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World's first underwater wheelchair beautifully surreal

A UK artist has created a prototype of a self-propelled underwater wheelchair.

A UK artist has created a prototype of a self-propelled underwater wheelchair.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Artist Susan Austin has been in a wheelchair since 1996. It's something that has — obviously — had a massive influence on her life, and much of her art revolves around pushing the boundaries of what the chair can do.

The concept for the underwater wheelchair, the BBC reported, arrived after Austin learned to scuba dive in 2005. She has been working on perfecting it ever since, using it to perform Creating the Spectacle at the 2012 London Olympiad Cultural event.

Using a wheelchair, Austin added several modifications to make it submersible: two dive propulsion devices, designed for people with disabilities, were attached to the chair, as well as two "wings" that were attached to the heel plates for steering. The hardest part was perfecting the buoyancy — a process that took several months before Austin hit upon using swimming floats.

Already, Austin has had several expressions of interest in a commercial model of her chair.

She said on her website:

My studio practice has, for some time, centred around finding ways to understand and represent my embodied experience as a wheelchair user, opening up profound issues about methods of self-representation and the power of self-narration in challenging the nexus of power and control that created the "disabled" as other.

In the chair, Austin looks born to the water. See her in action in the video below.