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Creating the Spectacle!: Underwater Wheelchair Video

Published : 2012-07-28 - Updated : 2021-02-21
Author : Disabled World - Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)

Synopsis: Sue Austin in underwater scuba equipment riding a self-propelled underwater wheelchair in the video clips Creating the Spectacle!. Austin has created, with the support of diving experts, an underwater wheelchair outfitted with a propeller and fins that allow her to steer. The underwater wheelchair enables Sue Austin to go on a gentle, dream like exploration of an exotic underwater world.

Main Digest

Sue Austin, from Devon, has been using a wheelchair since 1996 after contracting ME and has invented and helped create the world's first self-propelled underwater wheelchair with a team of diving experts.

In the lead up to the London 2012 Festival during the Olympic and Paralympic Games Ms Austin has staged a series of stunning underwater scuba performances called "Creating the Spectacle!" to show off her underwater art. "Creating the Spectacle!" is a ground breaking series of live art and film events that record an underwater wheelchair as it flies through the water with its human occupant.

Sue Austin in scuba gear riding a self-propelled underwater wheelchair in a scene from Creating the Spectacle, Finding Freedom.
Sue Austin in scuba gear riding a self-propelled underwater wheelchair in a scene from Creating the Spectacle, Finding Freedom.

"Through the performative presentation of a diverse embodiment, the main focus for this work is about reconfiguring preconceptions through the use of dramatic and unexpected juxtapositions that act to surprise, open up thinking and then, through that reordering of associations, to create empowered and empowering narratives. This manifests in an artistic practice that makes use of "surreal juxtapositions and quirky re-presentations of disability equipment to facilitate new ways of seeing, being and knowing"

Creating the Spectacle! Part 1: Finding Freedom

The underwater wheelchair enables Sue Austin to go on a gentle, dream like exploration of an exotic underwater world. Through unexpected juxtapositions, this work aims to excite and inspire by creating images that transform preconceptions.

Watch "Creating the Spectacle!" Part 1 - Finding Freedom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=IPh533ht5AU

Creating the Spectacle! Part 2: Finding the Flame

This is the second film in the "Creating the Spectacle!" Online series. It was a special commission from LOCOG for the Paralympic Flame Festivals.

Watch "Creating the Spectacle!" Freewheeling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e1XTLWpgGE

Austin has created, with the support of diving experts, an underwater wheelchair outfitted with a propeller and fins that allow her to steer. With it, she gracefully hovers through the deep ocean, mingling with fish and flying past coral reefs.

The underwater wheelchair is equipped with a clear fin, making the artificial device seem slightly less out of place in the serene ocean.

Finding a suitable dive propulsion vehicle to propel the chair was initially difficult because most propeller models were designed to be hand-held and Ms Austin lacked the strength to hold on to them. Eventually she trialled a model that was designed for divers with disabilities - and then added two to the wheelchair.

The wheelchair is equipped with swimming floats, fins, two foot-controlled drive propulsion vehicles, and steered with a bespoke fin and foot-operated acrylic strip. The underwater wheelchair also required a more robust seat to handle the pressure placed upon it during a performance.

The artist also performed swimming pool acrobatics in an underwater wheelchair as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations.

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Cite Page: Journal: Disabled World. Language: English (U.S.). Author: Disabled World. Electronic Publication Date: 2012-07-28 - Revised: 2021-02-21. Title: Creating the Spectacle!: Underwater Wheelchair Video, Source: <a href=https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/mobility/designs/underwater-wheelchair.php>Creating the Spectacle!: Underwater Wheelchair Video</a>. Retrieved 2021-06-18, from https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/mobility/designs/underwater-wheelchair.php - Reference: DW#525-13928.