These Beyond Empathy blog posts document my internship with the not-for-profit organisation Beyond Empathy (BE). BE works in the community: making art and fighting social disadvantage. You can see the previous post here, and the first post here.
Blue Rose Installation Show Day:
I am behind the sound desk, managing the sound and lights of the Bob Peet rehearsal room, or, ‘sensory room’. I had learnt to use the equipment and software the day before the show; the program Q-lab. This program allows me to switch between different videos. One video shows silent portraits of the Blue Rose stars and different environments such as, beaches and farms. Q-lab will let me seamless play through this video into the projects’ short films which have sound. It is even more important than in a ‘normal show’ that I maintain the correct sound and light levels in the room. This show is for people of all abilities so some who are coming to this show have disabilities which make them particularly sensitive to light or dark, and loud noises. The IPAC tech team set up lights in the ceiling for me to control if the room is too dark at any time. During the show one or more Blue Rose stars may be present Gemma Parsons (BE worker) will introduce the star, but as the noise of clapping can sometimes cause discomfort we will do “Jazz Hands”.
During the morning of the second and final day of the event we saw that it could be
potentially risky for epileptic people to hold our midday workshop (creating sensory spaces at home) in the Bob Peet room. So the workshop was moved to the ‘Cup of Tea: Meeting Place’ space. Even though I am used to lights and sounds from my technical
roles working in theatres, being at the sound desk for this event could occasionally be overwhelming. The sensory space could be a bit much with the noise, the intense light, and vivid colours.
From my birdseye view of the room I could distinctly see that even through we’d trained volunteers to direct people to the ‘Sensory Cocoons’, participants had no need to be guided and the $15 mosquito nets from IKEA turned out to be one of the most popular hot spots to visit.
I am now at the ‘Meeting Place: Cup of Tea’ space, checking on Toby who is updating the software (installing patches) to the spaceship cockpit in the ‘Fast Room’ and various media crews start to arrive; UOWTV, Win News, ABC Radio, etc. This is my break for lunch and I have decided I will shadow Phillip Crawford (BE project leader) as he responds to various questions for the different media. Each time Phil explains what is going he describes it differently. So it seems he hasn’t just practiced the same spiel in the mirror. His responses are unique and spoken straight from experience.
It seems our typical focus in communication is on the verbal. It seems that way, though, the background activity of our brains are processing much more. More sounds, rhythm, and tone. It is limiting to think of verbal communication as our sole form of communication. It is just a culturally imposed form of communication that is recognised globally. The Conservatory of Music’s music therapists Rowena Harris and Ann Lehmann use the Sound Beam and ultra sonic rangefinder to convert coordinates of distance into Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI. MIDI is basically a kind of music language a computer can read. Depending on your distance from the Sound Beam, different musical notes will play. A music therapist will use Sound Beams and various instruments for non-invasive rehabilitation, mental stimulation, promoting increased motor neuron functionality, building social skills among numerous other skills. Just over a year ago my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), A condition which damages the coating around nerve fibers, in her case the condition found her unable to walk. My mother is in rehabilitation slowly regaining mobility. Though what happens if a person has a physical incident or suffers a develop mental disorder and loses their ability to speak? Are these people lost in the world or are they just forgotten? Mariann Schmidt is a psychologist and music therapist from Hungary, she works with people with developmental disorders. Schmidt explains why the Bob Peet ‘Sensory Room’ is a great way to communicate. Children go to the play area of a McDonald’s restaurant and we have cafes that we go to in our adult lives; they are places of stimulation; we need stimulation. This is how I can avoid thinking that these people are lost, by looking into the eyes of the people around me in the Sensory Room. People of all-abilities, all engaged, you can see that they are exploring more in their brains than even neuroscientists are able to fully explain; they are stimulated. This opens up a new area for me to explore in my work. To build safe spaces where there are no standards of expectation.