Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair

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Sue Austin
Freewheeling, Testing the Water
Sue Austin is a multimedia, performance and installation artist. Over an extended period of time her practice has operated as a vehicle to open up a thinking space around the materiality of the wheelchair. This is being used as a metaphor to raise questions about the value of diversity to society through raising the profile of ‘difference’.
Sue Austin: Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair

Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair

Rather than being didactic, however, a primary aim will be to create portals or multiple entrances into the resulting artwork (eg. through live art, associated online and multi-platform presentation, etc) so that it can find a way to ask questions but at the same time leave space for the audience to generate their own meanings. She aims to find dramatic and powerful ways to re-position disability and Disability Arts as the ‘Hidden Secret’. She argues that this ‘secret’, if explored, valued and then shared, can act to heal the divisions created in the social psyche by cultural dichotomies that define the ‘disabled’ as ‘other’.

Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair

When Sue Austin got a power chair 16 years ago, she felt a tremendous sense of freedom — yet others looked at her as though she had lost something. In her art, she aims to convey the spirit of wonder she feels wheeling through the world. Includes thrilling footage of an underwater wheelchair that lets her explore ocean beds, drifting through schools of fish, floating free in 360 degrees.

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”


Currently attending MA Fine Art,
commenced in September 2009, part-time, University of Plymouth.

BA Hons. Fine Art. Classification: First Class,
University of Plymouth, 2003 – 2009
Thesis: Self-Narration as a means of restoring the alienated body: An Investigation into the power of Discourses on Disability and Ontological Theories to reposition the Embodiment and Art-Practice of the Disabled Artist.

Fine Art Access Course, North Devon College, Barnstaple, 2000 – 2003.

Art Portfolio Course, North Devon College, Barnstaple, 1999 – 2000.

Strengths Assessment Diploma, Mental Health, Research and Development in Psychiatry, June 1992 – 1994.

BSc Hons. Psychology, University College of Swansea, University of Wales, 1984 – 1987.
Dissertation: Investigating the therapeutic benefit of introducing professional artists into mental health day care settings in Carmarthenshire, Wales.


Freewheeling – Founder & Artistic Director. Freewheeling is an emerging disability led initiative focused on providing a ‘hub’ around which to foster integrated arts projects, allowing ideas and artistic concepts to develop while maintaining an emphasis on promoting academic research that aims to reposition Disability Arts and the status of disabled artists within the mainstream cultural sector. March 2009 – present

Testing the Water – Current project, programmed for B-Side Multimedia Arts Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad events at Weymouth and Portland. R&D funded by the Arts Council’s Impact fund. See Current Practice for more information. August 2010 – present