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IAA Advocacy:
Chronic Illness & Disability

What’s The Relationship Between Chronic Illness and Disability?


Chronic illnesses, by definition, are persistent or long-term problems for people’s health. These conditions can shape many aspects of a person’s life, especially their professional and financial stability.  Many chronic illnesses cause disabilities, though there may be contradictory standards (cultural, legal, scientific, etc.) for what counts as a “disabling” chronic illness. In various political and academic conversations, both people with chronic illnesses and people with disabilities have discussed the extent to which their conditions form their sense of self. Contentious questions around accessibility, responsibility, and personal identity are frequently tackled by both groups.


Why Are Chronic Illnesses and Disabilities Misunderstood?


Chronic illnesses and disabilities may not always be visible to the naked eye, particularly in those who manage to “pass” as fully “healthy” or “functional.”  Talking about issues related to these conditions can raise suspicion around the resilience or authenticity of those who choose to share their stories of triumph or adaptability.  Nevertheless, many people with chronic illnesses and disabilities continue to occupy venues for storytelling, life writing, and art making.


How Does The IAA Promote Understanding?


Given that several of our own organization’s members have chronic illnesses and disabilities, we bring a personal (though by no means exhaustive) perspective to the ways we talk about issues that might otherwise be merely academic.  Additionally, our scholarly interest in medical narratives – along with our curatorial practices – enables us to offer unique venues for discussion and insight.

Make buttons here:

  • Environmental Illness Exhibitions

  • Environmental Illness Publications

  • Environmental Illness Grants

  • Environmental Illness Partners

IAA's Exhibits: Group or Solo Shows (Juried or Invited)

  • Viral Load II.”  Creative Director.  (Public Sculpture by Allison Baker on Environmental Illness.)  Franconia Sculpture Park.  Shafer, MN.  September 2021.

  • “Semi-Sentient Trash.”  Creative Director.  (Solo Exhibition by Allison Baker on Illness and  Caregiving.)  Ely Center of Contemporary Art.  New Haven, CT.  June 2021

  • “Unsterile.”  Creative Director.  (Solo Exhibition by Allison Baker on Illness and Caregiving.) Tugboat Gallery.  Lincoln, NE.  February 2020.

  • “Cellular Home Invasion.”  Solo Exhibition.  (Installation on Chronic Illness and Technology Health Effects.). With Allison Baker and the Institute for Aesthetic Advocacy.  NE Sculpture Gallery.  Minneapolis, MN.  June 2019.

  • “Cellular Home Invasion.”  Solo Museum Exhibition.  (Installation and Performance on Technology Health Effects.)  Czong Institute for Contemporary Art.  Seoul, South Korea.  May 2019.

  • “Sonance: An Interdisciplinary Discussion Concerning the Affects of Human Noise on Other Animals.”  Sound Performance and Art Residency.  With Josh Gumiela and Matt Sumera. University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.  Minneapolis, MN.  November 2017.

Dr. McKain Exhibitions, Performances, and Civic Engagement Initiatives (Non-IAA)


  • “dronesTruck: Operation Como.” Curator and Organizer. (International Juried Sound Art Exhibition on Technology Health Effects.)  Saint Paul, MN. May 2016.


  • “dronesTruck: Operation Scarewaves.” Grant Funded Art Installation.  (Public Sound Installation on Technology Health Effects.) Saint Paul, MN.  October 2015.

  • “Endlessly Repeating Endlessly.” Juried Multimedia Performance. With Michael Gallope, Josh Gumiela, Jason McGrath, Matt Sumera, and Travis Workman. Northern Sparks Arts Festival.  Minneapolis, MN. June 2015.

IAA's Publications

  • “The Art of EMF Science: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Post-Digital Health Advocacy.”  Dr. Aaron McKain, Steven Pederson and the Institute for Aesthetic Advocacy.  PostHuman: New Media Art 2020.  CICA Press, 2020

  • “The Art of EMF Science: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Post-Digital Health Advocacy.”  With Steven Pederson and Allison Baker.  Rhetoric of Health And Medicine Conference.  October 2020.

  • “Cellular Home Invasion: Public Art As Rhetorical Intervention in Scientific Debates On EMF Health Effects.”  Rhetoric Society of America.  With Allison Baker and the Institute for Aesthetic Advocacy.  Portland, OR.  May 2020.

  • “Unsound Methods?” Panel and Multimedia Performance, with Cory Holding, Matt Sumera,  Josh Gumiela, and Allison Baker, Rhetoric Society of America, Minneapolis, MN, May 2018

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