WDE Spotlight: The OtherAbilities

In WDE Spotlight, we give the floor to several designers from the Embassies. This time, we talk to Eva Fotiadi and Adi Hollandr, two members of The OtherAbilities initiative, part of the Embassy of Inclusive Society in 2022. What is their background? What inspires the initiative? What do they hope to achieve through their work? You can read about it in this Q&A!

Type Update
Published on 20 October 2022
Part of Embassy of Inclusive Society
WDE Spotlight: The OtherAbilities
Part of Embassy of Inclusive Society

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background, and your design practice?

We participate in the Embassy of Inclusive Society with the Haptic Room Studies, a collaborative project between artists Adi Hollander, Andreas Tegnander, Ildikó Horváth, Sungeun Lee, art historian Eva Fotiadi and architect Yonatan Cohen. It is the second project of The OtherAbilities initiative, founded in 2019 by Adi Hollander and Eva Fotiadi (Ph.D.). OtherAbilities investigates the implications, possibilities, and feasibility of sensory translation within art, design, and technology domains. The initiative is a hub for experimental interdisciplinary projects focusing on multisensory art and sharing art with a broader audience.

Your project is part of the Embassy of Inclusive Society during Dutch Design Week 2022. What can you tell us about this project and what stage it is now?

We will present two Haptic Room Studies: #1: Porcelain Membrane Wall and #3 Conversation Piece. It is our first public presentation of the Haptic Room Studies. It is a presentation of lengthy research and a test of our proposal on turning the architectural design of exhibitions into a universal accessibility tool available to artists, curators, and audiences alike. We have started working on related ideas in 2019 with the project What Do I Hear?, for which a larger team was involved than for the Haptic Room Studies. That was a broader research in sensory translation in art with sound and tactility as the main common denominators, and it led to several prototypes. We selected some of the conclusions and lessons of that project and moved on to the Haptic Room Studies.

Can you explain how your project relates to the story of this Embassy?

The Haptic Room Studies project is a series of architectural interventions designed for venues where works of visual or performing arts are presented. They comprise part of The OtherAbilities’ long-term research in ‘translating’ works of art between the senses. Specifically, the Haptic Room Studies can turn the sound of a film, a music piece, or a live conversation into a tactile experience of vibrations. We, the OtherAbilities collective, are interested in sensory translation as an inquiry into the nature of our active experience of art as humans. Equally important, we also understand this translation as experimental art and design proposition for the possibility of including deaf/Deaf and hard of-hearing audiences in the experience of sound in art.

Fragment from a documentary about The OtherAbilities research in translation between the senses, pilot project What Do I Hear?  Filmed and edited by Alina Ozerova in 2020-21, Amsterdam (NL).

What was the main starting point of the project?

It would be impossible to pinpoint one starting point, but we can give you a taste of the questions that underpinned our research: How can we translate the experience of hearing into a physical experience of a room? Can we create other-sensory experiences of sound and movement by incorporating haptic technology into the presentation space, using tactile, architectural features such as walls, floor, columns, etc.? Could it be possible to feel complex sensations from a few sources simultaneously, such as voice, noise, melody, and harmony? Using the spatial distribution of speakers, is it possible to create a “sound landscape” of sorts, where the body passes through different vibrations while walking in space? Can we use this “sound landscape” to create some storytelling in space?

What kind of design/project would you like to realise in the future and why?

We are studying how to create haptic spaces with the tools we created, so in the near future, we hope to be able to test different situations and mediums to learn what we made.

How do you think your design can make an impact?

This is a difficult one. We would be delighted if we could make some people imagine that there are more ways of making or presenting art that intervene and play down the logic of normal bodies vs bodies with special needs; or to imagine how many more things one can do with the architecture of spaces like museums, theatres or music theatres especially if we reimagine their architecture from the perspective of the senses.

Can you name another interesting designer who works on the same topic, and what makes his/her projects so great?

Prof. Amir Amedi, who heads the BCT lab, Reichman University, Israel. He is considered one of Israel’s top brain scientists and a leader in fields like brain plasticity, multisensory integration, brain imaging, and brain rehab. He has pioneered and won numerous awards for — helping blind people to see through sounds and for the deaf or hearing-impaired to “hear” through their fingers.

If you could choose one person to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist, organisation, anyone), who would you choose and why?

The LIVELab at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The LIVELab is a research-based performance theatre and testing centre. They describe themselves as follows: 

The LIVELab is committed to developing a world-class facility for the scientific study of music, sound, and movement and their importance in human development and health. The McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind (MIMM) fosters collaboration among dozens of scientists, researchers, and musicians. Together, we explore fundamental questions about the neurological impact and benefits of music, dance, and the arts.

We would love to learn how our project is conceived by the brain and test the quality of the information we can translate/transform through tactility. The LIVELab is the ideal hub of expertise and facilities to pursue research in this direction.

What kind of design/project would you like to realise in the future and why?

To create a real-scale tactile theatre.

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