How can a self-experiment of visual deprivation be used as primary research and inform a creative decimation in the format of an audio-centric installation?
According to the studies of Dr. Lotfi Merabet and Alvaero Pascual-Leone in 2008*, it takes the brain five consecutive days of sensory deprivation until cognitive changes start to become noticeable. Already being familiar with the lived-experience of visual impairment, the artist conducted an experiment of fully depriving themselves of the sense of sight (through the aid of blindfolds) for a period of eight days. The insights of this experiment lead to an installation called Whispering Walls and and immersive exhibition called Daring Into Darkness, both decimating the findings of the previously described experiment.
*Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye ( New York: Picador USA,2010)
Whispering Walls was a small installation aiming to tests the reaction of visitors on the ability to engage, understand and empathise with the communicated experience of blindness.
Inspired by the VR experience on John Hull as well as John Hulls original recording-style documentation of the process of going blind, this installation used the voice recordings of the artist documenting her daily observations and experiences. The audio documentary played through a set up plain white wall. The volume was triggered to increase when people would lean against it, encouraging people to interact with the object of the plain wall and closing their eyes to concentrate on the audio documentary.
A white room with a free standing wall in its middle, offering a sensory blank canvas void of visual distractions. As visitors approach the wall they can detect voices, becoming clearer the closer they get to the wall. Intuitively leaning against the wall, pressing their ear against it, they discover the audio documentary increasing in volume and clarity.
The content of the audio documentary records many mundane observations throughout the journey of sensory deprivation. For example, the artist explains how sitting in a room, she starts to observe whats going on around her. As illustrated in the ‘blind sketches’ the artist describes how she perceives a heightened awareness of sounds in her surrounding. No longer limited, visually, by the segmentation of walls, she can hear not only whats happening in her room, but also in the various floors of the house and outside. “It opens up your perception to your environment”, which in the various ‘blind sketches’ is represented by layering different textures to represent the spectrum of sound (coming from air escaping from a sparking water bottle, rustling papers being organised read by another person at another end of the room, a snoozing sound of a family member napping on the couch in the next room, a dog staring to bark on the floor below as a cat wonders past the window, occasionally passing cars, the chime of a church bell ringing to announce the time and the sound of raindrops growing more and more in frequency and volume).