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> > > Simon Fildes talks about his Unlimited research and development award

Acclaimed video-dance artist Simon Fildes is one of the creators benefiting from research and development support as part of Unlimited 2014. He talks to Paul F Cockburn about his plans to develop a short stop-frame animation with 3D printed models, exploring exhaustion; and how this will be the first time he's used himself as a subject for his work

“I’m still trying to get to grips with what the concept of a disabled artist is,” says Simon Fildes. Originally a musician, Simon has worked in video art and interactive sound and visual installations – often in collaboration with his wife, Katrina McPherson – for the best part of 20 years. “When you have a disability the world views YOU differently,” he says, “which is why I’ve never previously made much of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS), for it’s one hell of a badge to carry around.”

As part of the recently announced first phase of Unlimited 2014, Simon will receive £5,000 (through Creative Scotland) to help research and develop a short stop-frame animation, using 3D-printed models, exploring the concept of fatigue. Provisionally titled Exhaustion, the animation is intended to contrast the flawlessness of the technology with the struggle of the models to perform, playing with notions of perfection, performance and physicality. Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

“It’s never normally about me,” he says, when asked about his work. “Katrina and myself create work that involves a lot of improvisation; it has concepts and themes, but we consciously avoid talking about ourselves. Yet obviously MS has been very much in my mind; my diagnoses was at the end of 2009, although I clearly had it for a long time before.”

Simon is the first to accept that, prior to this application for funding from Unlimited, he had never labeled himself as a ‘disabled artist’. “This project has been on our slate of ideas for a while; I saw the funding opportunity come up, and thought it might fit. I have MS. I have a Blue Badge. I guess I qualify.”

It’s early days, of course. With the awards just announced this week, Simon has only begun making contact with a few people to see if they can help on the technical side. And it’s not as if his diary is empty. “We have other projects ongoing right now,” he points out. “There’s one project that has to be finished by the end of September, it’s launching in Hong Kong later in the year. And we’ve a documentary to make…”

Some might well ask, of course, why he needs the money. “Initially, I need to develop a proof of concept, as it were. I don’t really understand the animation process; I really need to do the research, and that involves talking to experts. I didn’t want to go to those experts and not pay them for their time: I want to go to somebody and say: I’ve got a fee for you, let’s sit down and go through the process. Then I can work out a budget and schedule and the exact technical processes involved in doing what I want to do.

“That might actually rule it out altogether as a project,” he admits, “or make it feasible; I just don’t know. The main thing will be at least we’ll be at the point I can say one way or the other.”