Disability Innovation Summit

A first person shot of a person sitting in a restaurant handling a menu on top of a white table cloth.
Jane Gauntlett - 'In my Shoes'

On 13 and 14 July, Unlimited Trainee Becky Dann, along with Unlimited’s Jo Verrent and Clara Giraud, attended the Disability Innovation Summit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London. Here, Becky reflects on the Unlimited presentation ‘Unlimited innovation: How Disabled Artists are Harnessing the Power of Technology’.

Unlimited were asked to present at the Disability Innovation Summit at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; as someone who is still relatively new to working with Unlimited I found it interesting to sit in on the talk given by Clara, Jo, Unlimited-supported artists Aidan Moseby and Jane Gauntlett, and learn more about the work and artists.

A woman in red trousers standing in front of a Powerpoint Presentation. On the screen is a painting of a retro tv set with purple and yellow flowered wallpaper behind.

Jo Verrent presenting Cameron Morgan’s ‘TV Classics Part 1’

Jo showed the work ’TV Classics Part 1’ by Cameron Morgan whose work was to celebrate learning disability culture. Cameron used the idea of technology to represent his love for television, films and music. Each painting that Cameron produced showed a different TV show through the decades.

Then Jo spoke about Sue Austin’s work ’Creating the Spectacle’, which used technology to create a wheelchair that could act as a scuba diving suit. Sue said that unlike some people who feel as though a wheelchair restricts them, she felt that it set her free and gave her freedom and that being underwater represented that. The final piece was available to view in a virtual reality (VR) 360 degree headset allowing people to feel that sense of freedom with her.

Another artist’s work that Jo spoke about was Sabrina Shirazi’s work ‘OPUS’ which I had the pleasure of experiencing the other day. Using the idea that taste can change the way we hear music and using bone conduction to feel music which many deaf people use to listen to music. Sabrina Shirazi made little balls that you can hold and connect to via Bluetooth to play music. It was extremely fascinating to be able to feel music rather than listen to it. She is currently working on a lollipop version where you can taste and feel.

Up next Aidan Moesby, one of Unlimited’s supported artists, spoke about his current work ‘Between Stillness and Storm’ which utilises solar panels and sensors to use the weather as a source of power. Creating audio and visual responses to the changing of the weather. This was a representation of the emotions of the people at the festivals where the work is presented. Aidan also spoke about his previous work, ‘Sagacity’, a periodic table of emotions which used technology to collect data through social media, texts etc., showing the mood of the city it was showing in.

Picture of a white balloon glowing at dusk. Selection of plants in the frame.

Aidan Moesby’s ‘Between Stillness and Storm’

The last speaker was Jane Gauntlett, who spoke about her work ‘In My Shoes’, a project created to explore the idea of empathy. This project uses virtual reality to recreate an evening when Jane was at a restaurant with friends and had an epileptic seizure. The whole story is told through Jane’s eyes and so when you are wearing the virtual reality headsets you feel as though you are her, in the restaurant. You can hear her thoughts, see her surroundings, and really immerse yourself in her world. As I am still quite new, this was the first time I had heard about this work and immediately fell in love with it. Jane spoke about when she exhibited the work once, a group of young boys came in laughing and joking about it and then took part in it, commentating all through it trying to challenge Jane, and then the next day a lady came running in and straight away took part, she then admitted to Jane that her son had tried it the day before and had told her all about it. It was then that Jane realised that the work was making people think and feel that empathy which I think is amazing.

A woman in a dark dress stands in front a Powerpoint presentation.

Jane Gauntlett presenting ‘In My Shoes’

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