Emily Barker is an LA based artist, activist, advocate and model. Their recent solo show, ‘Built to Scale’ was centred on showing Barker’s perspectives and experiences to able-bodied people. Barker says that they wanted to give the viewer the experience they have, being a wheelchair user.
“If you have had a certain amount of surgeries or are not strong enough and you only qualify for a manual wheelchair with your insurance, ramps are also an obstacle to overcome and people do not build ramps in a way in which they can be navigated easily for most disabled people.”- From their UCLA artist talk.
Barker's intention was to explore the idea of “normalcy” and what influences that, in how society’s built environments are quite exclusionary and only cater to able-bodied people.
Barker says that visibility is not advocacy and says that it's important to be able to differentiate between the two, because representation and visibility will never be advocacy on its own.
Barker is passionate about exposing the inequities and standards that face people who are “abnormal”, “divergent” or “abject”, and how the standards perpetuate or replicate prejudices against them.
Barker, born in 1992, has been a paraplegic since age 19, and also suffers from CRPS (Complex Pain Regional Syndrome), acknowledges that while they can advocate for themself and have use of their arms and some accessibility, that their needs are not met, but continues to champion for the needs of others.
“I am a firm believer in disability as a social construct. I do not think that disability would exist if we created a world that accounted for our needs like we account for able-bodied people's needs… I mean, everyone will either get in a car accident and die or will age into disability. So, why not live in a world in which we account for those things.”
You can follow them at @celestial_investments on Instagram and Tik Tok.
Image credit: Paul Sepuya