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Emily Barker at Carlye Packer


At Carlye Packer, Emily Barker delves into the inaccessible nature of our built environments with exquisite minimalism. Illusions of Care demonstrates the destabilizing experience of people considered “abnormal,” “divergent,” or “abject” within the structural prejudices of built environments. The artist also exposes the demoralizing, bureaucratic process of trying to receive life-saving care within a broken health care system. 

In Land of the Free (2012/2021), Barker presents a framed medical bill from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, showing an outstanding balance of $506,088.35 that is owed by the artist. It lays bare just how punishing the United States healthcare system can be to those who are physically divergent. In the exhibition’s title work Illusions of Care (2020-2023), a large-scale installation constructed from thermoformed PETG plastic (in collaboration with Tomasz Jan Gorza), towers over the viewer, enclosing them into a strange, narrow half-loop that’s daunting to maneuver through. It’s just the briefest of glimpses into how our built environments, made with only certain bodies in mind, can constrain and contort others who navigate them daily.

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Photo: Illusions of Care, taken by Evan Walsh, image courtesy of Carlye Packer.