Alterpodium: Performing Disability

Amanda Cachia
PhD Candidate, Art History, Theory & Criticism
Department of Visual Arts, University of California San Diego

The Alterpodium is a custom-made, portable disability object conceived by curator and scholar Amanda Cachia in order to “perform disability” during international and national conferences, symposiums and lectures. Podiums, like other architectures of an ableist world, are often inaccessible to Cachia’s 4’3″ stature. In 2015, Cachia commissioned artist and scholar Sara Hendren and her students at Olin College of Engineering in Boston to design a podium. They developed a podium inspired by Victor Papanek’s “nomadic furniture” of the 1970s. The design collapses easily for transport and requires no hardware. This kit-of-parts makes it possible for Cachia to literally perform this prosthetic technology, pointedly building the disability object in front of an audience before she begins to speak from it, and thereby questioning the myth of neutrality in everyday furniture. The title of the disability object, Alterpodium, is a departure from

Nicholas Bourriard’s portmanteau conception of Altermodern, which contextualizes global art-making practices with an emphasis on individuality, singularity and autonomy as a reaction against standardization. While most architectural accommodations for atypical bodies are created for seamless, even invisible integration, the Alterpodium amplifies its structural workings, elongating and emphasizing the user’s opportunity to create an alternate, provisional world in public.