This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Colin Hambrook responds to Motion Disabled Unlimited @ Southbank Centre / 27 August 2012

photo of a large inflatable sculpture of a figure with short arms in Leicester city centre

The 11 metre high inflatable version of Motion Disabled Unlimited takes to the streets in Leicester city centre

Zoom in to this image and read text description

A core part of Simon McKeown's 'Motion Disabled Unlimited' commission is an 11-metre-tall  inflatable sculpture of a disabled avatar with short arms, which has been touring the country. Deborah Caulfield wrote a response for DAO, analysing its impact as part of the torch relay celebrations, in South Park, Oxford last month.

Since then its been hard to keep up with it. The sculpture appeared in the Festival Square in Edinburgh and in Leicester. From the 29th August to 2nd September it will be on display in the Jubilee Gardens, on the Southbank before being moved on to the Festival Terrace from 3-4th September

Throughout the duration of Unlimited, from 1st-9th of September - the video components of the project are being shown on the Level 2 Foyer inside the Royal Festival Hall.

Taking the motion of the modern day disabled athlete, the Paralympian, McKeown uses Hollywood technology to create 3D avatars that invite you to find the beauty, the exotic and the normal within their movements and physical form.

Mckeown explores the borders between normality and difference and celebrates the movement of disabled people in a way that is as compelling as much as it demands that the audience question ideas of impairment as loss.

I remember when I saw the first pieces of motion-capture work in the series in 2009 it struck me as a piece of 'Dance for Film' exploring the uniqueness of movement and physicality associated with particular impairments. In the last few years with advances in digital technology this medium has been used more and more in live performance.

For example Klaus Obermaier's 'Apparition' which was shown at the Brighton Festival earlier this year turned the moving forms of live dancers into kinetic shapes and forms. Think Bridget Riley stripes moving as they describe a physical form and you'll see what I mean. As clever as this kind of work is, in turning the movement of the human body into something visually stunning, it is facile. I love the way it uses technology to create something new, but it strikes me as cold and lacking in emotional response.

McKeown's work, like the best of Disability Arts, has something real to say about the value of a world inhabited by a wider range of types of human being. As Pauline Heath, one of the actors in the first Motion Disabled film capture series, said: "If you think about a world without disabled people, it would be a bit bland - a bit like IKEA."

Motion Disabled Unlimited can also be seen at the West Cheshire College, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire from 5th - 8th of September and Market Square, Loughborough City Centre  on the 9th September.

Listen out for Simon Mckeown being interviewed on BBC World Service's The Strand on 29 August

Lastly, he is also one of the artists being featured as part of PushMePlease

Keywords: 2012 olympics,artist film and video,disability art