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> > > Simon Mckeown's films 'Motion Disabled' and 'All for Claire'

28 June 2011

By Garry Robson, Artistic Director, Dada-Fest International

still showing a female dancer from Motion Disabled

Claire Cunningham - Motion Disabled (c) 2010 Simon Mckeown

There was a theory doing the rounds a few years ago that the reason that so many able bodied people are freaked out by disabled people is because of the way they move.

It would appear that our primitive ancestors spent most of their short lives in a flight or fight mode and anything that didn’t move quite like them was probably out to eat them or at least do them some serious damage. Seems this has become deeply engrained in our genes and that’s why we freak them out. Well as I said it’s a theory.

I’ve always figured I moved in an rather lovely defiantly interesting sort of way but then again I would say that wouldn’t I. Heidi Latsky’s dance work 'Gimp' which opened last years DaDaFest International nailed it for me with all the dancers parading joyfully to the strident sounds of Bodyrocker’s “I Like the Way You Move.”

So of course I fell straight in love with Simon’s Motion Disabled exhibition when I first saw it many moons ago at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Here were the movement of disabled people stripped away of all social and cultural baggage and played out as just pure shape and balance. As if to say – hey what you all so scared of, it’s just movement after all!

It was great to see a Disabled artist engaging so confidently with new media, working in such an imaginatively, making pertinent points about the experience of disability but in such an accessible and entertaining way. When figures were night time projected in Leeds a few months later I knew I had to have Motion Disabled for 2010’s DaDaFest International.  

still from animation showing a male and female character

All for Claire by Simon Mckeown (c) 2010

Scottish dance artist Claire Cunningham had been one of the outstanding performers in Liverpool in 2008 and as I knew we were planning to expand DaDaFest into Scotland in 2010 she seemed the obvious new commission to join the ranks of the avatars in Simons show. And oh what a beautiful addition.

When Claire moves she seems to defy gravity and combines a tenderness, strength yet frailty that can move grown men to tears. Well this one anyhow.

Simon’s piece capture this perfectly and when we were able to join with 19 other countries worldwide to night time project the piece as part of International Day of Disabled People, to see Claire looking upwards from the streets as her avatar danced above her in the December rain was a heart stopping moment.

Simon went on to use the avatar to devise a beautiful piece of children’s animation bringing its positive message of difference and ability to a whole new audience and winning a major award at this year’s Deaf Fest.

Mr McKeown, I like the way you move!

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