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Petra Kuppers

Professor | University of Michigan
Just Tech Fellow

Petra Kuppers is a white, German, queer, disabled, cis woman of size living in the United States, a community performance artist, and a disability culture activist. Her work revolves around the axes of pain and pleasure, and her understanding of “disability” is expansive, informed by Disability Justice frameworks. She uses expanded media and video-dance to celebrate copresence with fellow disabled people, in particular people who live with pain or exhaustion, which are driven by principles of access through artful improvisation, awareness of histories of exclusion, and centering disabled people as knowledge carriers and storytellers.

Since 1996, she has stewarded The Olimpias, an international disability arts collective that engages people gently and with care to create more inclusive and just futures, often through video, media experimentation, and participatory performances. And, since 2017, she and her wife, disabled poet/dancer Stephanie Heit, have codirected Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio on Anishinaabe territory in Michigan. Her most recent project, Crip/Mad Archive Dances (2021–onward), draws on community with human and more-than-human others: media clips as performance gifts, archival footage from dance archives, environmental embedment and grounding in trees, water, desert and lakes.

Kuppers is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan, a 2022 Dance/USA fellow, and a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow.

Project Description

Planting Disabled Futures will explore virtual/extended reality (VR/XR) technologies with fellow disabled choreographers, filmmakers, and dancers, to ask questions about access, community, sensuality, environmental poetics, and the futures of queer/crip play. Petra Kuppers and these artists will play with VR/XR techniques in community performance settings to create an immersive experience that offers disabled and nondisabled audiences opportunities to move with disabled dance artists and visualizations of future plants, engaging communally in delicious movement rituals. The focus of the project is on enjoyment and enrichment, with collaborative debugging, aesthetic access, and tech/life integration as tools toward the playful immersive community potential of VR/XR.

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