Sue Austin


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© Copyright Sue Austin 2010





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. Through the dissection of narratives that act to dis-empower, and deriving an understanding of the thought patterns that act to hold them in place, previous Freewheeling collaborations have used surreal juxtapositions and quirky re-presentations of disability equipment to facilitate new ways of seeing, being and knowing.

To achieve this, techniques such as direct intervention into the cityscape, multimedia installation and performance have been used to convey these messages and generate a wide spread public debate about the nature/value of a contemporary arts practice shaped by the experience of disability.

A prime concern of future research will be to examine the narratives and preconceptions that act to dis-empower and ‘disable’ and then find dramatic and powerful ways to re-position disability and Disability Arts as the ‘Hidden Secret’. It is argued 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’. It has been successfully debated that the reintegrating and healing of the
ontological alienation (1) within the artist, through creative endeavours, leads to a reincorporation of that liminal (2) state (of what was previously seen as transgressive) as a valued, life enhancing and powerful part of the community that previously rejected it (Lee Davis Creal, 2006) (3).

While being disability led, the work will also have a focus on valuing the interplay between disabled and non-disabled artists and arts producers, creating spaces where mutual learning can take place. This is seen as an effective strategy when aiming to raise the profile and value of work informed by the experience of disability because, through that integration, disability and disabled artists are modelled as being an equal, valued and integral part of the diverse range of embodiments that form part of our arts and cultural sector.

Download buttonFor more information on Freewheeling and the initiative's current work download the recent Arts Council Impact bid (476kb).


(1) Apple Dictionary Ontology: A branch of Metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
Alienation: noun, the state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved : unemployment may generate a sense of political alienation.
The Concept of ontological alienation is based on Sartre’s third level of bodily ontology: ‘alienation from the body’ which is created by vividly and continuously seeing the body not as one experiences it but through the eyes of other people, ie negative cultural stereotypes about disablilty.
(2) Liminal: (Apple Dictionary) ˈadjective, 1 of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2 occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. Or (Collins English Dictionary): Relating to the point (or threshold) at which a sensation become too faint to be experienced. I use this – ‘on the edge of /edgy’
(3) Lee Davis Creal (2006) The “Disability of Thinking” the “Disabled” Body (Course paper, York University, Toronto,