. Conversations at the Edge (CATE)

The Blue Description Project

Posted by | gfung | Posted on | February 15, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 6:00 p.m.

Artists Liza Sylvestre and Christopher Jones present their elastic, experimental, and expansive THE BLUE DESCRIPTION PROJECT.

Derek Jarman, Blue, 1993. Presented with new open captions and a captioned audio description track produced by The Blue Description Project, 2024.

In 1993, the British artist Derek Jarman released Blue, an epoch-defining account of AIDS, illness, and the experience of disability in a culture of repressive heteronormativity and compulsory able-bodiedness. Despite being referred to as a feature film, Blue never existed exclusively in one medium. It was screened in theaters, simulcast on television and radio, released as a CD, and published as a book, creating opportunities for many different kinds of sensory abilities—visual, aural, and textual—to experience the work. The Blue Description Project, conceived by artists and writers Liza Sylvestre and Christopher Jones, builds on the multifaceted nature of Jarman’s work through newly commissioned and expansive accessibility. Reflecting Blue’s standing as a foundational work of Crip art, the project challenges ableist hierarchies in art while focusing on the generative possibilities of difference and interdependence. 

Sylvestre, Jones, and scholar Sarah Hayden will join us virtually for an extended conversation about the project after the screening.

The Blue Description Project is produced by Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts, a transdisciplinary initiative in the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in partnership with Sarah Hayden and the Voices in the Gallery research initiative at the University of Southampton.

Liza Sylvestre and Christopher Jones, 2024, United States, 82 minutes

In English with open captions and captioned audio descriptions / Format: DCP

Presented in partnership with SAIC’s Department of Art Therapy and Counseling and Disability Culture Activism Lab (DCAL) and Bodies of Work: Network of Disability Art and Culture, a multi-institutional program comprised of DCAL; Access Living’s Art and Culture Project; the University of Illinois–Chicago’s Department of Disability and Human Development and Disability Cultural Center; and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

AbilityLab receives funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL). The contents of this program may not represent the policies of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, or the endorsement of the federal government. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency

About the artists

Liza Sylvestre is a multimedia artist and research assistant professor within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she has co-founded the initiative Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts. Her work has been shown internationally, including the Plains Art Museum (Fargo), Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis), John Hansard Gallery (Southampton), ARGOS (Brussels), and Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt). Sylvestre has been the recipient of both an Artists Initiative and Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, a fellowship through Art(ists) on the Verge, a VSA Jerome Emerging Artist Grant, an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, and a fellowship from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. She has been artist-in-residence at the Weisman Art Museum and the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science. In 2019, she received a Citizens Advocate Award from the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing. Sylvestre’s work has been written about in numerous publications and books including Art in America, Mousse Magazine, Ocula Magazine, Art Monthly, and SciArt Magazine.

Christopher Robert Jones is an artist and writer based in Illinois. Their research revolves around the “failure” or “malfunctioning” of the body and how those experiences are situated at points of intersection between Queer and Crip discourses. They are a regular contributor to Art Papers magazine and their work has recently been exhibited at the Krannert Art Museum, Gallery 400, and the Weisman Art Museum. Jones is the co-founder of Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts, a transdisciplinary initiative that is housed within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where they are also a research assistant professor.

Sarah Hayden is a writer and Associate Professor in Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Southampton. From 2019–2023, she led “Voices in the Gallery,” a research, writing and curatorial project on intersections of voice, text and access in contemporary art funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. In 2022, she developed slow emergency siren, ongoing: Accessing Handsworth Songs in partnership with LUX and co-led the “Art of Captioning” British Art Network Research Group with Hannah Wallis. Recent writings include essays on Charlie Prodger for The Association of Visual Artists Vienna Secession, Sharon Hayes for Bricks from the Kiln, and captioning as “unvoiceover” for Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities


CATE events are presented with real-time captions (CART). Hearing loops, wheelchair accessibility, and companion seating are also available at the @filmcenter. For other accessibility requests, please visit saic.edu/access or write cate@saic.edu.