Crazy/Smart: An Artist Statement detailing Performance Choices against Abelist Ideology in Higher Education
The label of “honors student,” and the status it carries, implies exceptional academic ability, maturity, and accomplishment. The notion that “honors” students are more capable than non-honors students dismisses the particular needs of intersecting identities including gender, race, and/or ability. Said differently, the “honors” designation erases identity and difference. For instance, “honors” students who live with mental illness(es) navigate social spaces and physical structures that assert notions of “success” that are informed by conditions that inhibit bodily function, communication, and educational accomplishment as set by capitalist and ableist standards. Moreover, ableist notions of “success” are always inherently racialized and gendered such that “honors” students women of color living with mental illness are forced to navigate racist and gendered overtones informing academic “success.” Focusing on how students think about and embody the labels of “honors” and “mentally ill” provides unique insight on how the systems of higher education are based in ableist ideology. In this Artist Statement, I discuss my performance Crazy/Smart, a performance that features and stages students’ narratives detailing the means by which students navigate ableism as “honors” students. Using embodied knowledge through performance allows students to decenter dominant, institutionalized narratives about ableism and higher education, speaking up to administrators as people of power and redefining personal success. In this Artist Statement, I detail the theory and method framing my performance Crazy/Smart, a performance using “honors” student stories and narratives to highlight and resist ableist ideology informing higher education more generally and “honors” education more specifically. This Statement includes four sections. First, I provide the theoretical framework that outlines ableism as an embodied ideology. Second, I extend my argument and turn to critical pedagogy to suggest a performance means to resist ableist ideology. Third, I describe the specificities informing my performance including the choices I made to stage ableism as an ideological structure organizing higher education. The fourth and final section is the attached Crazy/Smart script.