Festival preview: Your Reality is Broken

According to curator and performance artist Nwando Ebizie (a.k.a Lady Vendredi), our realities are broken. It certainly feels that way.

In these times of “alternative facts”, some catharsis-by-art and deep delving into the politics of perception feels fitting and necessary. The month long festival, Your Reality is Broken (YRIB), taking place 2 -28 February, welcomes artists, neuroscientists and audiences to contribute to a collective re-thinking of notions of objectivity and what we assume to be reality.

Curated by Nwando Ebizie and Jonathan Grieve of MAS productions, numerous multi-disciplinary interactive events including film, workshops, and live music will take place as part of artist Yinka Shonibare’s Guest Projects in Hackney, which “provides an alternative universe and playground for artists.”

We know artistic expression is subjective; creativity and observation relies on deeply personal and unfixed factors affecting our potential to relate and connect, but we rarely consider the subjectivity of the external world. Based on creator Ebizie’s own experience living with Visual Palinopsia, or Visual Snow as its also known, YRIB is a neurophenomenological experiment in which intimacy, expression and symbolism are blurred with public space, impulse and participation.

Described by Professor Peter Goadsby of the National Institute for Health Research at King’s College London as a ‘homogenous disturbance’, Visual Palinopsia causes numerous effects on vision including the recurrence of a visual stimulus long after initial sight, as well as tinnitus, hallucinations, illusions, a fuzzy static or snow-like layer over vision and constant warped light. Despite a lack of research (to the extent that the number of people who experience it is impossible to say), what is understood of the condition is that it stems from the visual cortex at the back of the brain, rather than damage to the eye.

Photo by Dimitri Djuric

Inescapable and unexplained ghostly images at the height of the condition’s severity have led to suicides by sufferers, which makes it even more baffling that the condition is a medical blindspot. Whilst Goadsby continues to work on a medical explanation, that would no doubt provide more visibility and strategies to manage it, Ebizie says it has helped her develop an interest in the “trance” space of “suspension between perceived reality and action” where consciousness ceases. This interest led to collaborative research with sensory neuroscientist Dr. Edward Bracey, who now mentors Ebizie and will be giving a talk titled ‘Introduction to the Neuroscience of Sense Perception’ at the opening ceremony on 2 February, 2017.

Described as a “secular ritual” based on research into Hatian Vodou, the festival’s opening ceremony, featuring performances by Deep Throat Choir (a choir of 30 women), Vogue DJ Jay Jay Revlon and Lady Vendredi herself, promises to connect “imagination and rudimentary social activity”. Whilst not expecting anything in particular from the audience, besides wanting to provide an environment that encourages honest responses, Ebizie hopes the festival will inspire the audience to interrogate what causes us to perceive the way we do.

If all of our brains are broken, as suggested by Dr. Edward Bracey, and the reality we experience is based on a simulation created by our brains rather than an objective reality, then perhaps we ought to be thinking beyond a “norm”, of which syndromes and disorders are deviants, and instead conceptualise neuro-difference in terms of a spectrum. We ought to make space for accepting multiple ways of seeing.

Marrying inner and outer worlds, sensory experience and sensory science and thinking through philosophy, politics, science and creativity, the thought behind YRIB sets a precedence for how we should all be moving forward.

YRIB is Supported by the Artsadmin Artists’ Bursary Scheme 2016-17

Full listing:

2 February

The Opening Ceremony

To open the festival we invite you on a journey through the rabbit hole.

Featuring Deep Throat choir (Bella Union), food by SynaesthEAT, Dr Edward Bracey (an Introduction to the Neuroscience of Sense Perception) and closing with a DJ set by Vogue supremo, House of Tea’s Jay Jay Revlon, and Marina Garvey Birch.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1044391385690399/

4 February

The Creative Neurophenomenology of Visual Illusions

Science/Art Workshop led by Dr Edward Bracey and Nwando Ebizie

This cross-disciplinary workshop will explore rare visual disorders that are like experiencing constant psychedelic hallucinations.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1292491937455917/

9 February

Houses of Decay

One on one intimate performance

An interactive performance installation made from grief, loss and decay.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1229654527070485/

25 February

HIGHER HIGHER HIGHER!

An ecstatic transformation ritual. Six hours of the same song played by the house band: When the Going is Smooth and Good by 70s Electro synth pioneer William Onyeabor. A dance to destruction or a dance to transcendence.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1215673321851298/

5 February

The Drawing and Dancing Society

Draw your reality

https://www.facebook.com/events/1914044812163475/

6 February

Dining:

SynaesthEAT

https://www.facebook.com/events/1468980036495584/

20-25 February

Secular Ecstatic Art 5 day Laboratory:

Live Art Lab led by Jonathan Grieve

Focussing on the subverting of power structures, participants will create the embodiment of mediated social, cultural and gender based identities through exercises using intimate exploration, props and costumes.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1732026937116668/

Workshops

Esoterra: A corporeal visual art lab on neo rituals: https://www.facebook.com/events/210979489352742/?notif_t=plan_user_associated&notif_id=1481144628042173

The Liberated Voice workshop: https://www.facebook.com/events/341121782922351/

Poetics of Body workshop: https://www.facebook.com/events/1611681285808036/

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