Sue's current artistic practice combines the theoretical and aesthetic elements of:
The socio-cultural implications of the presences and absences (Derrida) created by the ‘traces’ left by the wheelchair;
The surreal, unexpected juxtapositions arising from the image of the Underwater Wheelchair which act to reshape cultural preconceptions about disability (Narrative theory);
The appropriation of the semiotics of display (e.g. those used in car commercials) to attach concepts of drama and glamour to the objecthood of the wheelchair;
The power of repositioning ‘extensions to the body’ through associating the glamour and adventure of scuba equipment with the extensions to ‘being’ provided by the wheelchair;
Creating associations that act to make the NHS wheelchair, visible, iconic and valuable.
As documentary artist for the Testing the Edges Action Research Project Sue is developing an area of theory around her position within the project. In producing a film to capture some of the processes involved with the development of each performance, Sue has been aiming to draw out some of the answers to the challenging questions that the participants have set themselves. In this work she will bring to bear her past work on disability, identity and how this influences artistic practice. In addition, she is questioning her role within the process and ‘the gaze’ she brings to the work, viewing the world from the level of a wheelchair.
“While theory about the existence of the male and female gaze has been comprehensively discussed, through this film I would like to extend the parameters of thinking around this subject to formulate the existence of the ‘disabled’ gaze.”
“Through this work I am starting to explore the reality that the experience of disability profoundly affects the way one experiences, views and is viewed by the world. While filming from a wheelchair it has become apparent that this ‘vehicle’ completely shapes the footage, the way people interact with the camera and the construction of the resulting piece. It is hoped that this outcome can inhabit an ambiguous space where the forms used play with the fact that the reception of the work is shaped by the preconceptions of the viewer and their attitudes about/response to the concept of ‘disability’.”
“There is a dichotomy in understanding: Many people understand this word to mean broken, deficient or limited in some way. But for those ‘in the know’ ‘disability’ celebrates the strengths and power that is built up in and through ‘difference’ – ‘The Hidden Secret’. For them, if there is any sense of limitation attached to this use of the term, it is seen as residing in limitations in thinking. Thinking that results in the attitudinal or physical barriers which act to ‘disable’ their lives. For them the word ‘disability’ becomes a term of empowerment that frees them by bringing into consciousness those restrictions that have been shaping their experiences and identity.”
The forms used within these films might also be considered by some to be ‘broken, deficient or limited in some way’. In the work there is an intention to subvert the objective stance and editing of the traditional documentary through techniques that amplify Sue’s subjective position. The use of unexpected camera angles, changes in sound level, camera shake, jerky edits which demonstrate the manipulation of the material, flickering artefacts and a disembodied voice asking questions from behind the camera all act to make the viewer aware of this subjective view point and repeatedly bring people back to the ‘materiality’ of the moving image.