This Surreal Underwater Art Will Transform Your Perception Of Disability: An Extraordinary Event #YOUMUSTSEE At This Year’s ADLFF

Sue Austin

For the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, acclaimed British multimedia, performance and installation artist Sue Austin will present her underwater, live art event ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ exclusively as part of Adelaide Film Festival.

Austin will take her wheelchair underwater to perform a stunningly beautiful work that will be filmed and projected poolside. The award-winning Restless Dance Theatre will accompany her with a performance as part of the unique event, which opens up debate around societal attitudes to disability through the presentation of empowered and empowering images. Tickets are available now for 18 October and 19 October.

Here are five reasons Sue Austin is an extraordinary artist.

Her underwater wheelchair is a world-first

Austin invented her underwater wheelchair with dive experts and academics. It’s an incredible example of technology: self-propelled, the model is powered by a pair of dive propulsion vehicles and steered with a special fin and foot-operated acrylic strip.

Austin reportedly worked with her team for months on the project to ensure perfect buoyancy.

She co-founded arts organisation ‘Freewheeling’

To help bring her ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ artwork to life, Austin co-founded an arts organisation with collaborator Trish Wheatley called Freewheeling.

Not long after that, ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ made waves across the world when it was presented as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, a series of cultural events that accompanied the Olympics.

She’s taken open water dives around the world

From a dive club in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt to the pool facilities of Dorset, England, Austin has taken plenty of open water dives in her wheelchair.

But regardless of the experience she’s accumulated, her ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ performances are still physically demanding, which she told Access Magazine is in part because of her choice of clothing.

“I originally tried using all sorts of different costumes for the artwork, before realising that I ought to come back to the original photograph, in which I was wearing a summer dress – that I should try to create a coherent development,” she told Access Magazine. To get around the problem, Austin says she now uses techniques to ensure her core temperature goes back up as quickly as possible.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center invited her to speak

Always an engaging speaker, Austin has been invited to present her ideas at a wide range of prestigious events. But perhaps the most notable was an invitation from NASA, who invited her to speak at the Johnson Space Center on the importance of diversity.

The gathering was not open to the public, but was broadcast online.

Her work is an expression of freedom

Austin’s artistic work has been described as “like an extraordinary underwater ballet”, and that it has the power to break down engrained perceptions people have of disability.

“I started wanting to make work around my wheelchair, but what I found was that everyone always interpreted it as if I was trying to say something negative about limitation fear,” Austin told the BBC.

“But for me it’s always been about freedom, it’s transformed my life.”

Sue Austin: ‘Creating the Spectacle!’ will take place 18 and 19 October at the North Adelaide Aquatic Centre. Tickets are available now for 18 October and 19 October.