"How Nice" was a show by Barry Lee that consisted of self portraits, video installations and a performance piece. The show took place at Murmur in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Through surreal (and often pink) imagery, these works address Lee's experiences with disability, sexuality, ableism, and empathy among other subjects. The show ran all Summer and received a lot of press including articles from Burnaway, ArtsATL and Wussy Mag. Below are the pieces from the show and some stories that coincide with the photographs and videos. These stories are all from the artist's experiences.
"Another Day,” Self Portrait | Growing up with a rare syndrome called Nager Syndrome, I had a total of 20 surgeries as a child. 9 surgeries just by age 1. Often times when people find this information out they show me pity or apologize that such things happened to me but I had only known the life of surgeries, constant medical visits etc therefore to me it was what we would define as a “normal” life for me.
"You Finally Look Normal!," Self portrait | Oftentimes when people find out about my syndrome or disability they say "I just wish you could have a normal life" in reaction to the amount of surgeries I had / what I deal with on a day to day basis. Disability isn't classified as "normal" in society and being born with a rare syndrome where there's only about 100 recorded cases of it immediately took me out of what other people thought was "normal." However, what if I had the kid & wife and everyone on earth looked like me - then would that be normal?
"Shame" and "Acceptance," Self Portraits | As a kid and teen I had a handful of relationships (some friendships and some more than that) which consisted of the person feeling like they couldn't be open about having involvement with me due to the way I looked. Fortunately my life currently has people who have no shame in being around me & loving me. It struck a chord when I was younger though, because I rarely saw people having beneficial genuine relationships with somebody who looked like me. I hardly saw representation of someone who wasn't disabled loving someone who was disabled let alone disabled people loving other disabled folks. If I did see that representation it was almost always for the sake of the non-disabled person "trying to be nice." Any true deep relationship whether romantic or friendship shouldn't be shameful. Never feel shame for loving someone different from you.
"Inspiration Porn," Self portrait | Oftentimes in media & in everyday scenarios you find people calling those who aren't disabled "brave or courageous" for dating someone who is disabled. Dating someone with disabilities isn't charity.
"Can You Explain Your Disfigurement?," Self Portrait | When purchasing a product at a store, the cashier who was ringing me up asked me, "Can You Explain Your Disfigurement?" (referring to the way I looked.) I took a pause and asked "Excuse me?" thinking she'd stop to pause about the way she was asking about my differences but she reiterated the question. After her reiteration I explained to her "just because I am different from you doesn't mean I owe you an explanation for my difference." She apologized. Each week I have strangers come up and try to touch my hearing aid without consent or ask invasive questions regarding my looks.
"Read Your Lips," Video Piece | Every day as a deaf person I rely on reading lips and my hearing aid to communicate. Sometimes it is difficult to follow lips and can become overwhelming often leaving me to feel fatigued. On top of the overwhelmingness of trying to read lips, I get asked invasive questions by strangers on a weekly basis. These questions and statements asked in the video piece are actual things people have said to me. "Read Your Lips," shows the overwhelmingness and intimidating feeling that comes with being deaf and just trying to live my life as any other person would. This piece was looped for 4 hours during the duration of my show "How Nice" on two televisions.
"Temporary Cure," Video Piece