This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

Image - Sue_Austin_at_waters_edge.jpg

‘Testing the Water!’, ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ and ‘Making Waves’

I want to explain some of the titles in posts generated as part of this exposure of my work. I will also take this opportunity to further explain a concept mentioned in the video blog ‘Making Waves – the dialogues generated’ – that of participants becoming part of the artwork themselves through their engagement with the process. 

‘Testing the Water!’ is a research and development project made possible by Arts Council South West’s Impact Fund. This has facilitated the production of an underwater wheelchair that is able to fly free through mid-water with its human occupant, leaving a trace of its joy and freedom as it goes.

This is building up to ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ an ambitious and innovative performance of that underwater wheelchair in Fleet Lagoon at Portland, Dorset. This has been programmed as part of B-side Multimedia Arts Festival alongside the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing events during the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.

A primary way this work is intended to operate is through opening up a thinking space that might contribute to reshaping social preconceptions about the wheelchair and creating empowered and empowering images of diversity.

“Making Waves” will be a section of the project website which will support the development of this work and capture how it is ‘passed on’ through becoming incorporated into other peoples’ mental processes. This will support my proposal that the most coherent way to understand that aspect of the artwork (and therefore where it can be said to ‘reside’) is ‘to claim’ that anyone who experiences or engages with its concepts then becomes part of the artwork themselves.

One way it exists (or is ‘carried’) is in that ‘opening up’, reshaping or reframing that occurs in the minds of others as a result of this interaction. This means that, for me, they themselves then become part of the artwork too, as they generate the dialogue (captured and disseminated online) that evolves into a secondary expression of the primary intentions for the work.  At the same time this reshapes my preconceptions of what the artwork can become: a dynamic, symbiotic evolution where the ‘audience’ becomes integral to the creative process. 

Texts that have influenced the development of these concepts and the idea of the audience becoming an ‘active producer of meaning’ include:

Barthes, Roland (1973) S/Z, Editions du Seuil, Paris
Ranciere, Jacques. (2009) The Emancipated Spectator, Verso, London and New York
Bourriaud, Nicolas. (2002) Relational Aesthetics,
Dewey, John. (1958) Art as Experience. Capricorn Books, N. York.
Kester, Grant (2004) Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. University of California Press