Stemming from a latin phrase from the second century AD, a reductive ideal of orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano has for years been visible in public health, miltary, and sporting contexts. It's time to trouble this paradigm. What (and who) determines the terms of a healthy mind in a healthy body? What practices, for those whose bodies challenge a visible norm of expectation or performative "health" are part of a deeply complex, creative and rich practice of engagement with the self, the body, and community, troubling the very idea of "health" for all involved?

The Operating System invites you to contribute to an ongoing project across web and print platforms, critically considering the role of the challenged* body in creative life and practice—and inviting both product and process inquiry work from the diverse practices of human bodies troubling these lines across disciplines.  

[More detailed info on this below but just to clarify: your participation in this series is invited in layered forms of engagement with your practice, and will include 1) creative material / production  (in any discipline; including multimedia formats for web extensions); 2) expository writing / process notes / artists or mission statement; as well as optional prompts / resources / ephemera.]

This project is emergent: both populated by and facilitated by humans living and working at the intersection of chronic illness/disability/queerness, it necessarily has evolved over several years on its own timeframe -- a project moving in Crip Time.  First envisioned as a single edited volume it became clear that this could never be adequate for our purposes, and also that the constrictions and bandwidth limitations of a unique volume were too delimiting for many potential contributors, many already living at some of the most challenging, precarious intersections of disability, gender, sexuality, race, socio-economic status, and so on.

We are re-opening this call on a rolling basis for our online series as well as for future print volumes -- the first of which will appear this spring, and the next of which may be a year from now, or (as previously explained) may define its own necessary calendar.

Both print and web extensions of this series exist to both document and trouble the lived experience and process of creative practice within these often invisible spaces. Individuals across disciplines and organizations are invited not only to submit work engaging with these challenges, but explicitly also to contribute writing on their process / mission—as well as prompts, exercises, and/or other resources. This is seen as an exercise in community building, a collective intelligence gathering, perhaps even more than it is a repository for the outward-facing end result of creative practice.

Not all of this material needs to already exist -- feel free to submit as much as you have that fits this call and/or your artists statement / mission statement and documentation *of* your practice; provided you are willing to produce this process materials we are happy to bring you into the project and work with you towards these ends if necessary. We've created framing questions / prompts to help you produce the process writing. 

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Below you'll find some further thoughts and framing questions to help you on your way, as well as recommendations for materials to submit:

Our entire lives are lived in bodies, and yet in many ways we are forced to live and behave as though our bodies are secondary to an invented idea of a distinct and isolated, thought-driven “self”, performing the illusion of that pernicious dialectic of mind-body separation so central to much of western philosophy, modern Judeo-Christian religion, and the sustenance of institutional norms and expectations.

Behind the curtain of creative practice, and behind the public face and story, the myth of the “artist,” often deeply hidden for a variety of reasons, the body remains: the broken body, the body in pain, the body at the hospital again, the depressed body in the bed for weeks, the body that doesn’t feel like it belongs to you, the shamed body, the dangerous body, the traumatized body. Sometimes, part of this body’s story becomes our story, but as in Borges and I, the story often becomes unfamiliar, the version of your body one that becomes falsified and magnified, out of our control.

So: we ask you. What is your body’s story, and how have challenges to that body, and to that story, been central to the story of your creative practice? We want to see the work that came out of that consideration, and so, too, do we want to talk to you about your experience, so we can share our stories, and learn from each other — and invite a casting off of stigma and shame.


  • Does your body have a presence in/relationship to your creative practice, specifically your creative processes?
  • Has the relationship of your body to your practice altered over a period of time (even a short period, or a sudden alteration) through the actions of age, illness, injury, childbearing, gender transition, or other bodily changes?
  • Has caretaking activity in relation to another’s bodily changes become important to your own creative practice, whether as subject or as frame?
  • Does your work reflect your somatic realities, whether overtly or subtly? Does the body inform the structure of your work, over or in addition to its content?

A deeply, deeply ableist culture is the source of so much of our fear and shame, so much of the self-erasure and silencing around these stories. For many of us who are already bioprecarious, deeply fearful about the job market, financial instability, with a lack of adequate healthcare, and lack of adequate interpersonal resources, to come forward with our body’s story is often to risk destabilizing ourselves even further. We risk alienation, isolation, job loss, spiraling depression, and more, fears that may be very familiar to you. We may avoid treatment or lifestyle changes out of fear of stigma or isolation.


We, too, are unsure and somewhat ill-at-ease with the word "challenged" in the title, but it remains in part as a response to that. We have struggled to find another word that encompasses, specifically, the umbrella under which we seek to engage with this discourse. For the "challenged" body with which this project interfaces is not necessarily disabled or ill, physically or mentally. The “challenged” body in the title could be read as the challenge of having a body, being challenged by the body, or ongoing challenge to the body. The body’s relationship to disability, disease, mental or physical illness, injury, trauma, addiction, pregnancy, medical complications, caretaking, aging, dysmorphia, gender transition, obesity, eating disorders, physical abuse, racial or gender bias around physical attributes or lack thereof — these and more fall under this umbrella.

Before submitting note that participation in this project for all participants will eventually include:

  • Submission of original creative material / production (in any discipline; including multimedia formats for web extensions) **However, some of this work CAN have been previously published, shown, or performed, provided you have the rights to the work or we can get them. Attribution will be given. 
  • Completion and submission of expository writing / essay ON your experience of bodily challenge (either writing you’ve already done and/or in response to interview prompts we will provide that you can do in a Q&A format or free-write a response to)
  • Not strictly required but ideal: process notes and ephemera, links & resources you have used in your healing, research, or creative process

If you are not interested in submitting any writing you’ve already done about your experience or writing about your experience, then this is not the project for you.

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You can use our submittable form to submit texts, visual work, composition, still images (or notations) of performance, dance, or other media that engage directly with the body and its challenges. We welcome prose, poetry, hybrid texts, film, comics, interviews, performance texts and documentation, etc. We are especially interested in work that avoids, complicates or transcends traditional narrative forms/modes.

Please accompany your submission with a cover letter including a brief bio and a “practice statement” that helps situate your work within the somatic conversation. If submitting non-text work, please include notes about your medium.

NOTE: ordering a discounted book with no shipping fee from The Operating System is given as an option below to help us defray our costs as an all volunteer run organization with no institutional funding. It is not required for submission! 

*Proceeds from future full price sales of ICS Print Documents will go to organizations supporting the intersection of disability and the arts.

We use Submittable to accept and review our submissions.