Last week I joined an audio-description training introduction and as a result was offered a taster touch-tour and audio-described performance at Salisbury Playhouse by their professional, very helpful team.
Touch-tours normally take place on a stage which is, unfortunately, not wheelchair accessible, but I did manage to wheel close enough to feel the grassy surface texture of the set.
I had earlier been emailed a link to the Playhouse website's audio information, but had found the set description quite confusing. Once in the space I realised that I had not taken the thrust of the stage into account, nor gleaned any idea of relative sizes. I began to get some insight into the amount effort I would need to put into this.
The set was in fact, quite simple and during the performance, remained unchanged apart from the addition of a few seasonal props.
The props being so few and simple, this particular touch-tour was not particularly touchy-feely, more an opportunity to converse with the actors and gain insight into the visual changes that guide sighted audiences through the twelve years covered by the play.
The actors were really helpful with information that enriched the experience without giving away any story, but vocally I found most of them hard to isolate.
This play (Joking Apart, by Alan Ayckbourn), is heavy on dialogue with not that much action, so that aspect was relatively simple to audio describe.Which really was a good thing because my tinnitus is having a very bad patch.
The sound equipment picked up all the ambient noise in this busy theatre and magnified it indiscriminately in my ears - making the introductory words hard to distinguish as they began around ten minutes before the play started. The degree of focus and concentation necessary was hard work.
As a sighted person I was intrigued by the extra dimension offered and its effect on my experience of theatre. Because the describing task was shared by a team, the play seemed to change character in quite a surreal way and I came away from the performance with a lot of loose ends in my head, a lot of questions, and food for thoughts about pursuing this further.
I also felt disorientated, with a far greater than normal sense of detachment from time and place that heightened all the colours on my journey home.
and be aware you need
to build confidence.
Know your route.
Don't overload, give
and be aware,
of levels, textures, footspace.
Use body for reference,
distance and height, and use
the clock face for
This text is sixteen lines,
default font, left oriented,
for your screen reader.
Like the children, you think you've let go, you watch those independent steps and move on from the wrench. But nothing prepares you for the way your creation takes off; gathers momentum and brings home the stories that you scattered; brings them home enriched with lives and links and lightening bolts.
'People in Con.Text' conversations are full of positive feedback, and a great sense of people's engagement with the exhibition. They are, so far, hugely enjoyable - there is certainly a buzz.
Bathing in strangers' eureka moments is a delicious flattery, yet reawakens the dead time memories. Withdrawal symptoms that yawed and pitched their accusations through acres of barren emptiness. Life too terrified to work, or think; almost too lost to be, and overwhelmed with riven memories of other exhibitions, other success, adulation. All gone. Lost.
And years clinging to the certainty that the dead time was but a prelude; that this was no infertile grave, but a mystical gathering of treasure; a time of preparation.
The unshakable knowledge that I would meet my muse, the certainty of fruit from the pain and these two things a tangled web of life-line, of refuge, of healing and protection lead here, to these moments. To this gratitude. To this place of hope.
To 'People Like You' now.
Fight is the first word
thrown semi consciously
at waking panic;
bone to detract the crouching tiger.
With practice and confidence
the word becomes a garden,
a hidden space where being defies
the ravages of fear. A space outside of time;
the strong and steady heartbeat a life
in which to plant a future without fear;
the reclamation of tranquility
where laughter seeds love
and trust becomes
Now that 'People Like You' is installed in the Salisbury Arts Centre Gallery, I need to tidy up - housekeeping.
My house, without the five soft-sculpture figures, is peaceful. Where they had spilled out into my personal space, I can reclaim room to breath.
My studio however is a mess. And none the freer for the exodus of artwork - it still contains preparations and pictures I rejected for this version of 'People Like You'. Canvasses exploring the theme of angels - the visual accompaniment to my 'Creatives in Con.Text' blog, await some other opportunity to shine.
They were created with white paint and small scraps of muslin, cutaway shapes from the soft-sculpture figures. One, Evidence of Angels has had a Photoshopped detail featured (14 December 2012), but others including Aftermath of Angels, await developments; progression to a new body of work maybe...
And there are new figures teasing to be set free from my imagination, refusing to be restrained by my limited storage capacity. I am frequently deciding to sell my small etching press. I need the room, but Printmaker was my identity for so long and each time I recall my delight in the processes, nostalgia prevents me. And even though I no longer have a lithographic press, I will never ever part from my stones.
Maybe some kind of reorganisation would work?
The little bits, snippets, rejections,
the unexplored, lie in wait, ready
to hijack the new, waylay it, woo it,
dissect it, ignore it, all with the
aim of extracting, assembling,
inventing the next stage; making sense,
creative, rational or otherwise
of this driven stage that offsets the
bipolar languor of the waiting
with its curious mix of focus
versus distraction; teasing forplay
to the the grand finale - which merely
proves to be another stage in life's
essential practice of performance art.
Not caring, not daring to leave a gaping hole, a vacuum through which I might disappear like the humanoid rabbit, I have already started on 'People in Con.Text'. Conversations with visitors to the 'People Like You' exhibition/installation will form part of its evaluation and already there are gems like the squealed, 'letter handles' that a small child used to draw her parents' attention to the grab rails.
And the smiling gent who came to tell me that if his dog were allowed into the gallery it would be standing quivering and growling at these progressively non-human, alien mutations that are the soft sculptures: Kosta, Jessie and Fons.
Was it my imagination, or did I also meet my first (fledgling) troll? A timid creature whose query, 'What is this stuff?' tumbled disdainfully out of her somewhere between the naked Kouros and Koure and was simply answered with the explanation, 'muslin'. Reflection warns me that deeper disapproval was possibly choked by confusion and conditioned behaviour.
'To make progress we need to be able to imagine alternative realities, and not just any old reality, but a better one; and we need to believe that we can achieve it' (Tali Sharot). Between the three of us in 'People Like You' wouldn't it be great if Liz, Sue and I could spark the Better Reality fires of your imagination!
I've never wanted to swallow the sun,
or live on the back of the fleeting beast
roaring and roiling, but nevertheless
I need them both crinkling the edges of
each time I show up to get the job done.
Lucid as never before, letting go
was the best gift my muse ever taught me,
letting go and letting me reinvent
all I ever wanted, each and every one.
And like Anais Nin I like to live at the beginnings,
by nature I am always beginning and believing.
I have never wanted to swallow the sun.
Wednesday was time to put in some overdue effort on the PLY Project. LinkUpArts members have gathered 'baby and now' photos of people like you, like us, for the 'People Like You' exhibition. These need printing out, 'baby image' on one side, 'now image' on the other. A few do not have baby photos of themselves so I have made simple boy and girl outline drawings. It would also be great if people wanted to draw their own. No-one is excluded
There are different ways of looking at the phrase 'People Like You' and one of them hopefully promotes the opportunity to express solidarity.
Appart from a temporary Olympic truce, the negative history of disability has been bought into by almost everyone, including many disabled people. The current trend of blaming and shaming people who do not conform to society's idealised image of the perfect person, living the perfect life, is utterly destructive to everyone. Segregating people into relative categories is immoral and illegal. Who does not look back with shame on how previous generations have behaved towards other minorities?
Encouraging people to add their images to the exhibition will be just one of the interactive elements of 'People Like You' designed to promote the idea that equality is not really something to be offered to somebody else; equality is a state we are all entitled to share.
Feel free to email your own 'baby and now' images to email@example.com any time before 10th April 2013.
The adrenalin rush, the energy spike
flimmers and flares in the secret dark of the
latent eureka waiting the new lover,
the loyal muse, to carry its quicksilver
voltage out into consciousness barely
ready to inch away from intensive months
of mulling, chasing, constructing and hiding
the revelation, the prodigy-child that
is now suspended, in full view, mercurial
in its loyalty to the origins of
its own precarious, long-drawn conception.
Tuesday started earlier than I am comfortable with, but I needed to be there for the grab rails. They require a lot of holes drilled in the wall and I'd hate to have to ask the team to make corrections. I do have a very clear idea of how I'd like them to sit and I am very pleased with the result. The template supplied by Shaun at Ozweld proved really helpful.
I'm also pleased with the initial reactions of people passing through, I've overheard some lively remarks from all age ranges. This has me thinking that 'People Like You' conversations could be fun, possibly even flattering to my ego, it may be harder than I thought to remain impartial.
Displaying the texts for 'People in Con.Text' is another matter. Unlike 'Underwater Con.Text' I want them to have an element of discovery. Displaying a box of scrolls fulfils that need, but I sense from my co-curators that they are not impressed with my choice. Maybe my subconscious will find a solution while I think about other things...
Standing opposite the grab rails, reflecting pink, Kouros and Koure appear to be fulfilling their mission. But where the space opens out and 'Creating the Spectacle!' transforms the Salisbury Arts Centre gallery into an underwater environment, Kosta, Jessie and Fons, morphed from their earthbound state, acquire, by association, a spectacular new freedom. It dawns on me that this impression, being so much easier and more comfortable to live with, the narratives these figures will construct with their audience will be so different from the narrative of their creation. This 'prodigy-child' reaches out for a life of its own.
Gravity and gravitas melt,
the solemn is overlapped
by shoals of silver fishlets.
The reaching roots float
free like zero-gravity hair.
Suspended from solid oak
Kosta embraces the notion
that released from the constrictions
of the man-made geography
of his conception he will
construct a whole new conversation;
brand new relationships with
unformed, unmanipulated space
alive with fledgling
for a new-born
quality of life.
I spent Monday in the chaos of the get-in - not easy on wheels when there is so much technology, people, and stuff. I had spent a sleepless night and was pleased to see the dawn of a dry and almost sunny day.
The soft-sculptures travelled in with Sue Austin, the pen and ink drawings with Trish Wheatley, and I followed with smaller things. At Salisbury Arts Centre we hit an immediate low. The car park was overflowing, the accessible parking spaces were occupied and trapped in my car I dived - emotional meltdown.
Everyone was really helpful, I think I recovered quite well. The get-in began.
It felt very positive to be around all these expert people all focused on making 'People Like You' as good as it can be. The grab rails arrived later in the afternoon and I saw them pink for the first time. Grab rails have never caused so much relief and sheer bubbly delight.
Kosta was the first figure to be placed, my part of the exhibition/installation evolves around him, and I was glad when the scaffold tower went up and the steel cable was clipped to webbing wrapped around one of the ancient church beams. Kosta was attached and trailed, just so, on the ground, Fons and Jessie assemble around him. Karen quietly positioned picture frames on the walls; and all the while Sue and Tom wrestled with the technicalities of presenting 'Creating the Spectacle!'
Liz's 'Bedding Out' installation took shape on the Altar Stage, away from the general kerfuffle and Liz checked in by phone.
My day was fuelled by sushi and wedges of chocolate cake and my head was buzzing. Tuesday there is public access to the space and the grab rails will find their place on the wall. I need to make an early start.
The journey towards collision is inevitably familiar,
explosions of frenzy, months of mulling and plodding
the path towards the realisation of this prodigy child,
apple of the eye, fruit of pain and labour.
On the brink, before the yawing chasm of doubt
that plagues like premonition, it's time to take heart,
to check the contingency plan for trolls, and leap.
Landing is another story.
Finally the grab rails are a reality; I have pictures! They were taken at the workshop before the letters went to be powder-coated, but suddenly the faintly niggling feeling that it might all be an illusion has been replaced with elation.
It seems so very long ago that I had an idea for an installation and did the first grab rail doodles, then photographed my own grab rails and Photoshopped them into the right shapes. I enjoy making my own artwork, but months of pondering and positioning of ready-made grab rails resulted in the acknowledgement that this one was quite beyond me. Hesitantly I enquired of a sculptress friend who declared that this was a job for a professional welder and gave me an introduction to the friendly team at Ozweld.
After I lost all the work on my old computer I had managed to remake images of the grab rails from screen grabs, so what on earth would Shaun make of this?
I needn't have worried; after our initial discussions Cathryn emailed me CAD image options, and there they were; proper designs. Like the original, but better for Shaun's technical know-how. I made decisions, the materials were ordered and then it was all out of my hands.
In the meantime I've been really busy with 'Creatives in Con.Text' - having the conversations and interpreting the edited texts on my new computer, in hand-drawings and in the soft sculpture; and 'People Like You' the exhibition, has grown to include work by Sue Austin and Liz Crow.
It is very exciting to be exhibiting with these two talented artists and co-curating alongside Karen MacDonald of Salisbury Arts Centre, and Trish Wheatley from DAO. The grab rails have had a feeling of unreality, after all I had lost them once, so I almost didn't believe in them - until now.
From being quietly in the background, they are now looking fabulously real.
My fingers close around smooth whiteness,
yes there is a certain thankfulness, but also
that little dip on the happiness scale.
I dream of other than regimented angles,
long for personal colours and traces
of individual flair. How cool would it be to own
inspirational swoops and curls, smiles
on my architecture by Dali; roots and branches
Gaudi-esque, creeping sensuously over the walls!
What if...but hey, I have 'People Like You'
big on my horizon, and my fingers itch to close
around magenta-pink and complex
fun; the grab me and laugh - anything
is possible, provocative grab rails.