Simon Mckeown graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic with a degree in Fine Art and since then has been working in digital animation and post-production. Simon has worked in many sectors of the media, from television post-production for BBC and ITV, to computer games, delivering high quality work such as the best-selling Driver series. Now a Reader in Animation and Post-Production for Teesside University, Simon has combined his expertise with the digital medium to a passion for exploring human difference, creating innovative and engaging artwork. Currently the most successful of these is ‘Motion Disabled’, the internationally celebrated and critically acclaimed installation.
The Motion Disabled exhibition explores society’s view of normality and difference, as we enter a landscape where the aesthetics of ‘different bodies’ are becoming lost due to advances in biomedical science.
Using advanced motion capture technology, Simon recorded in perfect detail the beautiful intricacies of a different body’s movements. 14 actors with disabilities ranging from Spina Bifida to Cerebral Palsy were asked to perform everyday tasks such as answering the phone, walking a dog or using a tin opener. Simon and his team then transformed this data onto a digital canvas, creating an avatar of each actor, left raw for the audience to experience.
As a deafened artist Simon hopes Motion Disabled can help viewers question any preconceptions they have of different bodies. These viewers now include audiences not only from Britain, but Australia, America and South Korea.
Motion Disabled extensions
Due to the success of its parent exhibition, Simon was commissioned as part of the Unlimited series of the Cultural Olympiad, to create a follow-up of Motion Disabled, designed to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic Games. ‘Motion Disabled: Unlimited’ uses a similar production process, however the motion capture focuses on Great Britain’s Paralympic athletes, and examining the idiosyncrasies that help them thrive in their sport. Completed in early 2012, the project features such prestigious athletes as Baroness Tanni Grey-Thomson, Hannah Stodel, Danny Nobbs and many more.
After completing the Motion Disabled project Simon immediately began working on his next installation, Motion Disabled: Faces. Supported by the Arts Council England, Faces is a more complex process that examines, with a playful twist, the eccentricities of five faces with a difference, as they laugh or cry, experience joy or recount sadness; their emotions and even the very words they speak become etched across their face. The process begins with facial motion capturing, a more detailed technique than used in Motion Disabled, before Simon and his team use photorealistic 3D modelling, lip-synching and digital manipulation to create a startling, impacting effect. Motion Disabled: Faces launched in May 2013 at The Public in West Bromwich.
Simon branched away from the raw aesthetic used in Motion Disabled and Motion Disabled: Unlimited with the colourful digital disability love story, ‘All For Claire’. The 8 minute animation tells the tale of Lee, a young man desperate to win the heart of Claire, the one he loves, with a beautiful red rose. However Lee is soon to discover that Claire plays hard-to-get with a difference, transporting him to strange worlds and assailing him with hailstorms of blue boxes. Will he and his rose ever win her heart?
The animation was created by motion capturing the actors Lee Soar and international performer Claire Cunningham. All For Claire was broadcast on BBC Big Screens across Britain, before winning Best Experimental Film at Deafest 2011. It has since been shown in festivals across the world and scheduled for many more.
Simon added to his repertoire of film work with dark, live-action drama ‘The Beaten’. Featuring legendary British disabled actor Liz Carr, The Beaten is a short story examining the possible threats that abuse of care and dominance may pose to disabled people now and in the future. Set in a damp, solitary cell our protagonist is constantly threatened by her carer, actor Philip Harrison. Is she a guilty prisoner, or a victimised innocent? When pushed to her limits how will she react?
Supported by the UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund and 104 Films, The Beaten will enjoy its international premier at Napoli’s Human Rights Film Festival in early November 2011.
For more information please see http://www.simon-mckeown.com