In Pandora’s Light Box, poet Ken Cockburn worked with a group of visually impaired participants to develop a poem that describes the history, architecture and participants’ experiences of the Talbot Rice Gallery. The project took the functional form of verbal description and by working with a poet elevated it into an artform. Public readings of the work attracted a broad audience and Pandora’s Light Box is now a permanent sound installation to enhance the gallery experience for all visitors.
Following Pandora’s Light Box, a series of tours started to explore what particular interests and areas of expertise bring to a description; a ceramicist’s walk to work, an architect led tour of a museum, a cleaner describing a historic house. At the same time, participants met artists and explored site specific art practices across visual art, theatre and sound. Through discussion and feedback from visually impaired participants, this process has suggested specific areas for further exploration. The intention is to continue focussing on verbal description, broadening the exploration to different genres of writing and performance.
What we’re exploring
Opening Lines will explore the creative potential of verbal description with visually impaired individuals, audio describers and artists. Verbal description is used to make visual art, film and theatre accessible to visually impaired audiences. Opening Lines will place description as central to the creative process and experience, offering new ways for individuals with visual impairments to engage with the arts.
Opening Lines follows an interest in language within description to explore what different forms of writing bring to the experience for sighted and non sighted audiences. Specific projects will explore the potential for interplay between narrative and description; ways description can provide different perspectives and acknowledge different experiences of a space. Opening Lines will consider ways the work can be presented, experienced and shared by involving sound designers and performers.
Opening Lines will mix short term Creative Labs, longer Investigative Placements and sharing of work. Creative Labs will introduce the approach of specific artists to continually develop ideas with participants.
Investigative Placements are an opportunity for artists and participants to explore together a location in Edinburgh and play with possibilities of verbal description. They provide time for artists to create imaginative and informative writing resulting in a performed reading and recording of the work. Over three years, writers, performers, audio describers and theatre makers will be invited to work with project participants, building a diverse collection of responses to locations around Edinburgh.
Project participants expressed that as a collection, the work should aim to inform, surprise and enthuse listeners about Edinburgh’s history, people and culture. The involvement of visually impaired individuals will continue to inform and evolve the project at all stages.