When it comes to fancy dress I think I make a pretty good Borg Queen. And if the conversation dries, I can always announce: 'Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated' - which brings me neatly to the question of integration and, whilst I'm stitching sculptures, my current concern: 'Will Integration kill Disability Arts?'
Are we only here for the interim between barbarian past and enlightened future?
Will the real or imagined possibility of being embraced and valued fragment any hopes of recognised cultural diversity?
When the barricades come down will we have anything left to say together?
But are we actually on the brink of this much hyped adventure?
And after Integration will it matter who tells our history?
Who knows? These thoughts wriggle around in my head while I stitch roots.
Have we given enough thought to what we actually do want? Before we get there, we need to have realistically explored the options; we need to have taken responsibility for our Culture and ensured it's visibility and accessibility.
There is no way forward without this: we should be the keepers and curators of our past, present and future. If one day we should morph into Them, we will need to do it on our terms.
Then again, it is possible that we are not actually heading for any kind of Integration at all; that some of us are just trying to hide amongst Them in an attempt to avoid persecution.
Kneel and I will knight you
for services to the
Kneel and I will rest this
edge upon your neck.
Symbol of a less enlightened
past; heavy on my frailty;
it falls to leave your head
rolling in the aisles.
I am totally looking forward to making an official start on my DAO Diverse Perspectives Commission conversations!
After sitting in residence at Salisbury Arts Centre last year and creating my first conversation/ text work they were keen to see me develop the possibilities. Initial talks with the then Director of Salisbury Arts Centre focused on a visual presention and People Like You, the exhibition, began to take shape.
I have already started on the preliminary writing, but it is important to me that words do not dominate my creativity. They leap so instantly into every situation, swamping the slow simmer that, given half a chance, will boil up into something visual, tangible and 3D.
My life-size figures are on such an evolution and for me, essential to the journey. I began creating them in 2006 and they are evolving to express the wordless things that lurk in hidden corners.
Working on them I can choose to fill the silence with music (which inevitably lures me away on parallel paths), or I can listen to the words that peep out of my subconscious to tease and chivvy me with their own need for expression. Here I mull over those persistent issues of equality, diversity and integration, I worry about the future of Disability Arts and, like a homing pigeon, the access issue is constantly returning.
Bodies take shape
under my needle:
sees muscles swell and
contract, inch lower,
shift with the placement
of limbs. Limbs that form
with thoughts; ideas
prompt their creation,
Ideas that by-
pass words; thoughts that
travel the careless route
to a reality
where fact and fantasy
This is the last in the series. The timing is deliberate - this is my contingency bowl.
In case time and tide conspired against 'Creating the Spectacle!' In case the event was cancelled; in case the worst case scenario swallowed up the adventure and the underwater wheelchair disappeared into oblivion.
But actually it also makes a rather splendid trophy to present, with a fanfare, to all the successful participants of the most carefully prepared and choreographed adventure - the journey across the Fleet.
Sue and the underwater wheelchair, the undeniable stars of the occasion, were backed up, supported, carried, by the skills, knowledge and talents of dedicated teams all totally inspired by her wild idea and persistent enthusiasm.
Like the legend of history, 'Creating the Spectacle!' had no power over the tide; yet forever undaunted, the team completed their mission and this new legend was fact for a day.
And like the red carnations that bloomed over the water and sailed out on the tide, the story will travel, the myth of the chairborne aquanaut will spread and grow as the journey continues.
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
I could hardly sleep a wink last night. I might have been a little busy this week, but today has had big, bold, red pencil marks all over it for a while now. Depending on the weather, the tides, fate...Today is the day!
Today, in filming for 'Creating the Spectacle!' the underwater wheelchair takes what anyone could only describe as the absolute scariest part of it's journey.
I'm heading for Portland to be witness and part of the audience for this stage of the project. I shall be travelling with mixed feelings; I am looking forward to seeing Sue and the underwater wheelchair in the water again: that bit is positively magical.
But the underwater wheelchair cannot be confined to a pool, even one as deep as the Osprey Leisure Centre's.
Today Sue and the underwater wheelchair are going to be filmed disappearing into the sea.
A lagoon? Thats 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. With 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.
Fleet Lagoon: that really is so awesome.
The eagle eyed DAO reader just might have noticed that the image used (yesterday) in Earthbowl 1 was not actually from 'Creating the Spectacle!'
'Portal' (2008), that iconic picture of Sue Austin under water in a wheelchair, was however our first hint of things to come - watch this space!
The Earthbowl series continues with an image from the early development stages of the project when the chair was still being refined and Sue was still learning how to control it.
Earthbowl 2 contains an image from the clinical waters of a diving pool where Sue, almost unrecognisable without that signature dress (but check out the hair), wears the full diving gear - necessary for any time spent performing in colder waters.
The finned wheelchair, well rehearsed in chlorinated diving, had not at this point had much opportunity to expand it's horizons; but after it's first globetrotting adventure, LinkUpArts was thrilled to be able to invite people to Sue's presentation (at Salisbury Arts Centre earlier in the month) documenting 'Creating the Spectacle!' to date and featuring The Underwater Wheelchair.
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
at odds with it's adventurous
Striped of it's blanket disguise
it waits patiently while it's
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
21 June - 14 July 2012, Salisbury Arts Centre.
Relay: handing the baton of inspiration through time and across disciplines, has produced this exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre.
I should, at the outset, declare my involvement, both as an artist and wordsmith and also as member of LUAN (LinkUpArtists Network) whose work, together with images from LUAN member Sue Austin's 'Creating the Spectacle!' represents LinkUpArts' presence as one of Salisbury Arts Centre's Creative Partners.
Like previous exhibitions showcasing work produced by the artist-tutors and their workshop participants, this one, extending to resident artists, groups, creative partners and resident companies, is buzzing with energy and talent.
Resident potter, Mirka Golden-Hann, exhibits Choreographed Vessel, a plain and elegant porcelain bowl on which moving images of dancers are projected - a work bringing to life the ancient Greek concept of Kalokagethia (harmony of physical and spiritual endeavour), through the talents of filmmakers, dancers and of course Mirka herself.
Anthony Aston, currently the Arts Centre's Technical Manager, has been experimenting with mapping projections to three diminutional surfaces and a resulting digital piece involving the resident youth dance company, Jigsaw, and a regular life drawing group, is most effectively exhibited on the Altar Stage wall.
These two pieces popped out at me at the preview, but there is so much more to see and I'm looking forward to revisiting Relay. The Totem Poles and various smaller intricate pieces need more time, as do the Kingfisher Poets, and there is also the intriguing live performance of the dissolving clay city on Saturday 14th July at 11.00
We read your poem and we cried.
My words adorn, caress the clay;
the tiny figure perched atop
the totem pole is helter-skelter
me with buttercup dust still gold
on my toes. Who would be thinking
the lover who opened my eyes and
brought me back to life, would yet be
muse; his inspiration handed,
artist to artist, maker to
maker; enduring pregnation,
perpetual, powerful. Who
would have dreamed this muse would
have so much life in him.
I'm back. Tokyo called and here I am. Sumida, rocking and rolling, reflects my excitement. This time the cherry blossom is over and Tokyo is greening - punctuated by bright splashes of pink azalea; while Sumida, the river, is followed by a ribbon garden borrowed from an English country cottage.
Sky Tree stretches high into warm city air, awaiting it's grand opening on the 22nd May; it is visible for miles and miles, looking down on the 53 floors of the Mori Building and the red dinosaur that is Tokyo Tower.
The skinny-wheeled chair greets me at Narita airport, slower than I had remembered, but every bit as versatile and enduring.
My journey here was impressively smooth. Special Assistance at Heathrow has never worked so well for me and the people never seemed so 'human'.
The plane was only half-full and I had the seat next to me for bags normally on the floor out of my reach, making the flight very civilised.
Hovering over quiet endurance,
Utopia beckons me onwards.
The human subconscious
dances attendance on the
persistent lure of better.
The promise of perfection
in wheels, shapes my future.
Sparkles through my hopes
for journeys into the places
that haunt my dreams.
The promise of independence
close as a heartbeat,
is within reach, isn't it?
My dream, is reasonable, isn't it?
And this Eutopia is real, isn't it?
I once heard Anish Kapoor say something along the lines of "my art works because I have nothing to say" which struck me as very odd.
Triptychos Boxed is a glance at the aspirations of faith and mythology from a wheelborne perspective. A collection of previously loved small boxes containing references to aspects of faith, they also focus on the 'get up and go' that, chairborne, I both long for and reject as irrelevant.
This is my first conscious attempt to make work that 'has nothing to say'. It is merely a suggestion; an emotionally charged comment tossed under the wheels in passing, totally open to any interpretation you might visit upon it.
It may not stick to your wheels (apologies to those of you without - no inequality implied), but maybe you will 'stick' something to it?
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
to aspire to.
I pin my hopes
on a chairborne aquanaut
to re-imagine life
as we know it,
It has been my aim to get Con.text online, not as a downloadable PDF (although that is good too), but as an instantly visible artwork and this week I have been happily distracted from my drawing by the chance to work on putting Con.text on DAO.
Actually I do enjoy working with the computer, and taking a break between words, I do not resist Photoshop for long. My retreat from the digital doesn't last. I might dither, I might hide, actually I might be addicted; I do wish I could do more.
With Con.text the shape of the work is important so some of the lines, indeed some of the letters, require individual attention. I have been surprised to notice inconsistencies that I was happy to ignore in the print version, but find very annoying on screen, so a little rewriting has been called for.
And since the layout is not left-aligned, it will need an audio version instead of the screen reader. I don't much like the sound of my own voice, but it is a privilege to be able to read ones own work and I do enjoy doing it.
To be or not to be.
The dither, the public dither,
implies some kind of brain
activity. To dither is
human. We have the tools
to wait on emotional choice
without the freeze or crash
that incapacitates our heirs,
the virtual children,
digital descendants who hold
the database of our existence.