SummerWorks Progress Festival is still on! Part of Progress is a festival within a festival (stay with me). The Forest Fringe Microfestival features four artists from the UK-based Forest Fringe collective of artists. One of the Progress-featured Forest Fringe artists is Britt Hatzius, a multi-media inspired creator who brings Blind Cinema to the Theatre Centre (Jan. 30 & 31); a unique piece that boasts a very cool audience experience.
TID: Tell us about the inspiration to create this show.
BH: Looking at the relationship between language and the visible, on how we try and make sense of what we see and how we share this with others. For me there is a struggle or paradox in this attempt at articulation; that any attempt can only ever remain approximate on one hand, but that we have this responsibility both to ourselves and to others of trying to get it right; a struggle maybe that’s closest to those in the midst of discovering language’s potential and limits – children aged between 8-11. As a live event this piece, for me, celebrates this struggle in its immediacy, wanting to embrace a willingness to fail as much as encouraging the basic human act of assistance: seeing children assisting blinded adults in imagining a film, sat together in a darkened cinema.
TID: What has been the most surprising thing about the audience’s reaction to the show
BH: I’ve been touched by the hoped-for trust and willingness by the audience to collaborate with the child in creating this cinema in the mind. It’s a collaboration that requires a generous effort from both – the child who attempts to describe and the audience who tries to imagine. There is also the humour and poetry that this set-up can produce that brings out affective reactions and responses in both audience and children that is very moving.
TID: How do you find the children for each show, particularly since the show tours quite a bit?
BH: The hosting venue finds the children, often forming links with local organizations, schools or through an open call. As the children watch the film for the first time, each performance / screening involves a new group of children, who in this way also find themselves in the same ‘unknowing’ situation as the audience. Here we are collaborating with children from the Rose Avenue Public School.
TID: What kind of rehearsal process, if any, do you have for the show?
BH: We hold a workshop with each group of children prior to the performance/screening where we introduce them to the piece, the ideas behind the project and practice image description. It is not a rehearsal as such, but mainly to encourage the children, build their confidence in speaking, help expand their vocabulary, sharpen their observation, and making sure there is no sense of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but ‘trying as best as you can’ – that each and every one has their own way of looking and describing.
TID: Why do you choose to have children be the voices for the unseen images for the adults?
BH: There are numerous reasons, but the reversal of the usual roles of responsibility and care is interesting to me, a room full of blinded adults assisted by children, and the questions or thoughts this might bring to mind. There is also the reference to professional audio description for the blind, which is mostly very rehearsed, with clear rules and regulations in the use of language, which is here completely broken by the fragility of the unrehearsed situation. There is a risk involved that I hope is liberating and rewarding for both the children and the audience – and definitely for me, in that every screening / performance is inevitably always going to be very different.
TID: What has been, personally, your most rewarding moment (or moments) during the creation of the show?
BH: Discovering the immense diversity in how each individual sees, shares and imagines differently. Meeting and talking to people with impaired sight and learning more profoundly about the way they experience the world and navigate everyday life. Looking into current research in cognition, perception and the senses in general has been inspiring.
TID: What’s the future like for Blind Cinema? What’s next?
BH: As a performance / screening it will be touring a bit this year and the project as a hole will continue to inform other projects currently in progress.
Photo courtesy of Britt Hatzius.