Earlier this year with the help of Artlink I devised a performance at the National Library of Scotland for visually impaired and sighted visitors. ‘Some Bat-squeak Echo of Other Time’ took its title from a phrase in Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveller’s Wife, and the performance connected various spaces within the library building on George IV Bridge with extracts from fiction – so the grand staircase became the setting for a scene from James Joyce’s Dubliners story ‘The Dead’, while the reading rooms hosted the “stout, middled-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles” (described as being “somewhat drunk”) from The Great Gatsby. I read the extracts along with Jenny Hulse and Lorna Irvine, and we were accompanied by Laure Paterson on fiddle and Sally Thomas on flute – before a four-strong choir closed proceedings with a wonderful rendition of ‘Let’s Do It’ on the staircase.
Pandora’s Light Box is a collaborative project I worked on for over a year, from June 2010 through to September 2011. My brief, from Artlink, was to write a descriptive poem about the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery, to be recorded and presented in the gallery as an audio work for visitors both visually impaired and sighted.
Access to visual art for individuals with a visual impairment relies on verbal description, and Pandora’s Light Box takes that ‘practical’ form and extends it into an artwork in its own right.
I wrote the poem for two voices, and a recording of myself and Lorna Irvine reading it has been installed in the gallery at three specially designed listening stations, downstairs in the contemporary White Gallery and the historical Georgian Gallery, and upstairs in the Round Room. You can listen to the poem here.
A friend of a friend sent these photos of some lines from the poem which seem to have escaped from the gallery; based on this blog, we think it was Dora, one of the project volunteers, but she’s not owned up yet! And this blog describes the project from the perspective of one of the visually impaired participants.