“Get Well Soon!” Sick Bodied Performance of Chronic Conditions
“Get Well Soon!” Sick Bodied Performance of Chronic Conditions explores the artistic and intellectual work of 21st century queer, trans, and gender non-conforming contemporary performance artists of color who live with chronic illness and unwellness. This project defines chronic illness to include conditions ranging from autoimmune disease and mental illness to ongoing feelings of unwellness provoked by systemic oppression that remain undiagnosed by a neoliberal medical establishment. As such, I critique how neoliberal ontologies define sickness as temporary, reinforcing in subjects a compulsion to “get well soon” in order to contribute to capitalism through labor, productivity, and, in the case of artists, artmaking. Furthermore, I critically engage these neoliberal notions of sickness as something to get over quickly to maintain that chronic illness is always already happening. More precisely, I examine how neoliberal ontologies deem feeling unwell as an individual failing even as interrelated systems of oppression are at the root of chronic illness. By examining the performance and dance work of Julie Tolentino, NIC Kay, Panteha Abareshi, and Johanna Hedva I explore the ways they problematize naturalized relationships to health, which are not achievable by most persons within the limits of neoliberal capitalism. Approaching these performances as theory and worldmaking—or ontological practice—I examined what alternative ontologies were present and possible when sick bodies and narratives were centered. Ultimately, I argue these forms of artistic expression help us reimagine experiences of being sick not as spaces of stagnation, or political passivity, but as political resistance and anticapitalist possibility.