Interview with Juri Nishi: Art, Architecture and Movement

listening, gathering, perceiving

Hi Juri, can you please tell us a bit about who you are what are you up to in the festival?

I am a Japanese artist working in architecture and choreography. I create performances that challenge perceptions of the body, energy, time and space.  I am interested in cultivating spaces in which the mind and body can listen and the heart can open. In this state individuals find the possibility of fresh insights and new connections between themselves and the world around them.

The piece I have made for the Open Senses festival is called ‘Umwelten’ (which means Surroundings) at the Royal Academy.

‘Umwelten’ is a site-specific immersive performance that stimulates a new perception of architecture through the senses. The piece draws on the history and mythology of Burlington house and the generations of aristocratic families who lived there. These stories form the backbone for an embodied experience of the building’s architecture.

“Through our skin we also touch the world and express something of who we are and how we feel; in this contact we gain feedback from the world about ourselves.” Linda Hartley

The title makes reference to a term used in sensory ecology, a study on how organisms acquire, process and responds to information from the environment, exchanging materials, energies and sensory information. The ‘umwelt theory’ proclaims that the mind and the world are inseparable, as it is the mind that interprets the world for the organism. This is what we will be exploring.

During the symposium, I’ll also be having a conversation about the relationship between art, body and architecture and the practice of listening with architecture and urbanism professor Nick Dunn from Lancaster University at 5:30pm.

What’s your story about how you got involved in the senses?

As a child I was a gifted singer and I’ve always been interested in different forms of listening. When I first worked in architecture I was designing spaces for the human bodies but I didn’t really know how to connect to my own body. When I later trained in dance my sensibility and perception of the world shifted completely and everything I do now comes from the place of listening through my own body.

What in particular can people look forward to with your activity at the festival?

You can look forward to forming a new perception of your surroundings through an experience of choreographed movement, poetry, voice and touch.

How would you describe it in three words?

Listening, gathering, perceiving.

How did you get involved in Open Senses?

When I met Stephanie Singer, our conversations flowed like a stream. I was interested in her way of thinking about sound and spaces and I shared a concept I was putting together a new piece that compared a human body to a building. We then decided to collaborate together to create a site-specific performance for the Royal Academy of Arts that brings about new ways to ‘sense architecture’.

Why was it so important to you?

I believe that senses play a fundamental role in being human, which needs to be cultivated at the forefront of our complex lives. With advancing technology, our society is becoming increasing connected through virtually reality and at the same time, it creates disconnection from presence and physical contact. Screens gather our gaze and make our bodies close inwards, desensitizing and moving us away from the present and physical dimension.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

The talk by Juhani Pallasmaa at the symposium. His writings have inspired my work.

Where would you like to see the sensory area moving to in the future?

I’d like to see projects where artists collaborate with schools and the NHS, especially working with special needs schools, psychiatric hospitals with sensory needs and wards/ community centres with dementia.

How would you like your performances to develop in the future?

I would like my performances to reach out to audiences who are not dance or theatre-goers by developing a form that feels more accessible to people. Umwelten is an immersive performance, putting the audience in the centre of the experience rather than passively observing from the outside. I am also exposing parts of the artistic process to demystify the art-form. Dance and performance is an art form that can feel exclusive to the point that people feel they need to be educated to enjoy or understand it. I want to show that that’s not true, we all have a body and we all know how to feel so we can all be drawn into dance through our intuition and physicality.

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Imaginative, opening, nourishing

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


Interview with Linzy Na Nakorn: Producing Workshop Wizardry

visceral, inspiring, diverse

Hi Linzy, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re up to?

I am the creative producer for the Open Senses Workshop & Conversation strand based at The Open Senses Hub, which will be the heart of the festival at The Trampery in Old Street. I am really excited about this program as it is diving into the world of tactility through workshops that explore touch from the perspective of dance, psychology, food, creative writing, textiles, VR technology and voice.

How did you get started in the tactile world of senses?

My background is dance and I work as a contemporary dancer alongside production so touch and physicality are things that have been very dominant in my work/life for a long time. My interest in multi-sensory work was really sparked by a project I performed in in 2011 which was working with dancers with visual impairments to explore accessibility for visually impaired users in town centres. Through working with dancers whose sensory experience was so different to mine, I learnt so much about how we can connect with each other and our surroundings by way of touch, voice and so many other senses I never knew we had until that point. It fascinated me.

What can people look forward discovering in the Hub?

I really think there is something for everyone in this program in a way that will provoke, challenge, ignite and engage participants to discover new ways to engage with the city of London and each other. We have workshops, talks and interactive installations happening over two days in one building that can have you exploring the physical experience of voice in the morning, living textiles (fashion that you can plant when you’ve finished wearing it!) over lunch, the sensory potential in VR technologies in the afternoon, a blindfolded tour of Old Street early evening, all finished off with a multi-sensory wine tasting and a sewn portrait of yourself!

How would you describe it in three words?

Visceral, Inspiring, Diverse.

Why did you get involved?

I have worked with the festival’s director Stephanie Singer and her multi-sensory immersive company BitterSuite for four years now and when Steph first mentioned to me the idea of a sensory festival that would take over London and celebrate some of the cities’ most innovative artists, creators, makers, psychologists, dancers and writers (the list could go on) all working in the multi-sensory field, there was no way that I couldn’t jump in!

In particular why do you think the senses are important?

I think we live in an age where we are really sensorial-ly over stimulated in a very negative way and the need for escape seems to be driving us toward cutting ourselves off from our senses in search of relief; be that through social media, gaming or television. It really feels like we are cutting ourselves off from each other, when we are perhaps at a crucial point in time where communication and empathy are key. We often have more physical contact with our phone screens than we do with other humans. This concept seems mad to me. By re-engaging with our sensory experience and exploring what that might mean on a very human level, I think it can only open us up to more innovative thinking: socially, artistically, politically and scientifically.

Why should people be making a beeline for the Hub at The Trampery?

While the workshops are thought provoking, intriguing, curious and immersive they are predominantly FUN and all the artists involved do incredible things. While there are workshops and conversations happening, there are also lots of installations, exhibitions and pop-up events throughout the building which means that you can really spend the whole day getting to hear, feel, see, smell and experience London in a new way.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

The Crossmodalist Cabaret: Music, Drama, Sex, Photography, and Art happening on the Saturday night of the festival at Platform, in Southwark.

What would you love to see happen with Open Senses in the future?

The festival is taking place across London in some brilliant venues who are all hosting such a range of events, my blue sky ideal would be to expand the festival to spill out more into public places, parks, roof tops, roads, canals, gardens, a festival that can happens in the royal concert halls and also in people’s front gardens!

What would you like to do in the future within this field?

I’d really like to create a program that is directed specifically at young people so as to engage conversation and thinking about tactility, smell, sight, taste and sound on a more day to day level from an earlier age. It really drives creative thought, problem solving, innovation and communication, and I think it could be a valuable edition within education.

Describe three words of how you feel about the festival?

Excited, inspired, humbled.

Anything else to say?

Make sure you get your tickets in quick as things will fly...

Many already have, so check out through the website and book your sessions…

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


Interview with Kara Jarrold: Sensory Arts and Accessibility with Sense

experimental, inclusive, evocative

Hi Kara, can you tell us a little about yourself and Sense?

Sure, I'm Kara Jarrold, Head of Arts and Wellbeing at Sense. Sense began in 1955 and supports people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments and complex needs. It provides, among other things, info and advice, accommodation services, day opportunities and campaigns strongly for disability rights. I’m responsible for our creative and active programme and ensuring that people with complex needs have access to high quality opportunities in the arts.

Why are Arts and Wellbeing important at Sense?

Access to the arts is so important but can often be misunderstood as simply a ‘nice thing to do’ rather than as a fundamental right – creativity gives us the tools to make sense of the world and articulate our thoughts and feelings and we’re yet to find ways of making this available to all. At Sense we’re interested in starting to find ways to empower people to find their cultural voice. We’re doing this through working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to explore access to art through the senses. We’re playing around with environments and breaking down artistic processes into basic sensory elements to find new ways of tapping in to people’s creative potential.

How are the senses incorporated in your work at Sense?

We’ve been developing a really exciting arts programme at Sense which establishes the concept of Sensory Arts Practice as a new strand of inclusive arts. This approach is all about using the senses as a stimulus for artistic enquiry, developing the idea of sensory communication and playing with the environment to encourage creativity. We’re exploring this sensory approach because it provides new ways of accessing art, concepts, narratives and emotion for people with communication challenges. I love the interdisciplinary way of working and thinking ‘what happens if we try different textures, temperatures, smells, tempos…’ etc. It’s also just really, really exciting to play and explore different ideas with the senses!

And how did you first get involved with Open Senses?

I’ve worked with Steph Singer for a while now through her involvement with Sense and she’s pushing the idea of using sound, taste, smells and the sensory landscape in her work. Our approaches really chime and we keep coming back to the idea of sensory practice and how this type of work is getting more and more recognised.  So when the idea of the festival came up I obviously couldn’t wait to get involved.

What has Sense worked on at the Open Senses Festival this year?

Sense is involved in quite a few ways: as an accessibility consultant, working with others to develop accessible experiences; supporting artists with sensory impairments to create new work for the festival; and exhibiting some of our existing work.

Busy then! Which bits are you most excited about?

Marcus Innis’ exhibition at Moorfields Eye Hospital for sure! I’m really excited about this original work which provides a glimpse into his experience of Usher Syndrome – a genetic condition affecting sight and hearing – through photography, film and design. The condition affects everyone differently but can result in tunnel vision, night blindness and distortions in perceiving colour. It’s interesting to be showing this work in a clinical environment, within a working hospital, and putting those two experiences, of patient and artist, together; it’s creating a dialogue about the creative opportunities that come from seeing or sensing things differently.  I’ve been working with Marcus for a while and I’m really looking forward to seeing it all come together. There’s going to be a small immersive film screening on the Saturday only (so get along to the opening from 11am).

I’ll also be visiting the V&A Museum who will be showing a series of films Sense and Kate Dangerfield (PhD student at Roehampton University) have been collaborating on. Last year we received funding from the BFI’s Diversity Fund to develop new ways of creating access to low budget film-making for people with complex needs. The project workshops have been participant-led and through working with all sorts of wearable and accessible equipment, participants have been creating fascinating films which really open up their world to us. Expect stop-motion animation, drumming and dreamy ethereal landscapes. We also worked with the V&A to develop their sensory backpacks which are available to hire all year round and especially over the weekend.

In addition to all of this, Stephanie Tyrrell (the National Arts Manager at Sense) and I are talking at the Symposium about our work and Sensory Arts Practice, and Sense will be collecting at Kings Cross station alongside the performances curated by I=U.

So there are loads of ways to come and say hello!

Plenty! How would you describe all of that in just three words?

Experimental. Inclusive. Evocative.

Why did you get involved with the Open Senses Festival?

I’m all about this work, I didn’t need any persuading! I also think that the turn to the sensory is a really important opportunity for us, as a society, to value and understand those who have little access to the cultural world. Through the senses, people with complex disabilities can find new ways to communicate and express meaning and also, most importantly, be art makers and consumers like anyone else. We can also learn a lot from others when we take a step back and start thinking from the starting point of the senses; these are such basic shared human instincts.

And also, it’s going to be a lot of fun! Sensory exploration has so many applicable uses in our lives today particularly in new approaches to technology, architecture and wellbeing. It’s exciting to step out of our insular worlds and start appreciating the big wide world out there which is full of sensory information. That’s what this festival is all about.

Why should people come out and experience Open Senses?

The festival is not focused on disability but there are so many unexplored creative opportunities when we start thinking about creative agency and opportunities. A good starting point is a festival like this that puts artists with disabilities on the same platform as everyone else. So by coming to one of the events that Sense is involved with, hopefully you’ll go away with a greater appreciation for access to the arts and will have seen some great stuff that’s made you think.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

How much time have you got? There are loads of interesting things happening and familiar faces around so I expect we’ll hit the trail and see where it takes us. I’m interested in the immersive experiences but also getting my hands on materials so there’s plenty to keep me occupied!

Where would you like to see the sensory area developing in the future?

There’s so much potential and through our art programme we will be embedding sensory practice into everything we do, which will take us down some really interesting roads. Taking a sensory approach also has so much potential for access and I’d like to see more mainstream organisations and institutions exploring how to make their collections or work more inclusive. It’s not just about physical access but also about creating emotional access – we’re exploring how you might convey the emotion in a painting or a piece of choreography, for example, through the senses. These are aspects of the human experience that everyone has a right to.

I’m also anticipating the rise of the sensory in our everyday environments and I’m intrigued by the idea of sensory-led design. I love it when I meet someone who is incorporating or augmenting the senses in different fields like science, technology, architecture, design and so on; there seems to be a growing appreciation for embracing the human sensory instinct and a realisation that we’ve all become, well, a bit disembodied and attached only through technology.

How would you like Sense to progress in the future?

It’s exciting to imagine a future where people with complex communication challenges, who may not yet be able to fully articulate their thoughts and feeling, could do this through the senses. As someone working in the arts, working with people whose creative potential is yet to be realised is really inspiring. We just don’t know where that is going to take us yet.

We’re about to embark on two major projects which will push this work forward. Sense is about to open a new centre in Birmingham, TouchBase Pears, which will be a home for Sensory Arts Practice and a place of artistic excellence. We’ll be working with established and emerging artists to deliver a fully inclusive programme, part of which is ‘Sensibility’, our second big project. This project, funded by the Arts Council, will culminate in a Sensory Arts Festival in Birmingham in May 2018, where we’ll be celebrating the contribution of artists with complex needs in contemporary culture. We’ll even be working with some big names you’ll recognise from Open Senses… watch this space!

Wow, it’s spreading already! And three words to describe how you feel about the Open Senses festival?

Intrigued. Inspired. Excited.

Any closing thoughts?

This is just such an amazing opportunity and Steph [Singer] has crafted such a great platform for people passionate about this work, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in it, in true sensory fashion…

See you there!

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

Interview with Chris Lloyd from the Crossmodalists on the Characterful Crossmodal Cabaret

coolest f*cking sh*t

Hi Chris, so Crossmodalism keeps being mentioned, what’s it all about? 

Crossmodalism is a movement born from the synthesis of art, science, and entrepreneurship. It is based in learning and collaboration across non-traditionally linked disciplines, ideas, and communities. Through this foundation, Crossmodalism fosters an appreciation of the full human experience in connection to its sensorial and natural environment.

Is it a new thing then?

Crossmodalism has existed for millennia: from Wagner’s ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk, the baroque concept of Taffelmusik, to Aristotle’s maxim of synergy, to the Middle Age study of the Quadrivium and Trivium, and all the way back to 2000BC with the Four Ancient Arts of the Chinese Scholar. Crossmodalism in its current form, born of sensory collaboration, is named in homage to the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, and Charles Spence, our personal Jean Cocteau.

Good to know it’s got some distinguished characters behind it! So what’s the Crossmodalist Cabaret?

15 events, 3 nights, 1 venue. The Crossmodalist Cabaret has EVERYTHING: from silent ethical porn and live music, to an exploration of the art of tea, to a nine hour endurance dance/violin world premiere, to a perfume concert, to a food photography exhibition.

Wow! A lot then, and three words to describe your event?

Coolest F*cking Sh*t.

Can’t argue with that! Any other reason you’re involved in Open Senses?

XM exists for the Crossmodalist Community - those practitioners who make the Crossmodalism movement. With the Berlin Chapter of Crossmodalism starting, the Cabaret provided an excellent opportunity to provide a platform for practitioners globally.

Why should people roll up to the Cabaret?

Come one, come all - the incredible depth and diversity of the Crossmodalist Cabaret will shock you, blow your mind, inspire, and introduce you to concepts you never knew existed. And it’s all happening in one place.

What else would you like to see?

Hack the Senses and Elephants and Volcanoes - Two amazing Crossmodalist groups bringing amazing work!

Where do you see the future of the senses going?

Multi-sensory is going nowhere unless it develops a way to communicate to others. Narrative is key. First we played with the senses - now we need to mould it into something tangible that speaks to people.

And the future of Crossmodalism?

Crossmodalism is a movement. Why do you care? Because it’s a movement that can unite three disparate worlds to create something better combined.

Cool and finally three words to describe the festival?

Ambitious, logistical nightmare.

Let’s make it an event to remember in that case!

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

Interview with Dr Tereza Stehlikova: Journey to the Interior

imagination geology senses

Hi Tereza, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Along with being attached to the University of Westminster as a senior lecturer in Moving Image and a researcher at the Royal College of Art, I am also a filmmaker working in digital media. I am part of an international network of artists called Sensory Sites, which I set up in 2009. We work in and with unique spaces and are interested in creating a dialogue with their particular genius loci.

How did you get into the sensory stratosphere?

Almost 10 years ago I embarked on my PhD in how to evoke tactility through image and sound. The Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer was the key inspiration behind this. I also had experience in working in CGI which frustrated me, it didn’t feel real, because there was no tactile connection. At the same time I watched my daughter learning the world through touching and using her senses and it got me thinking.

The next shift came through an introduction to Charles Spence and Charles Michel in 2013, which led to an Icelandic Feast: an immersive, multisensory banquet and participatory art project. I discovered the joy of using food, the most multisensory medium, in my performances, to “evoke and provoke essential states of the mind that otherwise cannot be evoked” FT Marinetti.

What can people look forward to with your event at the festival?

Using the success of the Icelandic Feast based on William Morris’s journey to Iceland, I continued my interest in sensory perception and landscape. Can one evoke a journey by means of food, literally ingesting a landscape? My multisensory performance “Journey to the Interior” based on Jules Verne’s story, will lead participants on a sensory journey using all their senses, to stimulate their imagination and reveal hidden worlds. I will also create a short film of the journey, to allow those who weren’t able to be there to experience it.

How would you describe it in three words?

Imagination, Geology, Senses.

 Why did you get involved with the Open Senses Festival?

I got involved because I passionately believe that we need to pay more attention to our senses! Our senses are the gateway to our experience of reality. By sharpening our senses we can become more awake, more alive, more aware. Art and poetry can help us.

Why should visitors join your ‘Journey to the Interior’?

Come to play, reawaken your imagination on an impossible journey! You will be encouraged to use all your senses to guide you along a fantastical journey, through the sediments of memories and through the strata of your own imagination. What you discover will to come extent depend on you.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I would love to attend everything, but realistically I will most likely spend the weekend preparing everything for Sunday! But can’t miss the Symposium!

Where would you like to see Open Senses progress to?

I would love to see it as an international concept taken to different cities. I would like to see schools and universities to get involved and for it to be ongoing; a sustained effort that generates collaborative projects.

How would you like your work to cultivate in the future?

I want to continue along these lines. I like collaboration. Being a film maker, it can get quite isolating and the collaborative aspect allows for a fascinating creative process. I will continue my sensory workshops as a space for creative dialogue to happen. I will keep my eyes, ears, nose, skin, and tongue tuned to what is happening around me, and look for ways of weaving new stories in performance and film. And of course, I will work on turning Journey to the Interior into a film!

What three words would you use to describe how you feel about the festival?

Playfulness, interconnection, openness.

Anything else you’d like to mention not yet covered?

I will also be presenting my short film 'Dinner for Deep Surface Divers' at the Symposium.

See you there!

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

Interview with Roma Brown: a Word (or two) with Artistic Director, In Sight Theatre

interactive, tasty, story-based

Having been introduced by Amy Neilson Smith, can you please tell us a bit more about In Sight Theatre and Word on a Plate?

In Sight Theatre is an inclusive theatre company dedicated to make disability arts part of the mainstream. I co-founded this company with Zara Jayne in late 2015 as a platform from which to launch careers for mixed ability performers. ‘Word On A Plate’ is all about using something we all have in common – food – and expressing individuality through the way we interact with it and feel about it.

How did you first get into multi-sensory experiences?

Working in the realm of disability arts, I am always striving to find ways that all participants and performers can be involved and creatively stimulated. It has been through working with people that don’t have access to all of the senses that I have discovered the importance of providing multi-sensory experiences. In this way there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

What can people look forward to with 'Word On A Plate’?

Free workshop 'Word On A Plate' is all about having fun with food and experiencing it through unexpected senses. Rather than putting food on your plate with the aim of eating it, we will be exploring the way it feels, sounds and looks, creating a landscape and characters that inhabit your plate! In this way the plate turns into its own little world with its own story.

How would you describe it in three words?

Interactive, tasty and story-based.

Why do you think the senses are so important?

The senses are how we experience life: how we communicate and how we get inspired. Reinventing how we experience art and daily life through sensory exploration has the potential to improve accessibility and provide new ways of interacting with each other.

How would you like your performance to develop in the future?

'Word On A Plate' has some great multi-cultural potential. I would love to see this develop into an installation that shows plates of food from all over the world and tells those country’s stories and traditions in a fresh and interactive way.

Sounds delicious! What about three words (not on plates yet) to describe how you feel about the festival?

Excited, curious and inspired.

Bring on the tasty treats!

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



Interview with Chang Hee Lee: Designer of Three Studies of Synaesthesia

come and experience

Hi Chang, so please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work?

I’m a designer and creative engineer based in London. I am currently investigating the potentials of applying synaesthesia in a creative context. I’m originally from South Korea, moved and grew up in Hong Kong and Beijing, and now I am conducting my PhD at the Royal College of Art (RCA) here in London! So yes, I’m very multicultural!

My work ‘Three Studies of Synaesthesia’ explores some of the inspiring properties of synaesthesia that can be used within the context of design. By displaying three experiential artefacts, people can discuss and get involved in the subject of synaesthesia. The large body of research on the topic of synaesthesia has been dominated by the field of science, and I’m trying to interpret and expand its research boundary from a designer’s point of view. The project name is literally from three studies of synaesthesia!

And how did you get into such an unusual field of synaesthesia?

Hm... I still clearly remember the day when I talked to my mother about the taste of seaweed, telling her that the taste of a seaweed sheet is rather unusual, that it tastes like “clustering purple” after storing in the fridge for a long time. Hilariously, my mother who was a middle school art teacher responded me that “the taste of seaweed is purple, but not clustering purple!”

This was not a particularly surprising thing at that time when I was about 7 years old. I thought this was a typical daily sensation that everyone can experience. Now researching this subject is like discovering my memories and inner channels.

So it sounds like you are a synaesthete? How would you explain what that means to someone who doesn’t know?

I do have a particularly clear and intense experience when I smell something. I do not experience from all the smells, but there’s a kind of particular smell, which I don’t know, that triggers this involutary experience. So I was once sleeping on my bed and woke up with an extremely clear image of sharp heavy structure covered by green piercing, and even more bizarrely, feathers! This was as a result of smelling mixed bottles of perfume and essential oils just behind my pillow (mostly used, but still with smell in it).

To briefly cover the meaning of synaesthesia: it is an unusual sensation and neurological phenomenon, such as music that is not just heard but also tasted or even felt as a physical touch!

Great, so with your personal experience, what can visitors look forward to with Three Studies of Synaesthesia?

All visitors can come and interact with three interactive artefacts. Visitors can try to taste electricity, interact with a tangible interface, and can load their angers and blow it up using a strange apparatus! Three props / artefacts are designed and planned during the research in order to study and experiment some of the provocative elements of synaesthesia. Come to learn and experience the idea of synaesthesia and its stimulating properties!

How would you describe your exhibition in three words?

Come and experience!

Why did you get involved with the festival?

There are not many events outside embracing world class academics, practitioners, while also trying to communicate with the public on such a scale. This type of event interconnects our understandings, thoughts, ideas, and inspire our public knowledge for our better society.

And why do you think the senses are important to have a festival of their own?

Senses are important, not just important, but essential as we view, experience and are introduced to the world through our senses. These accumulated experiences and information shape the textures of our mental world, and construct our foundational perspectives and understandings as a human being.

Why should visitors make the journey to Three Studies of Synaesthesia?

People without the knowledge of synaesthesia can literally learn and experience the idea of synaesthesia through interactive works, which will be fun and thought-provoking.

People who are researching on this topic may intrigued by how a designer interprets the subject of synaesthesia. Synaesthesia research is expanding its discussion and research territory from experience analysis to its potential applications. It will be meaningful to view a designer’s attempt within this research paradigm.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I will be visiting as many venues as possible to see how other people share their works and perspectives. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to both receive and share feedback from other people. I’m excited to view their works soon!

Where would you like to see the sensory practice going in the future?

From my perspective and area, I think the sensory practice and research will be expanded to countless directions. Particularly, because the notion of ‘sensory’ has a fundamental value and meaning, thus can be associated to multiple themes and subjects. For example, it can be associated to optimised sensory experience research for mass products, sensory substitution research for people with sensory impairment and sensory research in robotics. The flexible property of this subject can access various disciplines and boundaries and this makes the subject unique with extensive potentials!

And how would you like your research to develop?

Currently, I’m completing my PhD on the topic of provocative properties of synaesthesia in design study. I’m attempting to contribute and expand the current psychology and neuroscience dominated scope as a design engineer. I hope my works and research offer a new interpretation to the creative side of synaesthesia research, and wish it can facilitate the dialogue between the field of science and design!

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Let’s do this!

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

BitterSuite Workshop 4/4 “From Music to Experience”

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

madcap adventure

The finale we had all been waiting for, Steph Singer herself leading the way of combining all three previous workshops into a fluid taste of what was to come with Tapestries and future BitterSuite performances.

Having been fortunate enough to attend all the run up workshops to this, what felt like the firework exploding conclusion of the BitterSuite workshops, I was hit by a strong wave of melancholy. A Friday evening without a madcap adventure. A Friday evening not being transported from a seemingly blank performing space into a heady brothel, an artistic gallery or a poignant childhood playground memory, what sort of Friday was that? To head back to the Fridays with a simple pint in the pub or languishing in front of TV reruns? The loss of silly spontaneity and super quick breakdowns in society norms ending up in improvised singing and dance movements, seemed too sad. Luckily Steph, the much aforementioned Director extraordinaire has enough energy, happiness and zingy charisma to light up 100 lightbulbs and cheer anyone up! As she used her boundless enthusiasm to initiate some ice breaker name games, bursts of zipping, zapping and bubbles of laughter filled the auditorium. Within minutes we were crumbling to the ground in increasingly extravagant Scooby Doo death scenes. By the end everyone’s mood was electric, bouncing off the walls and we had to continue to the Vaults pub with ideas zip-zap-boinging from person to person infected by the BitterSuite magic. I can’t wait for the next BitterSuite adventure to begin!

Check out more silly fun from BitterSuite here.

Share your experiences @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this experience shared by Natasha Blok.

Interview with Katja Rosenberg catching art with Babel in Bloom

fun, feel, change

Hi Katja, please tell us a bit about yourself and your company Art Catcher?

My name is Katja Rosenberg, I am a German working in London. I produce group art projects all inspired by subjects of emotional and cultural belonging. I enjoy working with artists and individuals as far afield as possible in approach and geographically with my little company Art Catcher Ltd.

How did you get into the sensory world?

The human species is a very disconnected lot. This must have been becoming increasingly and unavoidably obvious to anyone who does or does not watch the news - in the last few years more than ever. After we have literally produced generations of children we have failed to understand and labelled them ill instead, it is time to wake (tf) up and do something MEANINGFUL. Art can do that, art does that.

What can people look forward to with Babel in Bloom?

All contributions during the weekend are very gently and carefully rendered performances and readings of self lived journeys to finding a healthy and happy connection with self and the world. Many of them invite you to become part of the artistic experience yourself. During the week preceding the festival weekend, we already warmly invite you to come and join us Mon-Fri 12-6pm to make oversize flowers from recycled materials with us. These will set the tower in bloom, visibly for all to see!

How would you describe it in three words?

 Fun. Feel. Change.

Why did you get involved in Open Senses?

I have met a number of performance artists with what is socially perceived to be disability over the course of last year who come from professional and non-professional backgrounds whose straight forward approach to the world and their role in it have inspired me so deeply that the Open Senses festival simply made complete sense (pun :) ) as the next thing.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

To be honest we have filled the tower with so much lovely activity that I have had to very sadly wave goodbye to the hope of being able to catch any of the other absolutely amazing contributions. I just think it will be a very amazing and inspiring weekend in London altogether and I hope lots gets filmed so I can witness it at least on the screen!

Me too! So much awesome stuff happening you can’t catch it all.

Where would you like to see the sensory area developing in the future?

I think it would be wonderful to develop a gentle and dignified way to increasingly bring young people and children in as contributors, as well as senior citizens, maybe from old people's homes, as I think the start and end of human life are the best places to experience connection and they are totally under-recognised to this very day.

Great point. And what’s next for you?

St Augustine makes me very happy as a venue and it oozes an amazing air of loyalty, strength of spirit, gentleness and balance. I think it would be great to work with a venue again that does all these things, to honour them and to give ourselves increasing opportunities to wake up to our own histories.

Looking forward to 'waking up' to it all!

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


BitterSuite Workshop 3/4 “Sensory Embodiment in Devised Theatre Making”

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

sway, skip, spin, swing

Three Quarters Through and into the moving trusting world of BitterSuite in a workshop led by Linzy Na Nakorn and Natalie Sloth Richter.

Freeing movement, open vocal chords, swaying and skipping, spinning and swinging. That was the order for the penultimate BitterSuite Masterclass as part of the Vault’s Festival. Entering slightly late to slightly off-putting groaning, moaning and sighing: a feast of noises in a circle of relative strangers who by way of an introduction exercise were connecting movement to sound. Clicking, clapping, singing and trilling accompanied various smooth or staccato dance moves. Movement makers exchanged positions with sound makers and the process continued in flow. I got stuck straight in! No explanation needed, off with a donkey bray me-thinks! Nice and simple start wouldn’t you say? What was particularly beautiful was as we went through the process of how BitterSuite performers would get into their piece of work over the months and months before a performance is unveiled, ishow trusting everyone became - and so quickly. Much of the work was with our eyes shut, completely entrusting our safety to someone else, someone whose name we may have only just asked. One great exercise involved conveying a character or animal only through touch. I found a snake to be particularly effective! We progressed to longer pieces where we trusted others to push, pull, twist and bend us into reflective choreography that altered our visions and responses in return. This all culminated in us pairing up and performing our own piece. Sharing memories with our audience through only movement; conveying our story in steps and emotion through our body language. No need for overt miming or clowning here - it was the smallest of gestures and touches that let those watching into our worlds. Totally freeing physically and mentally to simply let go and trust what is.

Check out more carefree, flitting, dancing, twirling photos here.

Share your experiences @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this experience shared by Natasha Blok.

BitterSuite Workshop 2/4 “Making Art of Food & Making Food of Art”

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

bouncing popping candy

Part two (the edible-and therefore my favourite-quarter) of the four piece masterclass series from the BitterSuite brainiacs.

Here Adam Thomason and Marah Wilson led a workshop on using taste to interpret Debussy Quartet in G minor.

There’s something so releasing in an invitation to break the rules – painting with food on a table and eating it afterwards! It’s so naughty… child-like ….daring! That’s precisely what Adam Thomason invited us to do at an amazing workshop filled with blindfolded taste experiences and challenging questions about how do you create the taste of silence? Or how do you create an uncomfortable feeling through food alone? Things which are very rarely thought about by “normal” chefs, but Adam, one half of Flavour and Some is far from a “normal” chef if any of the treats that night were to go by. Zingy pineapple with fresh mint was the simplest it got. The group was encouraged to create sounds, movements and artwork based on the musical piece we heard and the tastes and flavours we were offered. The culmination of bouncing popping candy pieces, swirls of pistachio piping and smears of beetroot puree smashing through carefully constructed globes of jelly was a sight to cherish with childlike glee.

Check out more photos of the fun to be had with edible art through the BitterSuite facebook page.

Share your experiences @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this experience shared by Natasha Blok.

Interview with Ronald Ligtenberg about SenCity and the Future of ‘Possibilizing’

multisensory music gigs

Hi Ronald, please tell me about yourself and your work including this new word ‘possibilizing’?

I’m Ronald, along with being a Strategist for the Open Senses Festival, I am also the CEO and founder of Possibilize – the organisation behind events including SenCity. I am a ‘possibilizer’. This means ‘thinking and acting in possibilities’. In every situation; meaning it’s not always fun with so many options that open up to me! All the projects have ‘limitations as a source of inspiration’ at their core. 

We have a project centred training programme where those on it discover their own talents. Training is given to participants on how to organise an event. We challenge the limits they think they have; question the limits of their thinking.

Great and what do you have in store for Open Senses through the power of ‘possibilizing’?

SenCity is a music event on Saturday evening where all senses are stimulated. At the event, the acts play as usual and we provide added sensory inputs. For example, Aroma Jockeys spread scents, we have a vibrating floor, dancers and video projections helping the visual aspect, and artists directed by sense composers who analyse the music set list with music and lyrics song by song. They analyse the music to portray the emotion behind it: whether it is a sensual etc. Which food for a love song e.g. strawberry mousse? Which scent creates the same sense of unease as the music does? What is the scent for friendship such as walking in the park? 

It is a multisensory experience. We hope to evoke the same emotions. However, as you can overdose on stimuli it is therefore all is focused on only one emotion at a time, this allows the guests to absorb and get a more intense experience. 

How would you describe it in three words? 

Multisensory music gigs 

Why do you think we need multisensory music gigs, why the focus on the senses in particular? 

They lead to you expanding and questioning... They create awareness of how the senses combine and interact with each other. The awareness will improve appreciate of life and each individual: their surrounding and better connections with people around them and their environment. 

It matters to really see the person, think how something feels and it may even save your life in the end! 

Why should visitors come to SenCity? 

Two reasons: firstly, to experience music in a 6-dimensional way. 3D is a bit passé. Mind-set is the 6th dimension. Balance, temperature, proprioception, very intense experience of music – and a lot of fun! 

You will be getting the best of our amassed international experience including our aroma jockey, text jockey (who creates the lyrics in a visual way to represent how they would be sung) and a vibrating floor with illumination! 

Secondly, on a deeper level, I want the 10% of people who will see it, to realise the power of possibilities! You will see how taking a limitation as inspiration can lead to the concept of a club night that is more interesting, innovative and fascinating than any old regular club night.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival? 

I’m most looking forward to the Symposium, the BitterSuite concert and I’m curious about what I = U has coming out. 

Where would you like to see Open Senses going in the future?

I’d love for it to be an annual event in London, one place where an amazing experience can evolve where you can practice what you preach with the sum of experiences. 

An evolving, increasing and expanding experience you won’t forget!

Where would you like to see your future with the potential of ‘possibilizing’?

I would like ‘Possibilize’ to be an English language book (it is currently being developed for a Dutch language book) and to create more immersive experiences that show that a limitation can be a fountain of inspiration. 

We want workshops that continue to challenge beliefs of what people think is possible, such as photography by blind artists, body language taught by deaf trainers... I want to create a society which is accessible for everyone. A place that provides tools to allow society, art, culture, sports, etc to be accessible in such a way that the whole community benefits from it. 

Subtitles and London bus stop audio announcements were invented for deaf people but are as useful and used by hearing people too. 

Three words to describe how you feel about the festival? 

Engaging, provoking, transforming. 

Anything else you’d like to mention not yet covered? 

What I love about Open Senses is that it has proven to be such a gathering of open minded and supportive people. With no budget and not one complaint about that. It has felt like a community of people who feel like this is something that needs and deserves attention. It combines fun with interesting facts and thought provoking art. Diverse groups of people creating things that impact lives in a way that I believe in. Arts and science and entrepreneurial skills combined. Come and experience it for yourself!

Thank you for your time… and opening us up to all the possibilities!

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


BitterSuite Workshop 1/4 “Consider Your Nose In Art”

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

incorporate scent into art.

Part one of a spectacular four piece masterclass series distilling the enormous effort that goes into each BitterSuite performance over months with a wide team from all backgrounds.

When was the last time you smelled your curtains? Not recently? How about a piano cover? Nope? Drum case? I’m not kidding, that’s how I found myself one Friday evening sniffing away at an array of scents carefully crafted by Sarah McCartney, leading perfumer in the sensory world. Her outstanding pink spiky dress should have been enough to warn the first group of BitterSuite masterclass attendees that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary evening in a large open performance hall. Smells, being a key sense that evolved before our sense of language helps explain why it’s so hard to describe or pinpoint that elusive tip-of-your-tongue definition. We travelled around the world bouncing from exotic boudoir, to open spaces, seaside nostalgia and across to sticky pub carpets. Layers of smells were feasted upon. “Invisible art” as Sarah eloquently put it, summed it up well. An invisible voyage, by our noses and imaginations, lead towards heated discussions about whether we liked, didn’t like, remembered or associated these fragrances with anything close to what Sarah was imagining herself when she created them. Those who stayed to the end were treated to a sweetie bag of colourful sample scents to take home and practise sniffing with friends and family to see if they got Sarah’s childhood family “Lion” Cupboard’s woody deep tones or were completely whisked to some other land.

To smell a different “note” to that you might hear, follow your nose and see more smelly antics at the BitterSuite facebook page.

Share your experiences @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this experience shared by Natasha Blok.

AVM Curiosities – Historical Aphrodisiacs at the Queen of Hoxton

Photo credit: Graham Turner

Photo credit: Graham Turner

totally transfixed

What do a hairy coconut, a humble potato and sticky honey have in common? One bitterly cold Sunday evening noted food historian Tasha Marks, held an almost occult-like gathering on the top of the Queen of Hoxton to share the secrets. The mystical effect was enhanced by walking up flight upon flight of industrial echoing empty stairs and then entering a completely magical realm at complete odds with the world we had just left behind. Through the metal doors, enter Valhalla. Greeted by an all-encompassing tent complete with a ceiling of suspended dried herbs, strung up animal furs and a gorgeous smelling wood fire from the distance. The cosy atmosphere evoked darker days of witchcraft and Viking sorcery. Tasha, high priestess in this case, took centre stage by a table laden with her magical potion ingredients, a visual spectacle for all greedy eyes to gobble up. She proceeded to cast a spell over us as she described the aphrodisiac history of each item and we sipped on hot or cold honey concoctions and nibbled on hand-made crumbly treats, totally transfixed by the tales of titillating tastes from years gone by.

This is the sort of stuff a Food Historian gets up to at AVM Curiosities.

Want to experience it for yourself? You can smell her scents at 'Relaxing with Paintings' or see how books can become multisensory with 'Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions' at Open Senses.

Share your experiences @OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017, this experience shared by Natasha Blok.


Interview with Tasha Marks, Food Historian: Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions

Photo Credit Ash Kingston

Photo Credit Ash Kingston

taste, typography, transformations

Hi Tasha, please tell me about your company and the one you’re partnering up with for this event?

AVM Curiosities has been exploring the relationship between art and food through a series of high-calibre events and edible interventions since 2011. AVM Curiosities champions the use of food as an artistic medium, with projects ranging from museum-style exhibitions and sculptural installations to interactive lectures and limited-edition confectionery.

Type Tasting’s Sarah Hyndman aims to change the way we think and talk about typography by showing how we interact with it in our everyday lives. She specialises in making the topic accessible with originality, humour and a dash of theatre. Sarah is involved in research into type and perception, she creates interactive events and workshops, and excitingly her second book will be published in Spring 2017.

And what will you be working on together?

Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions is an interactive sensory exploration of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice created by AVM Curiosities & Type Tasting for the British Academy’s Literature Week. Using this classic story as their template Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions will use type, sound, sight and scent to serve one story three ways. Focusing on how the senses and storytelling are intertwined through the voices of three engaging adaptations.

Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions aims to make the viewer think about books in a different way, it’s a conceptual way of seeing the book as both an object and a story, and how those two ways of seeing are intertwined.

Why should others visit your event in particular?

Come experience a telling of Pride & Prejudice like you’ve never seen before, our monolithic, monochrome installation is waiting to be played with, and the stunning surroundings of the British Academy are not to be missed.

As you have a theme of three, what are three words to describe your event?

Taste, typography, transformations.

Very alliterative! And three words to describe the festival in general?

Sensory, storytelling, exploration.

Why do you think people should be excited by the festival?

Come to the festival because it’s time London came to its senses! I’ve long been a champion of employing all the senses in the museum environment so I’m particularly looking forward to attending Relax with Paintings at the National Gallery, and not just because my Turner scent-chamber is part of the tour!

Pride, Prejudice & Perceptions will be held at the British Academy as part of British Academy Literature Week 2017: Adaptations and Transformations from 15-19 May 2017 and it is free, drop in, suitable for all.

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

Interview with Amy Neilson Smith: the artist with it all going on (4 events to be precise)!

a juicy, fully fleshed neurological explosion

Hi Amy, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a performance artist, poet and Sensory Poetry Educator, who loves human connection through all our amazingly diverse senses. I’m excited by exploring our connection to each other through the multiple searching tentacles of metaphor! Metaphor opens the gateway to human communication, taking us looking from the outside – with a detached perspective, to an internal personal one - immersing ourselves in a fully sensorial three-dimensional world. If I say “I’m excited to see you” – you learn a static fact. If I say “earthquakes fizz to the surface of my skin when I see you” – I open up my world to you.

How did you get into the world of senses “fizzing to the surface”?

I trained as an actress at Central School of Speech and Drama, becoming obsessed with sensory ‘method’ practices – stepping into my character’s shoes, as far as was humanly possible. I’d consume the food they ate, wear the fibres they’d wear against their skin, listen to the music they filled their minds with. And a decade of dance training created a heightened sensitivity to my body in space. My poetry is often reviewed as a ‘sensorial human experience’. I still always put on my ‘sensory-suit’ when stepping into character.

I hear you’re pretty busy with the festival? What are you up to?

Yep! I was involved in five events but had to sadly give the In Sight Theatre workshop to the Artistic Directors Roma Brown and Zara Jayne to lead, as it now clashes with the final times of the Royal Academy Performance on the Sunday.

The four (only!) remaining events are:

My awesome students’ from my Poet-Residency at Joseph Clarke School, centre of excellence for visual impairment are performing sensory poetry on Thursday at 2pm. This is by private request only, if you’re visually impaired, live or care for those with these needs, or are engaged in the research field of visual impairment in the arts or education, I’d love to hear from you!

On Friday at 4.30pm, I lead a sensory-metaphor seminar at the Open Senses Symposium at the University of London – ‘An Alternative Logic – tasting a new perspective’, with fellow poet and performer Zara Jayne.

On Saturday and Sunday, I perform in Umweltern at The Royal Academy of Art, a site-specific immersive performance, leading blindfolded audience through a journey of voices and their poetic-echoes within the architecture of memory and their inhabited surroundings – devised by Bittersuite and Juri Nishi. I’m particularly excited about this one as the audience experience a highly personal performance, two at a time. There are numerous performances each day leading blindfolded audience members into the very skeleton of the building itself!

Next, I feature in a part of the film documentary devised by Kate Dangerfield (BFI, and supported by Sense), handing the camera over to students at Touch Base, a centre for adults with complex needs and visual impairment, showing us their perspective of the world and their connection to their sensory landscape. This will be discussed by Kate at the Symposium on Friday and screened at The Trampery.      

And the other event?

The event I’m no longer in therefore, but would still really recommend is the In Sight Theatre immersive storytelling workshop on Sunday at The Trampery: ‘Word on a Plate’. They have a fully inclusive ethos! This workshop is created using audience members; they will give you the skills to be writers yourselves, munching on titillating tastes in this live ‘creative process’, whilst simultaneously writing from the food’s’ point of view! To further tempt you: there will be a sensory taste and metaphor audience-interaction, with delicious bites to digest your metaphors!

Sounds like you’re a fully invested Open Senses artist, how did you get involved?

I was introduced to the ‘sensory magician’, Stephanie Singer, Creative Director of Open Senses and Bittersuite. I’m developing The Spoken Word Education Program (Artistic Director: Jacob Sam-La Rose) for visually impaired students, as part of my master’s at Goldsmiths University. The program had yet to be developed for deaf/blind students or those with complex needs. My obsession with the sensory world, devotion to poetry as an art form, and background in teaching SEN were finally given the opportunity to harmoniously merge. I first developed my research project Children in Action (tutored by Michael Rosen and Maggie Pitfield) using taste, synaesthesia and smell to develop a metaphorical sense of colour. I’ve edited/collated an anthology of the students’ sensory poems – ‘A Blind Bit of Difference’ (Alba Publishing), due for release this year. I wanted a platform for them to show off their talents!

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

As I’m in four events, there is little time for me to see much else! But I will be celebrating with everyone who has been involved or attended the festival each evening and cannot wait to meet likeminded people who also buzz off their senses! I also can’t wait to listen to all the other ideas bursting at the sensory-seams at the Symposium! This promises not to be a dry inaccessible experience stuck on seats, but a juicy, fully fleshed neurological explosion!   

Why do you think this is important in London right now?

Due to the current political divides erupting all over the world, I think we’ve never needed to awaken our senses and sensitivity to others, more than now. It’s also at the most developed point of technological history that phones, screens, and the anonymous, often de-humanising, 'voices' of social media, have in many ways brought communication (real-life “there's a person in front of me talking” communication) to a breaking point. We need to come back to the tactile present. Instead of phone-filming a moment - live, breathe, smell, touch, taste the moment for yourself. Bring a friend to share the present moment. I hope Open Senses spreads globally, and brings us back before there are robots leading spiritual workshops in temples that are empty, but live-streamed to us in our virtual reality bedrooms. This festival is a sensory 'reboot'. People will be given new skin with which to breathe.

Excellent! And what’s next for you (after you’ve had a brief chance to rest)?

I'm in early discussion with Dr Tereza Stehlikova (Senior Lecturer at Westminster University and leading the Journey to the Interior, in assisting developing a new MA – exploring embodied theory/ expanded practice of ‘moving image’ and potentially utilising sensory art practices as the teaching/ methodology. I'm continuing to develop the Spoken Word Education Program for visually impaired, deafblind students and those with complex needs - I plan to spread this internationally. Blue sky options on the horizon, I hope one day, that all schools are sensory schools, allowing children to grow through momentary stimulation. Not stuck at desks! Rudolf Steiner describes children as 'whole sense organs' - why can't state education start opening their senses to these inspiring philosophies? I'm going to play my part in awakening this consciousness.

If that’s not enough, I'm excited to return to Maison Gai Saber, France, as Poet-in-Residence in June, writing my new collection ‘Splintered Boards.’ I’m buoyed up by Michael Rosen’s glowing review of Joseph Clarke students' anthology ‘A Blind Bit of Difference’:

“This is an explosion of a book; feelings, thoughts, memories, hopes, attitudes and more whizz through the air and land in our minds. I feel privileged to read it. Please read it too and share your favourite poem with someone. These young people are poets!”

I'm excited about circulating this nationally in libraries so other children can share their viewpoint, and to approaching other visually impaired schools to keep working on this exciting sensorial project! 

To find out more including getting an invite to the Thursday Showcase, you can email me for more details or else simply come say hi at the festival!

Great stuff and finally, three words to describe how you feel about the festival?

Full of BEEEAAANS!!!!

I guess you’d need to be to have the energy to do all that! Can’t wait to join in!

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

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.


Interview with Josh McNorton, Producer for Open Senses Festival

adventurous, scintillating, surprising

Hi Josh, can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m originally from Canada and I moved to London in 2012 to work on the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. I’ve remained in London ever since and gradually transitioned from producing cultural events to more unique, thought-led festivals. For three years I produced FutureFest, a two day festival in London about the future, which was a great experience. Now I am producing a new festival called FuturePlay (formerly the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival) which coincides with the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe, in August.

How did you get into the world of the senses?

I think events are inherently multi-sensory but I didn’t realise the potential for audiences to be transformed by sensory work until I discovered BitterSuite. I met Steph in 2014 and was immediately enthralled by her quest to advance the experience of live music. I commissioned her to create an original piece, The Sensory Score, for FutureFest in 2015 and we’ve been discussing Open Senses and collaborating ever since.

Why the senses in particular?

As a creative producer, I love orchestrating reactions from an audience. In this day and age, there are so many distractions and so much competition for people’s attention and time, so we need to work harder to captivate people. Rather than relying on technology, theatrical devices or gimmicks, multi-sensory work uses what every audience member already has – their senses! The senses are a surprisingly underutilised frontier in live performances and immersive experiences, so there is a lot of room to innovate.

Also, by featuring multi-sensory work, the event becomes accessible to a more diverse audience, especially people who are sensory-impaired.

What led to the creation of this festival?

It started two years ago with a core team of four and lots of discussions, meetings and emails. It has been Steph’s vision driving us from the start and I think we’ve come pretty close to realising it!

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

It’s a boring answer but funding is the biggest challenge. New festivals typically take at least three years to turn a profit and while we have a different business model than most festivals, we’re still expecting to lose money. Open Senses doesn’t have a big promoter, sponsor or funder backing it. Everyone who works on the festival and contributes is a volunteer but there are still infrastructural and marketing costs. Without public funding or private sponsorship, it’s virtually impossible to pull this off… but somehow we’re doing it!

Why should people make time to come to the festival?

Open Senses is unlike any other festival and the programme is so wide-reaching that there is something that will interest every person. Plus, there are plenty of surprises for those who want to dive in and see a lot across the weekend!

Why does it matter?

It matters because it’s unifying a diverse group of artists, academics, makers and innovators while also celebrating London as a leader in multi-sensory practice.

What are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

I’m most looking forward to SenCity, as I’ve been hearing about it from Ronald for many years but yet to experience it myself. Just as with BitterSuite, the idea of pushing the experience of live music, and making it more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, is really exciting.

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

As Open Senses is such a unique and important concept, I’d love to see expand to other cities. But I can’t think too far ahead as we need to make the inaugural London festival a success first!

What three words would you use to describe the festival and how you feel about it?

Adventurous, scintillating, surprising.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks to those who have been and will support Open Senses this year. Get out there and buy tickets!

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


Interview with Steph Singer, Director of BitterSuite: The Performance

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

Photo Credit: Kare Khoo

visceral, intimate, liberating

In this two part interview Steph Singer, founder of Open Senses and director of BitterSuite, starts by sharing a bit about Tapestries, the latest BitterSuite production for the Open Senses festival.

What can people look forward to with your particular performance, Tapestries: BitterSuite, at the festival?

You will be transported by Tapestries - an original BitterSuite concert. You put your body in the hands of our experienced team and allow us to manipulate, move, touch and feed you all perfectly in time with the music. It’s an adventure for your body to listen in a new way. You can expect to think about music in a way you never have before. And hopefully leave with an intimate connection to one of our BitterSuite hosts.

How would you describe your event in three words?

Visceral, intimate and liberating

Why should they come and visit your activity?

Because they’ve never experienced anything quite like it before. And because it will open a new avenue in their imagination.

What else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

  • Law and the senses!!
  • Hack the senses!
  • I=U
  • Juri Nishi
  • Sencity!
  • We are Now
  • Crossmodal Cabaret
  • Journey to Interior

How would you like BitterSuite to develop in the future?

We’ll be pushing our practice developing experience & music side by side, experimenting with instruments on a major scale and touring our work.

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


Welcome to our world

a tantalising taster

Welcome to the Open Senses blog, our more informal portal to share with you more about our activities and back stage sensory snippets in the run up to, and during, the whirlwind of the festival itself.

…A path leading you to an enticing nudge, a passing sniff, an intriguing chirp, a hidden glimpse, a fleeting touch, a tantalising taster of the activities within and surrounding Open Senses, come join our journey…

Can’t think where to begin?

Alongside the information on the website, here we have a sneak peek into some of the artists’ events and interviews with some of those involved with the festival; all to help you decide which of the many fun, thought provoking and insightful activities, workshops and events you may choose to join in with.

Please do share your experiences in person and via our facebook, instagram and twitter (@OpenSensesUK #OpenSenses2017) channels – we would love to see what you get up to, hear about your adventures and feel it with you.

Majority of posts captured by Natasha Blok (@NBlok1) with a crimson and gold butterfly net.