Getting to the Front Lobby 

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary 2014-15 recipient Carmen Papalia gives us an insight into his perspective on access.

Carmen Papalia 'Long Cane'

I’ve been in London for a month for my residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum and I don’t quite know my way around. I ask for assistance while on the tube and still make the wrong turn off Roman Road while trying to find my flat in Bethnal Green. So far I know the voices of the baristas at the vegetarian cafe, the folks who run the busy little co-op and the bartenders at the cozy pub on the corner—other than that, my sense of place is quite limited. Its even worse at the V&A.

My first challenge is to find my way through the tunnel and out to street-level from the South Kensington tube stop. After that, I have to walk diagonally from the staircase until I hit the bollard that indicates the corner of the main road and the road that I have to cross. There’s no curb to follow, so finding this bollard is necessary. If I manage to walk a straight line from it (assuming I make it across the street) I’ll find the main entrance to the V&A. But I’ll have to dodge signs, poles, trees and a solid antique phonebooth before I get there. If I do, there’s an unrelenting revolving door to the lobby.

In keeping myself from veering a step beyond the blister paving (and right into traffic) I stay close to the building, using it as an anchor object as I make my way to the entrance. I smack the wal with my cane and start a rhythm by hitting the ground in front of me as I walk. I continue this for as long as the wall lasts—wall, ground, wall, ground, wall, groundd, wall. The body of my graphite cane clatters as it strikes the stone bricks. It clangs on the metal stormdrain.

Sometimes I’ll catch an object out of the corner of my eye and I’ll hit it just to make sure its there. Sometimes I forget not to do this in the museum. So far I’ve hit a pillar and the information desk. The sound never disappoints.


Carmen's work is currently being displayed as part of the Shortlist 7 exhibition at Shape Gallery - find out more and how to visit by clicking here.

Mobility Device by Carmen Papalia – a short documentary film by Mickey Fisher 

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1981, Carmen Papalia is a Social Practice artist who makes participatory projects on the topic of access as it relates to public space, the Art institution and visual culture. His work has been featured as part of exhibitions and engagements at: The Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the L.A Craft and Folk Art Museum and the CUE Art Foundation among others. 

Read a longer blog post by Carmen here.

Works by Carmen Papalia

Blind Field Shuttle by Carmen Papalia – a short documentary film by Chelsey Blackmon 

How Do You See a Museum with Your Eyes Closed by Georgia Krantz


Banner: Carmen Papalia 'Blind Field Shuttle' 2011. Image by Heather Zinger
Image: Carmen Papalia 'Long Cane' 2013. Image by Kristin Rochelle Lantz