of the individual. The body is at the same time both tempting and preventing, forcing the viewer to contemplate the physicality of disability since the seat of sexual desire is bodily, of the flesh, but the flesh is somehow damaged, unresponsive.

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