Interview with Steph Singer, Founder of Open Senses: The Festival

curious, adrenalised, fiery-red

Having learned a little more about Stephanie Singer's BitterSuite production, here we discover further about her latest venture as Steph Singer: founding brains and creative driving force behind the Open Senses festival itself!

Hi Steph, can you please tell us a bit about your background?

I’m a composer, installation artist and creative director! I create work under the banner of BitterSuite that brings theatre, music and the senses together into an immersive experience. Tapestries is our most recent concert for the senses where we work with 30 dancers, 30 audience members, a chef, a perfumer and a live musical ensemble. Together we create intense touch, taste and smell based concerts for live music.

And how did you get into the world of the senses?

I became obsessed by the relationship between the senses & music about eight years ago. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between sensorial practice and play based education - by the link between both that they aim to activate audience members or students to be an active proponent in the experience of art / learning.

I wanted to create work that gets audiences out their mind and into their bodies, that keeps them active and gives audience members a bodily experience of music.

Sensory practice is important to me because it is a growing field that makes sure people consider their bodies in relation to people, the rest of the world, the environment and politically speaking means that people consider relationships and connection to one another rather than just simply looking at themselves as an individual.

Why the senses in particular?

I got involved because I have begun to question my and others connection to the world around us through technology. I want to interrogate our relationship with the world and people around us. Also, I remember at one of our concerts, a man coming up to me and saying that it was the first time he’d been touched in seven years. I want to create spaces where touch leads the way, where sensuality isn’t considered sexual but an important aspect of being a human. 

What led to the creation of this festival?

I kept meeting incredible people that make incredible work to do with the senses. I wanted to inspire us to all make it across the same weekend, to join together and really try to engage London in this underground scene bubbling away in the city. 

What have been your biggest hurdles / surprises along the way?

Making a festival is one hurdle / surprise after another. This is the adventure. You spend a year and a half planning one event - during this time you have to keep true to the initial intention, you have to stay focused and have an almost unnatural level of determination. 

You have to offer artists / contributors a genuine opportunity, make sure you honour the pace in which the festival naturally moves, make sure you motivate the community to believe in the project not for reasons of goodwill but uniting together to discover the importance of a community. 

We also have experienced fundamental changes in the vision for the festival - with funding we would have been able to really draw the festival together with experiential routes, major sensorial installations. As it is we have to be incredibly happy with where we have got which is uniting major institutions with artists they may not have known, opening doors to venues and being the catalyst for work that pushes what we think is possible with sensorial installations.

Where would you like to see this progressing to in the future?

Open Senses lends itself to becoming a franchise - a travelling festival which unites the sensory community in cities across the world, and also brings sensorial artists from London.

I think the way forward is to centre in on one big artistic idea and make something incredible happen. I’m imaging hot air balloons, altering the colours of streets across the city to be in code with one synesthete’s view. Getting much more into the fabric of the city.

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Curious, adrenalised and fiery-red!

Start your own conversation @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this conversation initiated by Natasha Blok.