This post includes:
Blind Travel, Friendship, and Time: A message from disability/Blind dramaturg Dr. Jess Watkin. Contains an audio player 1 minute and 18 seconds in length.
Diving Deeper into Care Roles and Interdependence: A conversation between Dr. Jess Watkin and Michael Achtman. Contains and audio player 6 minutes and 49 seconds in length, with accompanying downloadable transcript (Word doc).
Links: A list of external articles and references.
Blind Travel, Friendship, and Time
A message from Dr. Jess Watkin, disability/Blind dramaturg of Perceptual Archaeology (or How To Travel Blind).
The church doors open, and the whisky distillery unfurls before us. The light is warm, it’s quiet other than the tour guide pointing at things and saying “the roof is from Canada, rebuilt in…” I can’t really see the ceiling so I am only half listening until she gestures to a display case and I hear the word “Camino.”
This is around a month after being in workshop for Alex Bulmer’s new piece Perceptual Archaeology (or How To Travel Blind), which culminates with Bulmer’s Camino walk in Spain.
My chest fills with an excited warmth and my heart pounds, something here is right. I was meant to come to this place, this whisky distillery inside a church on the outskirts of Dublin City in the liberties in Ireland on my thirty-first birthday. There is something I’m meant to know, pick up, gleam, get from this moment, from this connection.
I wasn’t walking the Camino, I wasn’t really at the true starting place of it in Dublin, but I was close. There was a resonance beyond travel, there was something important here.
Perceptual Archaeology (or How To Travel Blind) jostles something inside of my Blind and Disabled bodymind that I’ve been craving to be articulated. The play toggles between Alex’s fierce independence in understanding the world around her, and also her inevitable interdependent reliance on people to remain safe and on track. This tension is demonstrated throughout the performance by Alex asking for help—something Alex has done in her past pieces (May I Take Your Arm? for example). Integrating support for her as performer while also creating an engaging piece of art is the sweet spot for Disability-led practices for performance and the arts. This performance embodies interdependence, vulnerability, and play in relationship to Blindness. As a Blind woman it resonates to hear someone else explain really hard and complicated ruminations about being Blind that I can’t just share with anyone. It feels special to feel -and the pun here is intended- seen by Alex’s words.
I feel held.
Or maybe it isn’t about what she says entirely, but what the whole performance (sound, liveness and proximity, voice and body in space, creative enabling woven strongly into the fabric of the piece) allows me space to feel known.
There is this moment in the fifth part of the play where Alex sits and listens to the sounds of the Camino…
And I cry. I cry because in contrast to other moments of travel sound throughout the piece (which you’ll have to come experience the play to hear!), this moment is grounding. Loud cacophony to smooth.
Momentum and stillness.
Blind travel is exhausting, and this play reminds me that we travel with and around people, with friends, with loved ones, and it’s worth it.
From the Play
"It made me consider time, blind time, interdependent time and the pace of emergence."
Momentum and stillness.
There’s something for me with this juxtaposition, inspired by Alex Bulmer and James Holman, a pace emerges of rapid discovery and then solitude.
Momentum or stillness? With Blind time you don’t have to choose, it is both.
"Its dark when we leave the church to head to the Brazen Head pub, I’ve been before, I follow my two best friends through cobblestoned damp streets of Dublin in January. We enter the pub and end up at two different tables, the second I feel my hands to the legs that are carved heads, a brazen head, if you will, I laugh and invite my people to touch with their hands. I’ve been here a handful of times before, but no one sighted had ever described below the table, why would they? I sip my beer and revel in the blind sharing I just offered. Momentum and stillness, movement with a slow, fumbling softness. Discovery is a Blind imagining."
Creating this piece of performance has taken a lot of people, time, and care, and it is still in progress figuring out how to practice together in ways that incorporate the experience of Blindness. While this work cannot serve every Blind understanding of the world, it takes Alex’s unique orientation to life and allows her playful energy to invite the audience into her world, back and forth through her thoughts, and with her we begin to carve out an understanding of what it means to live Blindly, vibrantly, and widely.
Diving Deeper into Care Roles and Interdependence
A conversation with Michael Achtman
Michael Achtman is a UK based filmmaker and photographer who I, Jess, had the pleasure of meeting with in March 2023.
Michael is also the long-time friend of Alex Bulmer, and travelled with her as a support worker during the research trip that has now become the play, Perceptual Archaeology (or How To Travel Blind).
We discussed that trip as well as what it means to be a support worker and the experience of Blind travel.
Here is part of that conversation:
Play Sound Creatures with Us
We are nearing the end of our third digital post!
We hope you have enjoyed our third digital post in the Perceptual Archaeology: A Blind-led Digital Art Space, a companion piece to our show Perceptual Archaeology (or How To Travel Blind) by Alex Bulmer - playing at Crow's Theatre in Toronto, Canada in June 2023.
Now that we are nearing the end of our third digital post, we are offering you another chance to play Sound Creatures with us.
In case you missed the previous posts, here is a short refresher to the Sound Creatures game:
The idea of "perceptual archaeology" came to Alex while swimming, as she collected pieces of information to form an impression of a pool.
Now we offer you this game, or challenge - to make meaning from sounds and form an impression of what you hear.
Here's how it works:
Listen to the audio player below for the Sound Creature.
Bring the creature to life using words (a day in the life, a biography, a list, a poem), or bring the creature to life two or three dimensionally (a drawing, a painting, a puppet, knitting, sculpture).
And then, send them to us!
Definition of "creature" - a living being, something that has been created, animate or inanimate, a creature of the imagination.
Here are things you might think about as you listen and imagine:
What is its name?
What does it like to do?
How does it move?
Where does it live?
And now, listen here to the Sound Creature:
Please send us your imaginings of the Sound Creature via email. We'd love to get them! Whether you spent a minute, an hour, a day a week - we're excited to get them and will respond to all your creatures!
If we choose yours, we'll get in touch to seek your permission to post them. You can say, "yay" or "nay".
Email your creatures to: email@example.com
Here's a list of articles and references mentioned other places in the post or as a suggestion to read.
At the Gate by Yomi Sachiko Wrong, Orion Magazine, 18 January 2022.
A short reflective piece that advocates for inclusivity within America’s wild spaces. “Disabled people exist now in all spaces.”
The Art of Irritation by Ayla Samli, Orion Magazine, 22 November 2021.
A poetic piece about the semblance of nature and the human mind and body. “Redwoods teach me to see the beauty in my own knotty scars, the gorgeous burls of my figured survival.”
What Slime Knows: There is no hierarchy in the web of life by Lacy M. Johnson, Orion Magazine, 19 August 2021.
A dive into the mystical world of slime mold. “Slime mold might not have evolved much in the past two billion years, but it has learned a few things.”
Studiokamp by David Kamp, 2011.
Studiokamp is David Kamp's sound design and music studio, the creator of Sound Creatures.