Powering Up / Powering Down 1/30/04-2/1/04
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Ruth Hellier-Tinoco

“Disability/Ability: Proposing Interaction and Challenging Subjectivity through the Soundbeam”

Michel Foucault has suggested that there is 'a form of power which makes individuals subjects'. He also indicates that 'there are two meanings of the word subject: subject to someone else by control and dependence, and tied to his own identity or self-knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of power which subjugates and makes subject to'. Those members of the UK population classified as 'adults with a learning disability' are often held within mechanisms of power that bind them within both frameworks of subjectivity. The Inter-Act Theatre Workshop Project, Winchester, is an attempt to challenge certain hierarchies of power and relationships of subjectivity, through the implementation of interdisciplinary arts processes and practices and, with particular relevance to the colloquium theme, through the specific technological device of Soundbeam. (a device that translates the direction, speed and distance of body movement into electronic music via connection to an electronic keyboard, sampler or sound module.) In this workshop-presentation I discuss and demonstrate the usefulness of Soundbeam in challenging the subjectivity of disability. The traditional conceptual polarity that this project challenges is that of disability/ability. Undergraduate students, adult residents of Winchester with a 'learning disability', carers and staff from King Alfred's College integrate and create as equal bodies in space, where movement triggering the Soundbeam enables empowerment in creation. Empowerment for all is at the heart of the project. Inter-Action is practiced in numerous ways: the practice of building relationships through creative arts processes; the practice of process, where artwork is produced but where creative processes are paramount; and the practice of creating with sophisticated technology in the form of Soundbeam, enabling the interaction of material bodies in space to generate sonic and embodied art.


Ruth Hellier-Tinoco (PhD) is a scholar, creator and performer, who teaches in the School of Community and Performing Arts, King Alfred’s University College, Winchester, UK. Since 1983 she has worked in a wide range of performance and educational contexts as an actress, puppeteer, musician, MD, composer, facilitator and teacher. Issues of identity, power-relations and politics are crucial to her work (and life!). In 1996 she started researching in Mexico, focusing on the use of the Viejitos dance from Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán as tool for political and tourist propaganda. She is director of the Inter-Act Theatre Workshop, an integrated, voluntary, performing arts project in which adult residents of Winchester with a ‘learning disability’ and students and staff from King Alfred’s create performances.

“Powering Up/Powering Down” is sponsored in part by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA), and the UC San Diego Department of Music in connection with the departments of Visual Arts, Music, and Literature at UCSD along with the UC Riverside and Los Angeles campuses.