“Affirmative ethics is not about the avoidance of pain, but rather about transcending the resignation and passivity that ensue from being hurt, lost and dispossessed ... Taking pain into account is the starting point, the aim of the process, however – is the quest for ways of overcoming the effects of passivity, the paralysis brought about by pain. The internal disarray, fracture and pain are also the conditions of possibility for ethical transformation ... This [sic] constructs hope as a social project.”
— Rosi Braidotti, Affirmation, Pain and Empowerment

The Affirmative Project is a Social Practice Arts Initiative in Western New York directed by affirmative collaborative member Galia Binder and facilitated by collaborative member Dietrich Schifeling. The project began as a  disability arts initiative in the Spring of 2017, and transformed in the Summer of 2017 to become a community-based arts initiative dedicated to radical inclusivity and accessibility.


Social Practice Art is a form of Participatory, Relational, and Public Art. It is the art of our lived social experience. Social Practice artists create interactive aesthetic worlds, and dynamic social environments for audience members to experience and participate in. Such artists value the process of making a work together over any object, “outcome,” or finished product. The act of engaging and collaborating produces an aesthetic in and of itself.
Social Practice projects are predicated upon collaborative engagement with a specific community, located in a specific environment. Each project is uniquely tailored to its collaborative elements—the community members and environment. Social Practice artists can use any number of mediums in a work, such as visual art, or performance art, but it is the collaborators, their environment, and their relationships that form the primary medium of such works. The other mediums serve as modes of production for the primary medium.
Social Practice artists affect their communities in real ways to facilitate personal, social, and political change for collaborators and audience members.


On June 1st of 2017, The Affirmative Project put out an open call for all Western New Yorkers ages 18+, to become “creators,” joining a temporary community slated to collaboratively generate a multidisciplinary performance art piece emphasizing the intersection of the arts, activism, and healing.


This open call for “creators” was directed towards folks passionate about ritual, community-based knowledge systems, social movements, activism, healing arts & modalities, somatic therapies & movements, self-awareness and empowerment, music/sound, movement/dance, visual art, writing, theatre arts, performance art, social practice art, public art, mixed media art, digital art, media art, film/video, photography, sculpture, carpentry, architecture, design, inclusive/universal design, accessible/assistive technology, lighting, scenography, makeup & costume design. Caregivers, spouses, family members, assistants, friends, colleagues, and other supporters of Creators were invited to attend rehearsals/creation times, and to join the project as Creators if they wished.

The creators assembled for the first time at Jim Bush Studios on September 1st and co-created the structure for their performance Between People from the ground up, together. Between People was not scripted or devised in any way before entering into the space. Between People was created using a collective consensus process, incorporating the creative ideas, needs, limitations, and abilities of each creator separately, and then each creator as part of a collective. Creators concluded their work for Between People on October 29, 2017.

About The Affirmative Project’s premiere performance, Between People:


Between People was a site-specific performance designed to take audience members through a two hour participatory affirmative ritual.  The piece combined visual art installation, lighting, projection art, sound design, scenography, live music, dance, poetry, theatre, and performance, to create a complete aesthetic environment and immersive journey.

"Between People invites a return to the source of what we hold sacred as humans.  This performance welcomes us into contained environment whose mission is medicine and whose prescriptions are designed to fulfill the specific needs of each individual moving through its circles of care.

Intimacy, sustainability, and interdependence are primary in this place. Its inhabitants are situated in a permanently liminal, or in-between state, where ritual is the most effective form of language and change is the only constant.  

Here, assimilation is rejected, non-linear narratives are embraced, and multiple dimensions can be accessed simultaneously. This makes possible the kind of radical healing that can contain both the forest fire and the tree planting ceremony.  

This is a space that has room for every kind of narrative, reality, or emotion. You make the space, I make the space, we make the space.

The creators of Between People invite themselves and the audience to unite as one entity. An entity that embraces vulnerability as a fiercely honest way of living, and radical honesty as the necessary condition for vulnerability. An entity that does battle with systemic injustice and forces of structural oppression by first embracing its own demons, holding space for its own pain, and beginning to build the beloved community.

This is a world where magic truly is happening, even right now, as we are unknowingly choosing it."


About Between People’s performance environment:


Between People was a  “relaxed performance”. A relaxed performance is one that is accessible for and accepting of any audience member’s behavior during the performance, as long as it is not self-destructive or destructive to another audience member or performer. In the words of Salette Gressett, U.S. arts manager for the British Council:   “Fundamentally, relaxed performance opens doors to audiences who otherwise feel like they’re not welcome because of traditional theater etiquette ... It’s the hushed reverence, that you must be quiet, you must be still. ‘Relaxed performance’ means that people who might find it difficult to adhere to those codes of behavior are welcome to that show — whether that’s due to learning difficulty, or a sensory or communication disorder, or Tourette’s syndrome, or perhaps somebody who has to pop up to go the bathroom a couple times an hour.” The performance space was wheelchair accessible and offered ASL interpreters, sound design emphasizing vibration and resonance, noise cancelling headphones, the option to participate (or not participate in) participatory activities throughout the performance, descriptive voiceover, various kinds of seating available throughout, food and drink available, and a separate space for people to take a break and relax.



About The Venue

Jim Bush Studios is a reclaimed stable built in 1905. Jim Bush purchased the stable in the 1980’s and transformed it into a Large-scale Film Photography Studio complete with multiple dark rooms and lush visual sets.

These days, the space doubles as a digital photography studio and a unique venue for site-specific performance on Buffalo’s West-Side. Most recently, Jim Bush Studios was the site of Red Thread Theatre's Louisiana Bacchae.

Jim is an internationally established commercial photographer and cinematographer who was born in Buffalo. He studied engineering at the New York Institute of Technology and has been affiliated with the faculty of the UB Department of Theater and Dance since 2010. Jim also teaches lighting workshops for photography students at Buffalo State College. Notably, Jim has been a steadfast anchor of the local artistic and counter-culture community for countless years, acting as a generous mentor to many creatives who call the city of Buffalo their home.

The Affirmative Project is so grateful for Jim’s compassionate, expansive spirit that has nurtured our work! None of our work could have been possible without Jim’s generosity of space, time, and heart.