"Children learn through play; adults play through art" Brian Eno
Recently, Angharad Evans and Sally Hughes had the pleasure of performing a Sensory Portal, The Looking Room at the Farewell Social, held to mark the closure of Made in Roath’s Welcome House artists studios. Artists have occupied the space for a year now, sadly, the council have sold it to developers who are going to knock this quirky old building down to build more flats, just what Cardiff needs.
A Sensory Portal is developed by an artist through a participatory arts process which leads to the creation of site-specific installation performance. The Looking Room was initiated by Sally Hughes over a weekend workshop and performance in March this year at The Old Library in Splott. This is it’s second iteration.
The audience travels through the Sensory Portal on a journey, in twos. The portal enlivens the senses, people are blindfolded as they travel, heightening the experience. The process plays with the idea of the theatre of the mind. An immersive experience, it awakens us to the places deep inside that are least oft explored.
The Looking Room is based on Charles Eisenstein’s principle of the mutual gaze. He offers it as an exercise on intimacy. It involves a period of prolonged mutual gazing between two people. “After the initial discomfort fades and the minutes go by, most people experience an ineffably sweet intimacy, a connection that penetrates through all the superficial posing and pretense that define daily interactions.” (from The Most Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possibile).
As the audience arrive, the two of them stand and watch through the broken glass gap in a fire door, they see a figure in candlelight, is she human or animal?
“Are you ready?” Angharad asks. They are then invited into a room with a table. On the wall, scrawled writing asks ‘What will happen when our kind aren’t allowed in the forest?’
They put on a blindfold. They find their hands are taken and they are led individually, the journey begins.
After a short while of being guided, blindfolded, there is an invitation to remove socks and shoes, toes are tickled with textures. Swathes of fabric that touch the tops of heads, draped from the ceiling, offer the feeling of entering some unknown place. Once seated, the person is asked to take of their blindfold, and what they see is the old crone woman they witnessed earlier. She walks around them, crotchety on her stick, tump, tump on the floor as she moves, he body bent with age. She sits and says
“There's a tale to be told
It's a telling of old
What will you see
Whilst you’re looking at me?”
And for the next five minutes she looks. They look together. For many this is a strange and opening transformative moment. After a time, the old crone asks for the blindfold to be replaced. The next part of the journey is theirs. They are guided once more, sung to, swaddled, seated and cuddled. Once back in the room with the table, they come back to their partner and back to themselves.
One woman who took part said “It was both amazing and scary. I was relaxed and uneased not knowing, but couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. The staring into anothers eyes so indepth it makes reflection very easy to do. The ways in which the emotion changed made me feel safe and also like she was staring into my soul. The experience was unexplainable because all sight was taken away!! Amazing!!”
The performance was a part of the Patchwork Labyrinth project by The Republic of the Imagination. Angharad and Sally are Creative Associates of this newly formed charity, which has been born from a long established theatre company.
The work of the company, which was founded by Iwan Brioc and Aleksandra Jones, is based around a model of reciprocal wellbeing and expressed through the delivery of a curriculum called Context Oriented Arts (CoArts), which uses Sensory Labyrinth Theatre and other practices including Forum Theatre, dance and mindfulness as technologies for transformation of consciousness and society towards well-being.
Our workshop and performance events offer an opportunity to step out of time and enter a 'being' instead of a 'doing' mode. Our Director, Iwan Brioc explains the process “What we find is that people who engage with our work report greater confidence, clarity, joy, peace and aspiration. But even more than this is a feeling of having touched something deep inside of themselves, something sustaining which was always there but hidden by the day to day stresses and busyness of modern life. Reacquainting with this inner strength creates a strong and sometimes unspoken bond between people.The opportunity to give this profound experience to others through the performance allows for a deep sense of connection and a feeling of boundless capacity to grow.”