Guest Blog Post: Nataly Lebouleux discussing the process of making Mina Accessible

Mina is an innovative new show that was recently developed from an award winning film. It’s a performance that explores the controversial issue of conversion therapy and gay exorcisms.  You can catch it at here on 25-26 Feb. Click here for more details. 

In this blog post, Nataly Lebouleux discusses the process behind creating Mina and why the show is important as it spreads awareness about gay cures and gay exorcisms still happening within society today. 

As a multimedia artist, I am committed to creating work that “speaks” to people. Considering how my work can be engaged with and how I want to engage my audience is important to me. So in November 2018, when Disability and Deaf Arts festival DaDafest became interested in programming my show MINA -at the time it was still in development- I started to thing about access in terms of how I can tell Mina’s story to make it a rich complete experience for D/deaf and non D/Deaf people. We are all plugged into the world through our perception/cognition. So what is at stake when as an artist you want a story to become perceivable by as diverse an audience as possible?

Over 45 mins, MINA tells the story of a woman who remembers fragments of what happened to her when she was 17 -she was put through “gay cures” or conversion therapy by her parents – and explores how she responds to her past emotionally and physically. I am fascinated by the fact that we all have to engage with the world around us and inside us in very individualised ways. Our perception and cognition are influenced by many factors, by inner an outer circumstances that are unique to each one of us. So this is true of a fictional character and true of each audience member too. In the show, I am working with a multi sensory story that can be perceived differently by different people at different times. Depending on where they are looking, what they are seeing or “hearing” “ reading”, and of course depending on who they are. And just like Mina who has to make sense of what she remembers and experiences in the present moment ( and this happen in a multi sensory kind of way), the audience experiences her story and has to work things out.

Mina’s story unfolds through animation, film and lighting, alongside what her physical performance is expressing. The show relies heavily on new technology to make this happen: we use 3 projectors to project the media on 2 screens and on the set, plus a specifically designed simple floor-based lighting set up, all of them controlled via 3 laptops. It’s a technical challenge but visually, it’s a rich canvas that allows us to create subtle changes in meaning and moods. We also rely on a sound track and a lot of it can be experienced as vibrations. Finally we have some voice overs, voices from the past that Mina sporadically remembers.

I am neither Deaf nor hard of hearing (although this is likely to change with age) so I collaborated with my friend and colleague graphic and multimedia artist Andrea Pazos who is D/deaf herself. Together we worked out the best way of bringing the voice overs to life visually. We chose particular fonts and a range of colours to represents the various voices/characters whose words Mina remembers. We also worked on their timing: when they appear on the set, when they disappear. Timing is important as it creates a visual rhythm that can be affecting. And it has to work with all the other elements that are happening already on stage. If you can hear the voice overs, the creative captioning follows the voice overs with a couple of seconds delay. So they are like an echo of what Mina hears in her own mind. It adds to the emotion of the moment. And if you cannot hear the voice overs, you get more than just meaning. When the words appear projected on the set, there is a feel to them. A body. A presence. Working with access in mind to me is about questioning perception, storytelling and the aesthetic of a piece. Once you have worked within that framework, it becomes impossible to not consider the questions is raises in terms of your own practice but also just as importantly, in terms of the relationship you want to establish with your audience.