Cultural Exhaustion eventually overpowered our group and a relaxing trip down Regent Street was prescribed to restore our energy. Out in the commercial world Chinese texts popped up here and there, 'made in China' clothes and objects brought soothing familiarity and the stress of strangeness receded somewhat.
Unable to help with the search for typically English food, I accompanied my friends into PizzaHut, where we battled our way through the complexities of ordering food we might recognise and possibly enjoy, from an unnecessarily complicated menu and a stressed waiter.
Pizza proved to be remarkably similar to a Chinese dish that is folded and eaten with the fingers, but the cups of tea that accompanied and preceded our meal did cause our frazzled waiter some confusion.
Arriving back at Waterloo we presented me to a man with the label 'assisted travel' on his fluorescent jacket. He accompanied me to our train and instructed the surprised driver/guard to get a ramp and let me on to the train: job done.
The same driver/guard took on the responsibility for getting me off of the train when we arrived at our destination. He did have other duties to perform first, luckily it was the end of the line.
Stuffed crust fingers wave modestly,
not daring to venture far from the plate,
but still adamant in their desire
to be noticed. Their small cheesy
claws protruding from stubby fat digits,
they hesitate, wave from the wedge
that is tidily folded and eaten
Visiting London with Chinese friends seemed like the perfect opportunity to see the place as a visitor with almost no English; apparently it's supposed to be especially well geared-up for visitors right now.
Approaching the Capital by train, I was a little shocked to discover that my ticket was the most expensive of our party since I did not seem eligible for any of the offers available to the ambulant travellers.
Buying a ticket for a wheelborne traveller, did not alert station staff to the need for assistance or a ramp. No-one noticed me or my access problem. We were in real danger of missing the train, until hurried enquiries, in English, led us to the correct person to handle a ramp.
My arrival in London was totally unexpected; UK train staff might not have any means of communicating between staff, trains or stations?
I was stuck on the train until somewhere on Waterloo station the correct person was found to produce a ramp, and she appeared to be unfamiliar the item.
From Waterloo we wandered towards the festive atmosphere of the Southbank, and chuckled about two gigantic figures, one leaning over from a roof and one climbing up or down the wall of the building. Maybe they were robots? The building was decorated with columns of strange, green plastic bowls and didn't seem to have a main entrance.
Alongside the famous river we saw a lot of word-boards strapped to the railings. And some large empty crates that it was possible to roll through in my chair, amusing my friends. On one of the crates was a picture of brides in White Wedding gowns - one of the brides was a man with a beard and this caused prolonged laughter.
Keeping our eyes open for street art and entertainment, we were aware of posters advertising an evening dance event somewhere in the vicinity.
The multicoloured 'rainbow sandpit' where children were playing, was a curiosity that awakened some concern. Was it natural? Was it safe?
Pretty-girl crocodile, weaving through the crowd;
pointing toes, high then low and counting spaces,
snaking, swaying, dipping rhythms; curls of spine.
Supple bodies, sensuous arms, splaying fingers;
dragon-cousin crocodile: breathless, chanting.
Happy laughter woven into swirls and leaps,
arabesques, pirouettes, and smiling faces.
No special dress, no explanation, dancing
all we need to know.
On the road to equality, I often feel strangely disempowered by the process of Disability Equality Training. Why is it only the temporarily non-disabled who get offered a training opportunity? And why only on occasions?
I rather fancy the idea of some training myself. Not exactly the same kind of course, but there must be skills I could practice in order to combat the negative effects society has on my moral and there must be advanced skills I could use to influence or change the mindset of those folk who never get the benefit of expert guidance.
I just don't want to leave something so important to me totally in the hands of others, even if they are experts; but I do like the idea of being proactive, as well as the possibility of making a more subtle contribution to equality.
People who suffer trauma through accident are offered help to find ways to cope. Society is frequently the accident that traumatises disabled people, but at best we are offered nothing more than passing, sympathetic acknowledgement.
Years of feeling like a leper have taken their toll, I want to be more responsive and positive to the people who have actually taken equality onboard. And with those who haven't got there yet, I'd like to find creative ways to take the initiative, I do rather like the idea of having more control.
Rolling in to a lift I need
space to turn around,
like the wheelless do, I prefer
a face-front exit.
Equal opportunity needs
Wheelless take turning
for granted, without the need for
negotiation. Just a quick
foot shuffle, head turn;
on the spot, no-brains-cells-needed,
My new skinny-wheeled powerchair doesn't seem to be fussed about getting its controls wet; I'm starting to believe that they might actually be weatherproof. Chunky-chair would splutter and stop if I neglected to wrap the joystick and control panel in plastic protection.
Chunky's wheels however would take rain in their stride, and were never phased by leaves on the road. Not so with the skinny-wheels. That slightly oily surface that glosses city streets on rainy days is a factor to be reckoned with and decomposing leaves a decided hazard.
But skinny-wheels' ace is never leaving me stranded. Masses of battery capacity plus the ability to convert to manual gives me a safety-net; security I have not had in almost 15 years.
Play or pass? Who am I today? Slim or chunky? Pumpkin at midnight, or 24/7 party animal? Am I in a rush, or can I take time for a relaxed stroll? Do I want city slick, or the off-road experience?
Working different wheels is far more significant than wearing different shoes; I'm getting choices that would have eluded me mere weeks ago.
If dependence on wheels shapes my personality, am I about to discover whole new sides to the Chairborne Identity?
Yesterday I forgot
to recharge my battery.
That should mean I'm grounded,
waiting and kicking myself.
Today though I'm out
free; I have a spare
to fall back on. Planning
tomorrow has never been
this easy. The prospect
rears on it's hind legs
to tantalise and
I should give you my car-keys, you could park my car anyday.
That's amazing, I couldn't do that with a wheelchair.
You really can get around in that tiny space, well done.
And I boil. Spontaneous anger drives me to growl:
Carkeys? Hand over your spine, I've got wheels of my own.
You are so clever walking; I couldn't, not with those legs!
And: Congratulations, you really do work those legs well, amazing you don't even fall over...
There is no real logic to this rudeness. I wasn't born with wheels and there is a skill to living and working with them, so why do I get so offended when wheelless admire my dexterity and adaptability?
Why do I feel so patronised? Why can't I stay cool and offer a lighter reply?
Why have I not developed skills to prompt people to rethink the way they see me?
Thank you, I do specialise in Ferraris, but could probably manage a Bugatti...
No, it does take skill, practice and a brain cell or two...want to give it a go?
And: Yes, I am rather good at this, for a female I have brilliant spatial awareness!
When somebody opens the lid and the opportunity for change presents itself, why are we so obsessed with the shape of the box that contains us?
I used to take words for granted
and not just because I can read.
I used to recycle, but not any more,
it's an option for folk with both feet on the floor.
I used to just drive on my own,
without the kerfuffle and fuss.
I used to enjoy going out for a meal,
aware how much fun spontaneous feels.
I used to be tall; wear a hat,
take the train to town for a show.
I used to be free to roll over in bed,
but now I'm supported by cushions instead.
I used to air-kiss with my friends,
propel, with my hand on their back.
I used to be one of the good and the glad
now I am "merely" the chairborne; the bad.
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 had a meeting to attend, in my home town, just 8 minutes away in the car, however it became necessary to travel in my wheelchair so I allowed a good hour. It wasn't enough.
Deeply shaken and in a lot of pain I was forced to abandon my journey after an hour. I was two thirds of the way there.
Wheelborne, do I have the right to expect that a pavement should be accessible and traversable? Do I have the right to expect that a dropped curb should facilitate my safe delivery to a second level?
Or should I anticipate that any journey I might undertake here on these pavements might endanger my life and health with pits and ruts that threaten to immobilise or overturn my wheelchair; or cambers and angled surfaces that deliver me, powerless, into a stream of traffic?
What exactly is a pavement for? What makes it fit for purpose? Do wheelborne people have any rights to safety as pedestrians?
Can anyone possibly imagine I can be integrated into mainstream existence when just turning up is so fraught with personal danger?
Can anyone possibly imagine I can be integrated when urban geography conspires to ensure my absence?
Can anyone possibly imagine integration without the possibility of presence?
What price spatial justice?
Wake me up when it's all gone away,
the cultural olympiad, the
blonde moment, the vital distraction.
Wake me up when you want to talk
about the simple, ordinary stuff
like feeling safe and welcome; being
expected, planned for and valued.
Yes, wake me up when the madness leaves;
when you're ready to talk equality;
access to welfare, health, and safety;
to simple shopping for clothes and food.
Let me know when the big attention
stealing drama gives way to the post
event paralysis, remind me...
of your fantasy: the legacy.
The journey to Hakone involves platform-lifts, chair-lifts, elevators, trains, metro, cable train and cable car (ropeway) as well as some energetic pushing and pulling up and down very steep hills. Mount Hakone is famous for it's hot springs, peaceful lake and eggs boiled in simmering hot pools. These eggs, their shells turned black by sulphur, are said to prolong life.
The 'boiling valley' is 1044 metres above sea level, and contains a lake created by volcanic activity; this was our destination and getting there was the great adventure. The day started with a first - my first travel on the JR line from my local station using a recently installed platform-lift; my destination was Tokyo Station and once there the accessible route to the next platform involved a journey deep underground 'behind the scenes' in one hundred year old tunnels.
About 90 minutes out into the countryside we began our climb on a single track line that zig-zagged up the mountainside, going alternately backwards and forwards up the tree lined slopes.
Moving from one mode of transport to another required up to four men lifting, pushing or pulling my wheelchair. The cable-train gave way to cable-car and suddenly I was swinging up and over the trees, climbing from about 800 metres to 1044 where sulphurous 'smoke' seeped and billowed out of the earth in this steaming cauldron.
I felt I was in an alternative scene from the film Avatar - one where the 'americans' had won the war with the native people - as I looked down on the scar of what looked like mining activity at the summit. Breaking our journey we paused to take in the smell, buy black eggs and wonder at the steaming earth.
Swinging back over the treetops and expecting any moment to see strange flying beasts and giant blue Na'vi, we swooped down a couple hundred metres to the crater lake lying along the southwest wall of this complex volcano.
Here we boarded mock pirate galleons and explored the 20 km length of lake Ashinoko and a view of the lakeside Shinto Temple.
The lake is an incredibly quiet and peaceful place, we watched cranes patiently stalking fish, and overhead what might have been honey buzzards floating on thermals.
Somewhere to come back to,
for an Onsen experience
Hakone's hot springs beckon.
Swooping through the air is one thing,
how will the skinny wheels cope
on the ground? All of this day's
travel used only two bars on my
battery level indicator;
giving my day a surreal
quality, as if I
really did possess
an Avatar. And although
I didn't manage to
swish a skirt, or flick a tail,
I did feel incredibly free.
Today I'm trying out a Japanese wheelchair to take home; not exactly the one I'd planned for or expected, but good. I hope.
I sense my eutopia moving closer. Actually Utopia moves like Michael Jackson; the moonwalk ever deceptive.
Having the iPad is great, the Brushes app frees me to explore previous frustrated trains of thought and practice, and being here in Tokyo inspires me to make more creative links between image and word, links I had previously been struggling to realise.
My search for roots and identity mingles with the desire for mobility. I come face to face with the need to acknowledge that my roots cannot be linked to a country or a culture; that I am genetically in the past as Scandinavian, in the present as European, and in the future as Asian. My search is no longer a search, but an exploration.
Who am I today? I am the artist who makes links with Toyota's Universal Wheelchair and Bruce Sterling's "Lobsters"; an artist who wants to explore the implications of Haraway's postgendered possibilities from a chairborne perspective.
As a wheelborne entity I'm asking how the concept "cyborg bodies lead to cyborg consciousness" (Danielle Devoss) might be creating my identity.
And my soft sculptures need to be more than seeking into the earth, they need to stretch into time and space. I need them to explore Thirdspace (Edward Soja).
Sumida today has a choppy quality,
lending an air of expectation and excitement.
The floating landing for tourist-boats squeals
like a stressed-up pig, but occasionally
emits a soft feminine moan. A flash of green
marks the flight of a Japanese sparrow
with a bamboo leaf in it's beak.
Here feels creative, is it just the change of scene?
Ok. I've been here 6 days, this is blog number 5, they all sat frustrated, unposted, on my iPad while I attempted to master the technology using unfamiliar tools.
How do I monitor the size of my images? Resize? Crop? How do I convert .png to .jpg? I guess I will have figured it when I post this, but the Greenroom blog will be out of sync with my tweet...
I may use wheels to augment my body; I may long for a cybersuit, or an avatar, so that I can run and climb and swish a skirt, I enjoy using the technology, but what can I do about my inability to think computer-think?
Yesterday I rolled out in the sun to explore Hibiya Park. The entrance is cobbled and painful to navigate and last year soggy pathways also limited my ability to move around. Access has been greatly improved. The park is bigger than I had imagined, but actually last year's accessible bits were probably the best and most traditional; with a cybersuit, I would have known that already.
The cybersuit needs more development; the Japanese guy testing it out in the French Alps will actually be carried by it's user. The guy lacking the disability will have his strength augmented. I guess we've all heard that story before.
In Marunouchi Building
point a host of decorated
figures. Onwards, upwards
they seem to say
through the eyes of
Japanese - crossing
educating the world;
artistic expressions with
I subscribe to the theory that Utopia always appears to be getting closer. And with the perfect place, the perfect society, comes the perfect life-form - the cyborg. And wheelborne people could be closer than most.
The chairborne aquanaut leads the field, being more than just a metaphor for her chosen life-form, closer to whales, dolphins and sharks than any mere human in dive-gear.
I came to Tokyo hoping to pursue my hunt for Disability Arts, but instead find myself on an apparent detour. I want to return to Odaiba, the artificial island at the end of Rainbow Bridge, to revisit the Universal Design Centre at Toyota's Exhibition Hall. Here they demonstrate developments to a Universal 'wheelchair'.
This 'chair' transports it's user in upright or horizontal positions and travels at speeds that exceed those aspired to by most powerchair manufacturers. It is being designed to be universally desirable. Is this what mobility disabled people want? Is it a viable alternative to a powersuit? Is it anything more than a detour on evolution road? Is it sexy enough to compete?
Technology could be my best way forward: a way to make some connections; a way to look below the surface of life here; to discover heterotopic spaces. There may still be treasure at the end of the rainbow, or this could be going nowhere.
sense of direction.
hither and thither.
I see Sumida.
Today we find
Today I spent roaming in the sunshine, getting my bearings. I rolled alongside Sumida and headed for Ginza. There are more cyclists weaving along the pavements, more mobil-phonists standing in awkward places and I do believe more wheelchairs in evidence.
I have discovered that Japanese department stores regularly host art exhibitions, and just past Ginza I did indeed see evidence of a Japanese artist, possibly inflenced by Klimt and Picasso, exhibiting on the sixth floor; what a great idea.
The artist didn't grab my attention, but a sparkling, jewelled manual wheelchair did.
Positively bling - I loved it!
On one of the designer-wear floors, tucked between international Names, sat this transformed duckling just waiting to party. Covered in crystals, it was the focal point of a section devoted to 'sit-friendly' clothes for chairborne people. And knee bags - I think I might want one!
2016 already calls.
The Paralympics will happen
here, the hype has begun.
Access comes into focus;
the future promises better
and yes I believe. Here where life
already feels good on the outside,
here really could be gearing up
to make groundbreaking breathtaking.
Coming here opened my mind,
re-connected me to
Please, tell me I'm not just being
Smooth as a financial manager, Sumida reflects my sunshine hopes back at me in a glassy smile. Tokyo, gateway to Utopia, or the crutch to support my fantasies?
Is the promise of independence sweeter than the realisation? Is the realisation realistic, or merely my wheelborne take on the impossible dream?
Humanity seems to possess a built-in hunger for the impossible dream, and living in an age where the dream becomes increasingly universal, and increasingly focused on bodily perfection, I am tempted to question my desire for a 'perfect' wheelchair.
And that longing for the one thing we do not have? The one thing that would make a difference... Is my hope of independent mobility a reasonable human right, or evidence that I too, am on the treadmill?
Am I seeking without, the things that should be within?
No, even as that thought occurs, I reject it. Too long I have sought solutions within myself for circumstances that require other input and mobility is certainly one of those.
Nobody covets a wheeled chair, No
amount of universal design has
made this symbol of disability
desirable to anyone who
doesn't need to be wheelborne.
But the desire to be more, to be
faster, stronger, tireless, could make us
all equal in a powersuit; provided of course
disabled people can afford them.
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,
Crow, dammit, Crow. Box 3 and the final part of Triptychos is heart-shaped and Schiaparelli pink, except for the outside of the lid. The box, 21 cms across and 4 cms deep, has a teal coloured lid decorated with colourful peacocks adorned with hearts instead of eyes.
When you open the box you will find, not a love letter, but a Christmas card. Mary and Joseph hold each other anxiously as the baby in the wheelchair peers up at them. The angel is of course, adoring; the sheep proprietorial and the goose indifferent or just looking for the way out.
Inside the lid you will find the words: crow, dammit, crow
Looking for role models
I wasn't keen to be a sheep
or a man. I wanted the one
who couldn't take up his bed
and walk, to be the hero.
And finding the
I just wanted to hear it crow.
I'm planning my next trip to Japan and I hope this time to be bringing back my very own skinny-wheeled chair. Will it actually make a difference to my life?
Being in Japan opened my eyes to the realisation that I have accepted too many restrictions without questions; shouldered the burden of inequality as if I deserved it and run out of energy to care.
When I acquired my first manual wheelchair, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The gift of mobility was magical and although it took months to get it set up so that I could use it for more than 15 minutes without pain, I was immensely grateful to have it.
I was never able to go far in the manual chair, my shoulder joints are not really up to the roll, so when I became the owner of a powerchair, I was suddenly faced with the wonderful and terrifying prospect of going out alone.
I've never managed to afford the kind of vehicle that could transport the powerchair, so even when I am out alone, I'm never that far from home.
When I began as the paid coordinator for linkuparts, I tried to get access to work assistance to remedy the situation, but was told that any help that enabled me to be more independent for work was open to abuse - in that I might also use it in my free time.
With the Japanese chair, things could change and I'm actually scared.
Scared that they will and scared that they won't...
The London underground map
and the symbolic wheeled chair,
iconic part-truths to make life
easier. But while the map
harms no-one, not so the chair.
shorthand for all and every
disability, the chair is
all embracing and, for the horde
who only ever see the chair,
I too become synonymous
with every disability
known, imagined and unknown;
regardless of me and all
Irrelevant to other
disabilities, this symbol
is a trap prejudicial to
my perceived identity.
I want out, I want free.
Last weekend I attended a performance related workshop; I had completed two application forms, one for me and one for the chair. Currently the chair, my chair, and I are in a difficult relationship because I never quite got over my month with the skinny-wheeled Japanese model.
The workshop was fun, creative and quite demanding. I poked and prodded at personal boundaries as we explored ways of working autobiographically. During the process and all through this week I have been busy in my head-space and coming to the conclusion that I have been lazy in my relationship with my chair.
Friday before the weekend, on Portland, I met Sue (Creating the Spectacle) Austin's underwater wheelchair; looking like a basking bird and performing like a walrus on land, it was transformed with Sue under water to encompass qualities of a magical, mystical sea-creature.
So, do I also posses the power to transform my chair; to control or remove it's cloaking spell? Am I fooling myself when I think I may even have magical cloaking spells of my own? Can I actually make my chair disappear? And how does that impact on the relationship?
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 as the
transformation catches me.
Instantly elegant, the chair and Sue
begin to play, to dance,
an underwater flight more
familiar to dolphins
and whales; to Veasta and mermaid
than any mere human.