Teesside lecturer breaks the last taboos of disability
Internationally renowned artist Simon McKeown from Teesside University is hoping to break the last taboos around disability as part of his contribution to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Simon McKeown with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Simon, who is himself disabled, is putting together a digital installation which uses animation to show how disabled athletes move. It will be an integral part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad festival show case.
Simon McKeown’s exhibition can be viewed at Teesside University Darlington from 18 – 29 June, Monday to Friday 9.00am – 8.00pm.
One of Simon’s models for the animated production is Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who was born with spina bifida and was one of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK. Baroness Grey-Thompson is also an honorary Doctor of Laws at Teesside University.
Viewers are given the opportunity to watch a series of motion capture based work featuring paralympians demonstrating their sport. It gives people the chance to reflect and see what it is like to walk and jump without legs or sail with one arm.
Also taking part in Motion Disabled Unlimited is archer Danielle Brown; power lifter Ali Jawad born without legs; Hanna Stodel, one third of Great Britain’s world champion Paralympic Sonar Sailing team; Anton Raimondo, one of the leading stars of GB’s sitting volleyball team; shotputter Danny Nobbs; Kenny Churchill (javelin); and Rob Richardson current captain of the sitting volleyball team.
As well as recording paralympic body shapes Motion Disabled Unlimited uses 3D software to create large inflatable structures, as well as animations for presentation both on public screens and on smart phones. A large inflatable thalidomide sculpture will form the core part of the exhibition which will be featured in cities around the UK over the summer months before the London 2012 show case at the London South Bank Centre 1-9 September.
Condition has made me what I am
Simon, who has worked as a Reader at Teesside University since 2004 in the School of Computing, was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a condition causing extremely fragile bones. 'I’ve probably broken over 100 bones,' he reflects. 'But my condition has made me what I am. It has made me artistic and patient and I have grown and developed what I do because of this.'
His original piece of work, Motion Disabled, went global in a single day when it was projected on to buildings in 17 countries all over the world. He has exhibited at the Smithsonian International Gallery, and in Australia, South Korea , USA and all over the UK. His work for the Cultural Olympiad continues the theme of exploring his interest in normality and difference.
The athletes had their motions captured at Centroid’s facility at London’s historic Pinewood Studios. Simon says: 'People are often embarrassed to look at people with disabilities and there is still a cultural taboo around disability which is a big issue in the UK. This is an opportunity to look, see and be fascinated by beautiful motions and bodies and break that taboo.'
Simon, a trustee of the Brittle Bones Society adds: 'Around 20% of the population will, at some point in their life be identified as disabled, but still disabled people are not visible enough in our culture and on television.
'I want to change that. Disability is unique, an exciting part of the fabric of our society and Motion Disabled Unlimited is a chance see, without embarrassment the way people with disabilities use their bodies in sport and day to day life.'
Motion Disabled Unlimited has been commissioned by the Unlimited programme, part of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad.
Unlimited encourages collaborations and partnerships between disability arts organisations, disabled and deaf artists, producers and mainstream organisations to celebrate the inspiration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to create original and exciting works. Twenty-nine Unlimited Commissions have been awarded.
06 June 2012
In the News
The McKeown Effect
Disability Now, 01/10/2012, p.52
Now a reader in the School of Computing at Teesside University, McKeown continues to practise his art using cutting edge techniques. As part of the recent Unlimited Festival which lent a cultural and artistic aspect to the Paralympic Games, he produced a project called Motion Disabled: Unlimited.
Teesside University coverage
BBC WS, The Strand, 30/08/2012, 15:31:02
Artist Simon McKeown talks about an art installation which has been inpired by paralympic athletes, focusing on the movements made by their bodies.
It's a show-filled summer at mima
Evening Gazette, 20/07/2012, p.2
Simon uses advanced motion capture technology to record in perfect detail the beautiful intricacies of a different body's movements. Simon is reader in post production and animation at Teesside University where he teaches across BA and MA levels.
Teesside lecturer breaks the last taboos of disability
North Lincolnshire Online (Web), 10/07/2012
Simon Mckeown is an artist and researcher at Teeside University. For his Motion Disabled project he has been working with leading experts in CGI imagery to map the movements of a series of subjects with varying degrees of disability. The resulting video works mirror Etienne-Jules Mareys mapping of movements or the body in the 19th century and is a fascinating and poetic insight into how disabled people move and encounter everyday situations and activities.
Artist highlights paralympian sporting achievements
Darlington & Stockton Times, 22/06/2012, p.4
An exhibition by a disabled Teesside University artist will be shown at the university's Darlington campus this month. The digital installation, created by computer expert Simon McKeown, uses motion-capture animation featuring paralympians demonstrating their sport, showing what it is like to walk and jump without legs or sail with one arm.
Bodies in motion to break taboos
Sunday Sun, 17/06/2012, p.20
A world-renowned artist from the North is hoping to break taboos around disability as part of his contribution to the Olympic Games. Simon McKeown, who is himself disabled, is putting together a digital installation which uses animation to show how disabled athletes move. Simon, from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who is a lecturer at Teesside University, was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition causing extremely fragile bones.
Animation stars disabled athletes
BBC (Web), 16/06/2012
Motion Disabled Unlimited gives people the chance to see what it is like to walk and jump without legs or sail with one arm. In the animation, viewers can watch a series of motion captures featuring paralympians demonstrating their sport. The exhibition is going on show at Teesside University's Darlington campus before it joins the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad festival show in September.
Why we should all take a long, hard look at Paralympians
The Times, 02/06/2012, p.12; The Times Online, 02/06/2012, p.1
Disabled athlete Simon McKeown, a reader in post-production and animation at Teesside University, calls for more appreciation of Paralympic athletes.
Teesside University Very able bodies
The Times Higher Education Supplement, 14/06/2012, p.14
An academic has created an animation installation to show the public how disabled athletes move. Simon McKeown, who has brittle bone disease, teaches 3D animation and post-production in Teesside University's School of Computing.
Disabled athletes... in animation
Northern Echo, 15/06/2012, p.11
An exhibition by a disabled Teesside University artist is to be shown at the university's Darlington campus. The digital installation created by computer expert, Simon McKeown, uses animation to show how disabled athletes move and will become an integral part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad festival showcase.
Breaking taboos on disabled athletes
Northern Echo, 09/06/2012, p.68
Disabled artist Simon McKeown hopes to break the last taboos about disability as part of his contribution to the 2012 Olympic Games. The computer expert, from Teesside University, is creating a digital installation using animation to show how disabled athletes move and it will become an integral part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad festival showcase.