Academic journal article TheatreForum

Sight without Vision: Expanding Sensorial Experience in OjO and Rhodopsin 2.0

Academic journal article TheatreForum

Sight without Vision: Expanding Sensorial Experience in OjO and Rhodopsin 2.0

Article excerpt

Two events in the La Jolla Playhouse's WoW Festival draw focus to audience members' use of certain senses in order to heighten the receptivity of others. Both OjO and Rhodopsin 2.0 focus on sight- the emphasis or removal of vision- leaving the audience to question the true meaning of what it means to "see."

Rhodopsin 2.0 by WSOHOIDPS (a.k.a. A SHIP IN THE WOODS... look carefully) uses light and sound to demonstrate how the mind affects visual perception of reality. The piece involves a series of pulsating clicks preceding a bright flash. After the flash, the audience has been told to close their eyes and maintain the directional gaze at the time of the flash. Despite their eyes now being shut and the light having flashed only for a fraction of a second, the spectator is capable of seeing the space they are in.

This current incarnation of the Rhodopsin project is the brainchild of four people: vision scientist Patrick Cavanagh, Salk Institute neurobiologist John Reynolds, sound artist Greg Smaller, and architect Patrick Shields. Shields was brought in for Rhodopsin 2.0 to redesign the shape and layout of the installation's structure. What has resulted from this collaboration is a multisided black polygon with an almost conch-like internal design, spiraling inward from the entrance to a rounded inner space. The structure's inside is completely dark, and audience members are instructed to feel along the wall to reach the inner space. At the center, everyone fills in and sits on benches that line the room and wait, listening for the clicks and the flash.

WSOHOIDPS explains that "RHODOPSIN aims to encourage visitors to think about the process of perception and consider the brain's role in actively constructing, rather than simply relaying, reality; as experienced in an afterimage." WoW audiences indeed left the dark structure dazzled by the power of the mind and its role in the process of seeing.

Bricolage Production Company's OjO makes its audience question the prevalence of sight by removing it entirely from the theatrical experience, creating opportunities to see the world through other senses. Bricolage says that OjO "envisions theatre not as a passive experience, but as a vehicle for heightened involvement for artist and audience alike."

Positioned like a globetrotting experience, OjO is an exercise in trust. The journey begins with Uncle Jose amongst the trees of Jacobs Theatre District. He trades the show ticket for an airline-boarding pass, and tells everyone to enter the lobby of the Potiker Theatre and follow signs to "Gate C." There, we find an airline gate waiting area, complete with information counter and a stewardess who speaks only Cantonese. She requests to see identification and instructs each person with gestures and smiles to fill out and sign a real waiver.

After the forms are collected, the stewardess begins speaking English. …

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