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Another project which tackles head-on people’s expectations is Mat Fraser’s burlesque show. “There’s a strong burlesque movement within disability arts, in which Mat is a key figure,” Martin explains.

“We invited him to put together a performance that he called Crip Tease. By taking ownership of language that’s been employed in a particular way in the past, using it by choice, it says ‘this is my show’.”

Physical disabilities aren’t the festival’s sole focus, though, one of the most interesting projects being The Dean Rodney
Singers, an interactive multimedia project that’s the brainchild of autistic Londoner Dean Rodney.

A passionate artist and rapper, Rodney, 22, envisaged a world-spanning band of 72 members, disabled and abled alike, and set about bringing this vision to life with the support of music theatre group Heart N Soul.

He travelled the world, meeting prospective collaborators and working on music and videos, the iPad and a cornucopia of apps acting as the creative tool to bring the disparate elements – traditional Chinese music, tribal Brazilian beats, Kraftwerk-esque electro-tunes – together.

Presented through seven fantasy dimensions that help illustrate Rodney’s vision of the world, DRS personifies Unlimited’s scope, ambition and power to challenge.

A wholly immersive experience, for those creating it and experiencing it on the South Bank, it breaks down barriers and notions of ‘difference’.

“Disabled people have been fighting for their rights for a long time,” Martin says. “They were seen as a problem for society, the ‘medical’ model of disability, but now the model is very much a social one, that involves all of us.”

While attitudes have moved on from this misguided ‘medical’ model, there’s work still to be done to counter the ignorance about disability.

Unlimited’s breadth of talent on show will open eyes, and is a welcome step forwards. It’s our responsibility to become part of this journey, too.

 

Celebrating Spare Parts: Aussie Artist’s Exhibition

Unlimited is not the only show in town to be celebrating disabled art. Australian Priscilla Sutton has brought her prosthetics exhibition Spare Parts to London to coincide with the Paralympics, too.

Debuting in 2010 in Brisbane, the show calls on artists across the world to use their prosthetic limbs as the canvas for their works of art.

The pieces range from sculptures by Dorset-based artist Charlie Tuesday Gates, including a Dali-esque piece envisaging a below-the-knee prosthetic as the base for an erupting head, all influenced by the childhood subconscious, to Australian Erica Gray, a mainstay of the 2010 exhibition, who has designed a new art work for this 2012 collection.

Sutton has been an amputee since 2006, when she decided on surgery to remove a bone condition.

Spare Parts aims to celebrate prosthetics, but also to kick start a conversation about what can be achieved with them.

Unlimited at Southbank Centre.
Aug 30-Sept 9. Times/ prices vary
SE1 8XX  
Tube | Waterloo 
unlimited.southbankcentre.co.uk

Photos: Alison Baskerville; Racel cherry; Martine Cotton


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Breaking barriers: The Unlimited arts festival is here to change the way we think, as the Paralympics kick off in London
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