Guest blogger Rebecca Swift is Creative Director of` Entelechy Arts. Here she writes of Between Worlds. This is an on-going enquiry into how elements of Ambient Jam – an Entelechy curated space which brings together artists who are sensory skilled through their own practise and people with profound disabilities who are often sensory skilled through necessity – can contribute to cultural practice, and to the design of continuing professional development programmes for artists .
“Contemporary art most excludes those people with profound disabilities and perceptual impairments“ (Adams, 2010).
Artworks gave Entelechy the opportunity to open up a protected practice into the ’outside’ world: the central civic space of the Barbican’s Pit theatre; sharing work with artists of very different disciplines and approaches working in different contexts. It created a new ‘collision of different worlds’.
Migrating with this area of our work into a new context meant we re-worked and scrutinised our practice in order to juxtapose non-verbal immersive sensory landscapes with intellectual debate, suggesting an equality between them. This included an examination in how to design other ways of holding seminars; how to form a bridge between non-verbal experiential thinking and more classically accepted verbal ways of thinking. It was aimed at practising artists and professionals from health and social care sectors.
It was an ambitious challenge both logistically and in design to suggest that there can be other ways into ‘thinking’ that are co-led by those who are experts through lived experience, like Carol Greenslade who happens to be deaf/blind and learning disabled or an emerging older artist or the wife of someone who is a resident in a nursing home; that something arising from the margins might enhance how we all think and so contribute to intellectual discourse.
Inevitably with such a diverse ensemble of facilitators we were weaving a rich, and complex web. The exceptional quality of the Entelechy ensemble of artists (old and young) gave a real sense that the programme was delivered by an arts company as a whole, not personality-led. Because any authentic enquiry is vulnerable to external positive and negative viewpoints, we had to ensure strong ‘containment’ structures. This came through bass player Ben Hazelton’s live responsive music and Sculptor Shane Waltener’s ‘moving scenes of textural media’ that held, altered and grounded the space.
Carol Greenslade’s presence grounded and made robust the fragility of what we were attempting to do. I think without her none of this would have made as much sense and a whole context to many of the exercises would have been missing. She took us places where Ben allowed his double bass to be hugged whilst playing it (a new way of him experiencing his own music as vibration, shape, and sound); where many of us were able to move straight into the intimacy of finger- tip movement and touch; and where ideas of followers and leaders, and being dependent on others for care got thrown in the air and landed differently. Her presence made me, as creative lead, bolder and able to hold the edges. Her excitement and authority about being there could not to be discounted or ignored – her support worker said “you can see she is so happy to be here, it the big space, she can really move around, and meeting so many new people”. Her presence ensured that we cut to the chase, that there was no smoothing over or smoke screening of ideas and issues.