Panteha Abareshi

The artist, sitting in her wheelchair, looking directly at the camera. She is  a black woman with blonde cornrows and a nose ring, wearing a white shirt and dark leggings.


My work is rooted in my existence as a chronically ill/disabled body with multiple medical illnesses and resulting disabilities, at the root of which is sickle cell zero beta-thalassemia a genetic blood disorder that causes debilitating pain, and bodily deterioration that increases with age. Through my work, I discuss the complexities of living within a body that is highly monitored, constantly examined, and made to feel like a specimen. Through my performance work, I pushed my body to, and often beyond, the limits of its ability. The radicalized abjectification of my own corporeal form allows for a continued examination of my bodily deterioration, and its connection to a larger context of universal fragility, fear, pain, and mortality. I aim to make the viewer hyper-aware of their own body, and actively employ accessibility as a tool, both withholding and over-extending it as a means of casting light onto the ill/disabled experience. In my work, the body serves as both medium and message, exploring the discomfort in displaced sensation, juxtaposing emotionality, and radical confrontations with pain in its many forms.

These works speak to the ableism that is pervasive in language, behavior, and media that have and continue to persist today. My video works also engage in the viewers’ conscious and subconscious discomfort with disabled bodies, through the intentional use of the able-bodied gaze, and illness voyeurism. This is magnified through the treatment of my body as both the object of focus and the material and medium in use. The body is further abstracted as I incessantly re-contextualize, deconstruct and re-fabricate its “meaning.” By playing with representations that are both recognizable and unrecognizable as human forms, my work problematizes the realities of fragility and mortality. Delving into the many representations of the sick and disabled body, my work makes material out of fetishism, inviting viewers into concentrated deconstructions of normalized power dynamics and hierarchies.

My practice revolves around disrupting and appropriating traditional, comfortable ideas of identity, illness, disability, reassessing the diseased, malfunctioning, and othered body as a phenomenon neither “natural” nor “unnatural,” but rather fundamentally human— an inevitable object of life.

Last updated: 12.07.2022
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