According to its creator Skye Gellmann, Blindscape is a Rubik’s cube. Shift one part of the dramatic theatre piece and the effect is felt in all other parts.
And the puzzle’s been shifting a long time – Blindscape is constantly evolving as the skill of the performers change and new technologies and ideas are added with each season.
Blindscape is an interactive, two man show that dislocates traditional boundaries between performer and viewer. The production comes with its own iPhone app that audiences use to affect the work as they determine the primary light source through which to view it. It started, however, as a sound game designed by Dylan Sale at Gellmann’s request back in 2005. “I first started working on it with the game programmer [of the show]. I had an idea for a sound game,” says Gellman. “We had a prototype at the Independent Game Developers Festival and people really liked it. They liked it a lot! But then we had this prototype and didn’t know what to do next – it was a new form of game so we were really careful with the way we executed it. We worked on it a bit more, but then we sort of put it on a shelf.”
Though Gellman kept thinking of the work over the years and was continually interested in the way society’s personal devises effect one’s sense of self, he was always overwhelmed by the evolving possibilities surrounding it. So on the shelf it stayed until, while in Malaysia, Gellmann decided to apply for the Next Wave Theatre Festival and needed an idea. “Maybe I was just in the right headspace, but I’d wanted to get back to my circus roots and of game design,” says Gellmann. So he pulled Blindscape off the shelf to propose using its original interactive audio idea with a performed circus show.
When he applied for Next Wave, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing and how or who he would bring in to work with him on it, but everything fell into place with the right mix of long-time collaborator. He didn’t always let the people he was working with see the whole picture, however. “With Kieran Law, who performs with me, I didn’t tell him there was this game that I was basing the piece on,” says Gellmann. Law was kept in the dark for a few weeks because Gellmann was interested in what the he could create without the knowledge of the production’s ‘game’ aspect.
Law is a professional dancer rather than circus performer, so each time the two performers come together on stage for a new season, his skills have increased and the duo can explore where the show can go. “Everything shifts again,” says Gellmann. Old movements are revisited, new ones are created and, with the audience directing the light via their iPhone apps, Blindscape re-emerges as a constantly moving puzzle.
“When we come back together, we never know exactly what it’s going to look like this time. When we were developing it for Next Wave, Thom, the sound designer, Kieran, everyone, was in different states!” The apparent chaos of disparate artists, multi-layers of technology and interdisciplinary arts means Gellmann is constantly thinking of the big picture. Like a Rubick’s cube, Blindscape pieces together colourful squares, moving one piece to shift the others in order to arrive at a fully realised performance.
BY HOLLY ORKIN