Sue Austin Creates Underwater Spectacles in a Wheelchair

Disabled woman Sue Austin performs using her underwater wheelchair for Creating the Spectacle
Disabled woman Sue Austin performs using her underwater wheelchair for Creating the Spectacle
Photo of British artist Sue Austin in her underwater wheelchair for the “Creating the Spectacle!” project.

British artist Sue Austin, using a self-propelled underwater wheelchair, creates visually mesmerizing and conceptually challenging images to encourage a shift in the way our society views disability. Sue Austin became wheelchair-dependent in the ’90s after a long illness.

The acclaimed performance artist is the founder and artistic director of Freewheeling, an initiative aiming to further the genre of Disability Arts. According to the team’s official website, her mission is to “challenge the idea of disabled as ‘other’ and represent her experience as a wheelchair user in a brighter light. She does this by creating quirky, unexpected juxtapositions – bringing a sense of empowerment to the discussion of disability and difference.”

In 2012, Sue Austin delivered a breathtaking immersive dance project, titled “Creating the Spectacle!,” as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. This underwater work of art was shot around the sea life of Sharm el Sheik, Egypt by Norman Lomax of Moving Content.

Since then her artwork has been viewed globally by over 150 million people. The artist’s powerful images of being strapped to a wheelchair and floating underwater wearing a summer dress, sunglasses, and a scuba mask, soaked in the inspiring music of Jack Martin, invite people to re-imagine a new concept of freedom.

Last month, the British installation artist performed live with her wheelchair underwater for the “Creating the Spectacle!” art event that was part of the Adelaide (ADL) Film Festival.

To learn more about Sue Austin’s unique artistic practice you can watch the video below. The video was filmed during TED’s TEDxWomen conference in December 2012 and shows the British artist delivering a talk entitled “Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair.”