English subtitles

← Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair

Get Embed Code
34 Languages

Showing Revision 5 created 07/31/2013 by Thu-Huong Ha.

  1. It's wonderful to be here
  2. to talk about my journey,
  3. to talk about the wheelchair
  4. and the freedom it has bought me.
  5. I started using a wheelchair 16 years ago

  6. when an extended illness
  7. changed the way I could access the world.
  8. When I started using the wheelchair,
  9. it was a tremendous new freedom.
  10. I'd seen my life slip away and become restricted.
  11. It was like having an enormous new toy.
  12. I could whiz around and feel the wind in my face again.
  13. Just being out on the street was exhilarating.
  14. But even though I had this newfound joy and freedom,

  15. people's reaction completely changed towards me.
  16. It was as if they couldn't see me anymore,
  17. as if an invisibility cloak had descended.
  18. They seemed to see me in terms of their assumptions
  19. of what it must be like to be in a wheelchair.
  20. When I asked people their associations with the wheelchair,
  21. they used words like "limitation," "fear,"
  22. "pity" and "restriction."
  23. I realized I'd internalized these responses
  24. and it had changed who I was on a core level.
  25. A part of me had become alienated from myself.
  26. I was seeing myself not from my perspective,
  27. but vividly and continuously from the perspective
  28. of other people's responses to me.
  29. As a result, I knew I needed to make my own stories

  30. about this experience,
  31. new narratives to reclaim my identity.
  32. ["Finding Freedom: 'By creating our own stories we learn to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do 'official' narratives.' — Davis 2009, TEDx Women"]

  33. I started making work

  34. that aimed to communicate something
  35. of the joy and freedom I felt when using a wheelchair --
  36. a power chair -- to negotiate the world.
  37. I was working to transform these internalized responses,
  38. to transform the preconceptions that had so shaped
  39. my identity when I started using a wheelchair,
  40. by creating unexpected images.
  41. The wheelchair became an object to paint and play with.
  42. When I literally started leaving
  43. traces of my joy and freedom,
  44. it was exciting to see
  45. the interested and surprised responses from people.
  46. It seemed to open up new perspectives,
  47. and therein lay the paradigm shift.
  48. It showed that an arts practice
  49. can remake one's identity
  50. and transform preconceptions by revisioning the familiar.
  51. So when I began to dive, in 2005,

  52. I realized scuba gear extends your range of activity
  53. in just the same way as a wheelchair does,
  54. but the associations attached to scuba gear
  55. are ones of excitement and adventure,
  56. completely different to people's responses to the wheelchair.
  57. So I thought, "I wonder what'll happen

  58. if I put the two together?" (Laughter) (Applause)
  59. And the underwater wheelchair that has resulted
  60. has taken me on the most amazing journey
  61. over the last seven years.
  62. So to give you an idea of what that's like,

  63. I'd like to share with you one of the outcomes
  64. from creating this spectacle,
  65. and show you what an amazing journey it's taken me on.
  66. (Music)

  67. (Applause)

  68. It is the most amazing experience,

  69. beyond most other things I've experienced in life.
  70. I literally have the freedom to move
  71. in 360 degrees of space
  72. and an ecstatic experience of joy and freedom.
  73. And the incredibly unexpected thing

  74. is that other people seem to see and feel that too.
  75. Their eyes literally light up,
  76. and they say things like, "I want one of those,"
  77. or, "If you can do that, I can do anything."
  78. And I'm thinking, it's because in that moment

  79. of them seeing an object
  80. they have no frame of reference for,
  81. or so transcends the frames of reference
  82. they have with the wheelchair,
  83. they have to think in a completely new way.
  84. And I think that moment of completely new thought
  85. perhaps creates a freedom
  86. that spreads to the rest of other people's lives.
  87. For me, this means that they're seeing
  88. the value of difference,
  89. the joy it brings
  90. when instead of focusing on loss or limitation,
  91. we see and discover the power and joy
  92. of seeing the world from exciting new perspectives.
  93. For me, the wheelchair becomes
  94. a vehicle for transformation.
  95. In fact, I now call the underwater wheelchair "Portal,"
  96. because it's literally pushed me through
  97. into a new way of being,
  98. into new dimensions and into a new level of consciousness.
  99. And the other thing is,

  100. that because nobody's seen or heard
  101. of an underwater wheelchair before,
  102. and creating this spectacle is about creating
  103. new ways of seeing, being and knowing,
  104. now you have this concept in your mind.
  105. You're all part of the artwork too.
  106. (Applause)