How does it make you feel?
The wheelless man with the microphone nods to his cameraman and leans towards me. I hesitate.
The freedom... he prompts. And I eventually respond.
What I really want to do is commandeer the microphone and turn the tables. You see I already know about the freedom. Being wheelborne is my freedom.
'Creating the Spectacle,' is not to be confined to inspiring the wheelborne, it is very much aimed at changing the attitudes of the wheelless.
It is not about turning the spotlight on 'the brave and inspirational disabled', although having such a splendid role model does me no harm at all.
You are missing the point, I want to shout, the point is how does it make you feel?
And if your gut reaction is to descend on the wheelless because you do not see yourself or other wheelless as 'concerned parties' then you really are missing the point.
And if you do not allow yourself to change, to respond enlightened, then you are denying a great deal of what 'Creating the 'Spectacle!' is about. You are throwing away all that fantastic inspiration, dismissing all that courage and bravery, wasting all that effort and determination.
I am infuriated when you praise me for doing the easy and trivial things on my wheelborne adventure; but your failure to engage with real courage, stunning determination and this brilliantly creative artwork is more than insulting.
And the freedom? 'Creating the Spectacle!' doesn't just allow me to dream, it allows you to dream with me; to open the cage of your imagination and set me free.
oh! I arrive my wheels, I arrive.
I come with the heartbeat, bringing life.
Bringing life, you come with the motion.
We have the energy for laughter.
I arrive my wheels, I arrive
with a slow humiliation.
The elegance I crave, a figment
of my hot imagination
until I rest in your embrace.
until we are one. and we glide.
oh! I arrive my wheels, I arrive
and we are reborn in the morning.
I ease from the upright agony of fire
into your enveloping embrace.
I arrive my wheels, I arrive
with a keen anticipation
to be rescued from the primitive
to our shared configuration.
oh my wheels, I am handicapped
until we are one. And we glide.
The next pool performance is on Friday, on Portland. www.wearefreewheeling.org.uk/freewheeling-performances
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 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,
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.