TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image

“The illness leaves you, but having suffered through the illness never does. You survived the attack, but there is a cost to survival. This is the case for all traumatic experiences and will apply to everyone coming out of this pandemic, whether we became sick or not. We have to face a question that I have battled with for eleven years, what if we never get better? What if illness, pain, isolation, loss, etc. are not the worst-case scenario? What if these circumstances aren’t pitied, ignored, or wished away, but instead are seen as a place for the study and cultivation of new skills, an opportunity to relate to others in a new way?

Featuring the work of Anique Jordan, Ari Golub, Clifford Prince King, Debmalya Ray Choudhuri, Frances Bukovsky, Jaklin Romine, Jenica Heintzelman, Shala Miller, and Shanna Merola, If We Never Get Bet examines these questions by bringing together lens-based artists who focus on health/care, collective grief, disability, illness, and healing as components of their practices. Examining health and disability as intersectional experiences, and the ways in which ableism and access to healthcare are directly intertwined with systems such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, these artists help to expand preconceived notions of these topics. 

Highlighting principles of Disability Justice, a framework coined by a collective of Black, brown, queer, and trans activists, including Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, and Stacey Park Milbern, the works come together to facilitate a more nuanced understanding of how we are all impacted by these systems at different levels and how art can be used to challenge that reality. 

When thinking about the title of the exhibition, I often asked myself, “If we never get better, then what will we need?” I hope the work in this show begins to answer that question and initiate creative ways to address it.

Sydney Ellison Curator