NET/WORK is an ongoing, multidisciplinary record of disabled life created by D. Allen from 2018-present. NET/WORK has been, and will be, a process-based performance, a durational installation, a series of movement experiments, an archive of drawings and photographs, a collection of handknit and sewn textiles, a score of voice and environmental sound, an ever-evolving film. At its heart, the work is a survival strategy for its maker. It is also an invitation for connection through our shared truth: embodiment. Although NET/WORK centers around queer, trans, disabled/chronically ill embodiment, it is a world that extends towards anyone who reaches back.
This work began as a collision of several seemingly-disparate creative modes: large-scale knitting as a way of measuring time in the presence of illness; unvarnished audio notes about my experiences as a queer & trans person living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS); sketchbook drawings of an imagined performance/installation space that would accommodate not just my physical access needs but also my desires for pleasure and comfort while performing; and videos of three short movement experiments I generated at the Mallard Island Artist Residency in summer 2018. In May 2019, with the support of a 20% Theatre Company’s Q-Stage: New Works Fellowship, I performed the first iteration of this project as an hour-long solo stage work. The performance included original audio/text, video projection, direct audience engagement, improvised movement, and an 8×8 foot handknit textile installation that I had created during the gestation period leading up to the show, which literally and symbolically supported my movement onstage. I performed an untitled precursor of NET/WORK at Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories, curated by Xochi De La Luna, in February 2019 at Pangaea Theater; following the Q-Stage debut, I performed a new piece, Flight Experiment #1, at Squirrel Haus Arts in winter 2019.
Since its debut as a stage performance, I have continued to make work under this title across media, occasionally presenting components/materials/experiments publicly. New components and experimental explorations between 2019-2021 were generously supported by a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship. I have also collaborated with photographers and other performers to document and develop new material, but the project has remained largely a solo endeavor.
Presently, NET/WORK includes the following textiles: an 8×8′ net knitted during a winter of deep illness; a body-sized tube with drawstrings on both ends, which takes on the form of whatever–whoever–crawls inside; a floral memory quilt made with bedsheets and table linens from the artist’s friends and family; a scrap lap blanket, knit with remnants of yarn leftover from other projects over the span of four years; and several other large-scale works in progress.
From January-June 2022, I will be an artist in residence at The Cowles Center’s Generating Room Residency, where I will utilize weekly studio space to develop the movement/dance components of NET/WORK beyond the domestic spaces I’ve had access to during the pandemic. With this gift of space and time, I will reimagine the project as a durational performance within an immersive installation space, where viewers can drop in, spend time, get comfortable, and/or spend time viewing the visual components of NET/WORK as well as the more performative aspects. Rather than a singular “event” with a staged set and a fixed audience in supplied seating, I imagine installing the environment of the project in a gallery space or other location where I can spend hours or days living my queer, disabled life amidst the public as an art form unto itself. There will be more performative “happenings” within the space that occur at specific times, such as improvisatory dances with collaborators, but these will not be the main or only reasons to spend time in the installation space.