Picture this. Windows, wrapped in bin bags and cellophane from the inside. A door opens. It is a small cube, white walls. a map behind you. There is a person there waiting for you. Welcome, take off your shoes and put your things in the locker. Then you are alone. The door opens and a woman enters, her hair beneath an orange workmans helmet. She is blindfolded and creeps arms agog, forwards with large earphones attached to the helmet. My response is amusement. There is something sci-fi, at odds with our usual humanity, here. Most notably an introduction with a wondering woman, bedecked in strange looking headgear.
Now it is my turn. I put on the helmet. I now have very limited sight. The next door is opened. I am told to follow a rope. I am mostly blind, apart from a hazy blur of light that enters the darkness every now and then. The headgear is close. The goggles squeeze my nose, the headset is tight. It is not without notice. It is not uncomfortable, but you know you are beneath a transmittor helmet, with it you are invaded, without it the experience dissolves. The rope is soft. I hold onto it. Thick and robust. My ears are full of voices about being lost, journeying, birds. I can’t listen to it, the rope is sensuous, a lifeline, a string of music. It is not only posing the offer of survival and connection, but the possibility of choosing to let go. It is not real, it is a symbolic decision. To live holding on, or to live letting go. Where is the middle ground. Can you swing to and fro. Connected and departed? The experience is physical, but conceptual too. I think of mariners hauling ships to the harbor wall, storms whitewalling on the other side of the barricade. The voice from the headphones penetrates, every now and then I hear it, register what is being transmitted. I know I am meant to listen, but I’m enjoying discovering the playfulness of being with limited sight, and invited to move and reach out into what cannot be seen, or anticipated in a very physical way.
The first chapter consists of following an undulating rope around while receiving radio type broadcasts of musings on direct travel and the variations of, especially to do with the behavior of birds. There is also a story from a man who lost his sight. As I move my way through, I take great pleasure from a feeling as if I am gliding. Meanwhile the man describes how beautiful he finds rain, and listening to it instead of seeing it. I love this delicacy. At the same time, I still don’t completely trust the experience, and am unsure as to whether I might be lulled into a false sense of security, only to plummet down a drop, walk over a damp carpet, or be met with a foul olfactory overload. I am excited by prospective thrills. I make a note of this, how to balance exhileration with experiential trust. How to make the participant feel safe, but uncertain. I would like to play with this inexorable tension at some point in Sanctuary.
The next chapter; the end of the rope. It’s time to let go. I feel like a small animal, offered a wide unknown tundra. Maybe there is a ditch ahead. I cannot see. From this point the experience becomes more independent. The broadcast is a man who has been an explorer telling his story. There is an option to sit. The space is suddenly earthy, straw filled, leaves overhead. Someone wants me to think I’m in nature. I listen. I’m sitting in nature on astroturf. I think it’s quite funny, not really nature like at all. The story requests me to sit, I sit somewhere away from the grass. I can feel a door. I like this. Doorway; somehow it feels more of an honest space, plus I am keen to keep moving. The journey continues, through another 2 / 3 chapters. A traverse into the unknown, fabric dangles from above, the wind blows, I walk uphill. It is exciting. I’m listening to a story of a climber, who danced with death on the edge of a mountain as thick wisps of fog rolled in. He and his friends nearly died. At times he wanted to fall. To plummet. Flirting with the abyss. As I listened to this I am scaling a rock face, on what I think is a small ledge. I bend down and trace the edge of the rockface to a wooden wall. I feel like I’m oscillating between discovering the fabric of the set, and being given physical versions of the words playing through my ears. I particularly like the description of the warm sun on the rock. I reach up and feel a warm light on the rock, I want it to burn me, again I am cautious. It is warm at exactly the right moment. Some well designed spatial synaesthesia stimulating body and mind.
An then there is the change to rest. To relax even. I prefer sitting on the floor, and am guided to an upright position. The surface is very soft. Tactile, downy, stroking. The music is delicate. There is an invitation to listen. The story is told by a man who was an architect, and became mentally ill, eventually becoming sectioned. His dad would say, they’ve arrested you. The man liked to walk to Heathrow, 25 miles a night, and spend the night waiting or resting on the terminal benches. He would go out when she got home. I lay there tipped, back into gravitational inversion, tilted from vertical to horizontal. It is exciting. I wonder what it is like to find relief and solace in walking through the night to hang out at the airport. I make a note of the pleasure of being stimulated in a way that invites reflection as well as consumption. We are part of the story, not separate to it. Our stories merge into the ecology of the multi sensory set. Sometime the familiar is too close, claustrophobic, repatitive. Anywhere better than here. I am lying down, music. Instruction to get up and follow the rope to the door. The rope is hairy, soft, ferret down. It feels long. I wonder, how long to the door. I’m having a lot of fun interacting with a narrative set that invites a much richer embodiement of moment and meaning. I don’t really want to go. Id happily be set loose to wonder the streets with the orange helmet on, and see what happens to the familiar. A camera on the top of the helmet, filming the publics reaction would be a pretty good documentation, into taking the dark into the public domain.
Thank you Anagram for a body and thought provoking narrative journey into the dark and beyond.