Sue Austin Creating the Spectacle

An internationally renowned artist whose work has been seen by more than 100 million people globally has been appointed artist-in-residence at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute.

Sue Austin, who recently completed a masters degree in contemporary art practice at the University, earned widespread international acclaim for her inspirational project 'Creating the Spectacle!'

Premiered as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and supported by an Unlimited commission, the project saw her working with the University and Arts Council England to develop a powered wheelchair which she then used in an eye-catching underwater performance.

Now Sue will get the opportunity to use her creativity in conjunction with the Marine Institute, which represents an extensive pool of world-leading experts exploring the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the Marine Institute, says:

“The Artist in Residence position will enable Sue to work with the Marine Institute in order to help develop her art and to look to use her unique and inspirational interaction with the marine environment to highlight key issues around ocean conservation. Sue and her team also have exciting plans to develop a flying wheelchair and even look at zero gravity trips into space, so we are delighted to form this partnership with her.”

The Marine Institute has four existing artists in residence, all of whom use the sea and coast as an inspiration for their work:

  • Composer in residence Dr Alexis Kirke, whose award-winning projects include transforming the University wave tanks into a giant percussion instrument for 'SoundWave'.
  • Writer in residence Philip Hoare, whose work 'Leviathan or, The Whale' won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non fiction.
  • Artist in residence Deborah Robinson, who collaborates with scientists and artists in the making of experimental installations.
  • Poet in residence Caroline Carver, whose collections and works have earned numerous accolades, including the 1998 National Poetry Prize.

Since her success in 2012 Sue has travelled the globe to talk about her work, with invitations to address a TEDx conference in Washington DC and a conference for NASA scientists in Houston, Texas.   

She has also recently secured funding for a pioneering new initiative – 360 Degrees – A New Angle on Access – which will see her working with Plymouth University, Eye Mirror and Living Options Devon to use digital technology to take art into community venues, and even people’s homes.

Sue Austin, who collected her masters certificate at a graduation ceremony in September 2014. says:

“I am extremely honoured and excited to be offered this position with the Marine Institute and to continue my long and successful association with Plymouth University. My experience as an underwater diver has given me a unique perspective on the marine conservation challenges currently facing the planet. By combining fields of art and marine science, I believe we can bring an enhanced appreciation of those challenges to a whole new audience.”

Sue Austin – 'Creating the Spectacle!'

Pushing the boundaries of art and forcing people to reflect on their view of disability, Sue's masterpiece 'Creating the Spectacle!' is a ground-breaking series of live art and film events recording an underwater wheelchair as it flies through the water.