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> > > Underwater Con.Text by Gini

3 October 2012

When Gini first heard about Sue Austin's plan for 'Creating the Spectacle!' she had been working on 'View: the Con.Text' and knew immediately that she had the follow-on project she was looking for.

From the conversations initially with people who had never met Sue Austin and had no idea of her creativity, tenacity and enthusiasm, Gini followed the underwater wheelchair project -  through the crossing of Fleet Lagoon, the floodlit pool performance on Portland and the film footage from Egypt.

Underwater Con.Text provides a glimpse into how a random selection of people have  allowed  'Creating the Spectacle!' into their lives.

 

Underwater what?
Shit no, health and safety,
no way. They'd never
allow crips like us...
Would they? You're joking;
come on, you don't expect
me to believe that!

Oh that - saw it on the telly.
Doesn't mean it's real.

Ok, so why are you lot
always out to prove something?
Why can't you just give up and
die like the rest of us? We
get tired, we get old; big deal.
Why are you lot always
fighting it?

A lagoon? That’s like South Seas or something.
Warm, clear water; it sounds so inviting,
not sure about the wheelchair though. Why not
just dive? The Fleet? Where's that, somewhere local?
Oh that changes everything, bloody cold
off Portland. And bad tides round Chesil Beach
plus that lurky, murky, muddy sea-bed...
I dunno why, but somehow the wheelchair
makes some kind of crazy sense; now I know.

It's brilliant, yeah
I mean, like wicked.
There really is
an underwater
wheelchair?

Will you push me in?
Sue straps herself into
the chair's ungainly embrace;
unwinds her mouthpiece
from it's tangle with the frame
and checks for air. Team Go.

Dragging fin-wings like a
wounded bird the chair makes
clumsy lurch into the water.
Compassion hovers; stunned,
I hold my breath and the
transformation catches me.

Instantly elegant, the chair and Sue
begin to play, to dance,
an underwater flight more
familiar to dolphins
and whales, Veasta and mermaid,
than any mere human.

Of course it's ballet,
They said it on the news.
I saw it. Wheelchair ballet;
underwater wheelchair ballet.
I saw it. It was quite amazing.

Is it about disability?
It could just be about technology.

I would be absolutely terrified;
no I don't dive, and if I did, not in
a wheelchair, strapped in. How scary is that.
I mean, what happens if your air runs out?
And how on earth do you steer the thing, hey?

No. What is it?
Oh that’s just nuts.

Yes I saw that,
on a news thing.
So cool. I think
I wouldn't mind
having a go.
But I'm not, well,
disabled so
they probably
wouldn't let me.

It's the Olympics,
they only do it
to make us look good.
When the games are over
and they close the till,
they'll put disabled people
back in the box.

Of course it's underwater
how else can you dance
in a wheelchair?
So why hasn’t
someone
done it
before?

Sci-fi might be my mythology;
superheroes are never normal.
Perilous poking around
pointlessly perfect bodies
of history, convince me
to look to the future
for role-models
and life-styles
to aspire to.
Currently
I pin my hopes
on a chairborne aquanaut
to re-imagine life
as we know it,
Jim.

Have you met her?
Do you know her?
Can you introduce me?
Is she really
under water?
Have you really seen it?
Is she really
that disabled?
Are you sure it's kosher?

There's a lot of people
well, you know, like maybe
they don't want to do work.
I mean, not everyone
with a wheelchair needs it.
I just don't think you should
make it look this much fun.

Please tell me it's true, and not just a film
stunt, I would love to try it, if it was
real. I dream of flying, free from my wheel
chair: magical flying. As free as a
bird. There must be more to life; please tell me
it's true.

God bless her,
she can't have much life;
bound to a wheelchair.
God bless her,
poor thing,
she deserves it.

I think it's
brilliant.
These people should
have something
to aim for.

Somebody
silently
said:
You are going to hate this,
it's a wheelchair.
it's going to shrink your life.
And we are here
to make sure you never hope
or look beyond
the limits or your wheels.
False
Hope
Kills.

I wish
I dream.
I used
to ride
horses.

Wheelchair what?
Oh bring it on!
Someone must be
making a mint.
Or wasting more
taxpayers' money.
Good one!

I look, but I hardly
dare hope that the world might
be just that bit bigger.
I look but I
don't hold my breath.

Well, no. It is almost
impossible to criticise
people like that.

This is a dream
pinch me.
I bet you need
money.
And an army
of Them.
Crips could never
do this.
Could we?

You lot get more confidence in a chair,
you’d just be normal without it.

I expect it means
a lot to her,
so sad,
tied to a wheelchair.
Not everyone gets
chances like this,
so brave,
tied to a wheelchair.

Looks ok
I guess. Life
in a wheelchair
can't be all bad.
Maybe that might...
no, not in a
chair. Not me.

She's fantastic,
not like normal disabled.
She has so much
drive and enthusiasm.
She should be
a role- model
get them all
off their backsides.

It is actually
something very special;
ground breaking;
eye opening. I think
normal people
might not get that.
Yet.

On stage, as it were,
facing a live audience,
the chair acquires gravitas;
a quiet dignity
it does not possess poolside.

It also radiates
solemnity in this
alien environment,
at odds with it's adventurous
appearance underwater.
Striped of it's blanket disguise
it waits patiently while it's
conception, evolution
and progression unfolds;
It's historical journeys
roll out over the big screen
behind, until the moment
we, the audience, are free
to surround and admire;
to touch and covet the
underwater wheelchair.

Oh god, it's true isn't it?
I can't believe it.
She really does go under
water in a bog
standard NHS wheel chair!
It's wild, it's wicked.
Oh god, it's really, really...
Real.


It has to be
The Most
Amazing Thing
I have ever
seen.

Chairborne aquanaut,
fancy name, but no
I like it.
Gimme a go
it looks real;
it looks, like real life.
Life before wheels
might be life after wheels?



I loved the bubbles,
it makes you feel like that
inside. Sort of happy.
Kind of hopeful.
It's a smiley thing.
Exciting.
Like love-stories
or sci-fi, but real.



I did that. In my dreams.
I'd watched the Matrix and
wheeled out skyborne over
walls; looped the loop, hovered
static mid-air while the
wheelless crashed around
beneath me.



I love it. I just love it.
I mean, fantastic.
It's just so cool
It's real; I mean, really real.
I just love it. I didn't
believe it, but it is.
I mean, fantastic.


Watching dance, my legs do
that involuntary
twitching thing; seeing this,
my chair flies; loses it's
tied to the ground lumpiness.
Jumping, skipping, running
become other than just
absent and empty longings.



I am so glad I came
this is such an amazing
motivating,
inspiring,
positive,
life-enhancing
privilege
to be
part of.



Fingers of mist came swirling, curling around my day;
colours of red were swallowed whole, reflections
smudged in a sea of grey. Hungry the mist
descended around the chair, like a secret
keeper of myths; to convince me the legend
was all in my mind, the evidence simply
not there. And the struggle against the tide
a metaphor for the truth, the battle
of visibility raged, yet was won
by people together, as teams triumphed
the impossible morphed to a done deal.
The whispers were true, the evidence clear
red on the water was carried away,
but the wheelchair underwater was fact,
the adventure, imprinted forever clear,
caught in the frame of a magical day.



No-one in their right mind could
imagine this might only be a myth?
Its so real, so utterly
beyond belief, real.

Artist and Aquanaut went to sea
in a wondrous bright red chair,
equipped with fins and a diving suit,
a torch and plenty of air.
They rolled away
on a rainy day
to cross the Fleet Lagoon.
We held our breath,
then tried our best
to produce a cheerful tune
with a dance that was made
as a homing aid; we sought for a spore
while we watched from the shore
and prayed to see them soon.

Disappeared for a while
they emerged near the Nile
after giving us all quite a scare
But, as everyone wishes,
they swam with fishes
trailing a head full of hair.
They carried a torch of a different style
with bubbles instead of flame
and cameras aplenty;
counting ten, maybe twenty
recording every frame.
And what next, you may ask
as they toil with the task:
'Creating the Spectacle!' fame?



In my country
we would never
use water like this.
This is amusing,
amazing? Something
so different. Yes.



Why the chair?
Artist you say?
But surely
art, and life
would be better
without it.
It's red (giggle)
we've (shush) covered
up the logo.
We (giggle)
just wanted
to be part
of this (arms wide)
spectacular,
underwater,
legend.



Cold? No dear
Isn't this
grand! Waiting?
Yes dear, the
tide commands.
Early or late
we mortals must
wait; this dear will
be part of
history.



You're not in red?
We were passing.
We had to stop;
all these people;
all this red;
the flags.
Who is she? The
wheelchair woman
turning the fleet
red?



This hasn't got enough
press. It's awesome and more
people should know and more
people should get behind
it. The whole idea of
re-treasuring people.
Up-estimating life
in all its diversity.
I could do more
I could be more
I could share
I could help
I could.
I will



Is she a friend
of yours?
I mean
you're both
in a wheelchair.


It's an invitation
to us all, to make more
of our lives in a way
to be proud of.



I didn’t know
how to be
positive
for him.
I didn’t know
how to hope: before.



Lapping relentlessly against
prejudice and preconceptions,
the tide of enthusiasm
rebrands the stereotype,
the metaphor that presents all
and every disability
as cheat or hero, scrounger or
object of pity. Introducing
Individuals, people with
real lives, real hearts, real connections
that link us all into one world;
one people. The diverse glory
of the human race, Homo Sapiens
Sapiens.

Comments

Akua Lezli Hope

/
6 February 2013

An able-bodied friend who is always seeking ways to encourage me, sent me the TED talk.

I felt at once exhilarated and despondent.

I want to imagine the possibilities, but there's not even paratransit here --I can't get to the doctor unless I go by ambulance.My reality is so far from that imagining which reminded me of how much i miss the water and wish i was rich.

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