From Reassembled, Slightly Askew to Ambiguous Devices: Critical reflections on long-term interdisciplinary collaborations


My presentation will discuss the methods and emergent outcomes of two distinct interdisciplinary collaborations:

Reassembled, Slightly Askew (2015) is an autobiographical immersive audio theatre piece based on Shannon Sickels’ experience of falling critically ill with a rare brain infection and her journey of rehabilitation with an acquired brain injury. Audience members experience Reassembled individually, listening to the audio via headphones while lying on a bed. The piece makes use of binaural microphone technology and spatial sound design techniques, causing listeners to feel they are inside Shannon’s head, viscerally experiencing her descent into coma, brain surgeries, early days in the hospital, and re-integration into the world with a hidden disability. It is a new kind of storytelling, never done before about this topic, that places the listener safely in this first-person perspective. Reassembled was made through a 5-year collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of artists led by myself (composer & sound designer), Shannon Sickels (writer & performer), Anna Newell (director), Hanna Slattne (dramaturgy), Stevie Prickett (choreography), and Shannon’s consultant neurosurgeon and head injury nurse. The work continues to tour in diverse contexts ranging from arts festivals to medical conferences.

Ambiguous Devices (2011 – present) is a distributed instrument project developed in collaboration with Tom Davis (artist-researcher). This project began out of a mutual desire to explore non-linear and physically disruptive or resistive forms of networked musical interactions in an attempt to challenge and extend our existing practices as improvisers and instrument designers. In this work, the positive role of ambiguity has been explored in relationship to notions of touch, agency of technology, “co-tuning”, and control and friction within a hybrid physical/digital ecosystem. Our reflections on Ambiguous Devices led to an interdisciplinary symposium on Interagency in Technologically-Mediated Performance (Bournemouth University, 2016), which examined human-technology artistic interactions from a variety of social, political and philosophical perspectives.

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