Blind and Not Afraid: Britt Hatzius

October 8th, 2016  |  Published in Early Fall 2016

When playing ‘telephone’ as a kid there always seemed to be someone in the circle who would misinterpret the sentence, sometimes the translation was funny and sometimes it was gibberish, but it always connected those in the circle. In Britt Hatzius’ “Blind Cinema” this connection of communication became the struggle to build a world out of softly spoken descriptions of paper thin plots while blindfolded in a dark movie theater afraid to even breathe in case you miss the next detail.

Walking into the Carnegie Theater you might notice the patriotic murals or the worn red theater seats, but I immediately noticed an older gentleman passing out black fabric blindfolds, and felt a bit like an extra in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.  We took our seats and settled in, not sure what it would be like to allow ourselves to be so vulnerable in a public space.

The film started and for the first few moments the screen was lit up with black and white objects circling through space, and then we were asked to put on our blindfolds, and we acquiesced. All that you could hear was the scuffling of little feet and the movement of the Dr.Seuss- like listening device that had a long tube that was bifurcated into two little amplifying horns for you to hold on to as your only life line to understanding what was going on.

As your senses adjust to the deprivation of sight you find your hearing heightened in a way that enables you to fully let go to the story that is being whispered in your ear. Our storyteller was exuberant, he didn’t share all the details, but he left that “Hatzius space” for your own interpretation.

While this millennial described the film he mentioned an old film projector, and deprived of sight I felt I could almost taste the room and hear the ‘crackle’ of the film strip, but my fantasy was interrupted when he called the projector a ‘computer screen’ and I snapped back to the reality that it was 2016 and I was spending my Friday night having some kid dictate my imagination for an hour.

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized these little slips of language weren’t just me being hyper-vigilant ; they changed the entire experience for everyone. Chelsea Borgman pointed out that “There was a moment during the performance when the child said ‘and now our building is crumbling’. In that moment the intimacy of the experience became so clear to me. It was ‘our’ building, just ours, the conceptualization of it was shared between the 2 of us. No one else saw the same building we did”.

There is no right or wrong in the “Blind Cinema”. In the upcoming weeks children from 4 countries and 2 continents will participate in this performance piece and each of their descriptions will be as intimate and jarring as the experience we shared. It may not have been your average game of telephone, but this form of whispering words bound us together through trust, imagination, and sensory deprivation.

–Katie Dreyer

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