Taking an intersectional approach, the project explores the way gender and race structure the media representations of Para athletes and the extent this normalises and popularises certain disabled identities over others.
The work is part of a larger project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is led by Dr Emma Pullen, a Lecturer in Sport Management based within the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.
The project has analysed different forms of media coverage as well as investigate how different groups interact with media representations, such as Para athletes and people with disabilities with no connection to sport, to further explore the cultural impact of Paralympic media on lived experience.
Sophie Hoyle and Christopher Samuel were commissioned as the artists for the project in 2021, and their work was presented at a small exhibition held at Loughborough University London’s campus in September 2022, entitled Para-Representations.
Now, following the exhibition, Hoyle and Samuel are re-presenting their work in new contexts with Hoyle’s film Flex (2022) and one of Samuel’s series of five large-scale photographs, ‘You’re Not as Tall as You Look on Instagram (1 of 5) 2022.
Flex builds a picture of the complicated relationships a group of queer, trans, disabled and chronically ill people have with sporting activity. Spanning over forty minutes, the intimate conversations reveal a process of negotiating the limitations of gender identities associated with sport, alongside the politics of competition and nationalism, threats of violence and the promises of safer spaces.
Christopher Samuel’s photographs were produced in collaboration with a commercial photographer and explore the conventions which typically govern the ways in which para-athletes represent themselves on social media, considering ideas of revealing and concealing. Samuel was inspired by a divisive poster campaign for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics by Channel 4, and his images were deliberately sized to replicate a bus shelter poster.
Sophie Hoyle’s film is available to watch on the Radar website until 31 January 2023, whilst Samuel’s photograph can be seen displayed on one of the University’s campus bus shelters (by the Students’ Union) until 29 January.