Friday, December 13, 2019

'Invisible Octopus' (7) The Play of Shadows

Living in the shadows of an Invisible Octopus 


Working on ‘Invisible Octopus’ inexplicably forced me to examine and establish
the truth about what is my normal.


During the past five months I have been working with Dr. Emma Fisher through a mentoring bursary from the Arts & Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. The aim was to write a script for my existing puppets, as well as explore alternative forms of puppetry to accommodate the physical challenges due to my chronic illness/disability M.E.. 
In this paper, which I am sharing in sections, I explore the background to ‘Invisible Octopus’ and the challenges, opportunities and personal revelations it brought. 



Previous posts


  • (7) Shadows (this post)

Exploring shadow puppetry


The play of shadows


During the last mentoring day Emma and I explored shadow puppetry with the use of an overhead projector. Emma managed to attach a small screen to the bed end of my profiling bed (hospital type bed) and placed the overhead projector on a bed tray standing over my legs. 

Totally wedged in, but breathing life into a whole new world playing with light and shadows, movement and stillness. I experienced the beauty of creating a mini world with herbs from my garden and marveled at the possibility to change the colour of the light on the screen through movement of hands under the source of light. 





Gently moving the paper puppet in a wheelchair over the ‘grass’ made from fennel leaves, the shadow of ‘Octopus’ appeared in this tranquil scene. Encroaching slowly on the puppet, pushing her about, lifting her up in the air and leaving her drop, wheelchair and all as ‘Octopus’ moved closer to the source of light, blocking out the image of the puppet, changing tranquility into chaos.






The illusions of life 
are fragile
in the shadows

of an Invisible Octopus 

(See HERE to read the rest of this poem)



Where from here



Having worked with Shadow of an Invisible Octopus made me confront the stark reality of declining health. This project is possibly the most powerful focus on my daily difficulties of life with illness. Although I have used many forms of creativity over the past two decades, I believe Puppetry is the most confronting and at the same time healing art form of all

In the coming months I hope be able to define where this project is going: Will it really become a film? Will it go beyond the series of these short abstract on my blog - and the various articles for journals? Will it be an illustrated poem? Perhaps a book, incorporating this journey, and delving deeper into the challenges of ill health? Will it be an installation, which can tour around the country, using the yet to be created sets, and showing the short video clips on the set walls? 

 I most likely will explore shadow puppetry further, as it proved to be a very accessible to me.

Invisible Octopus as a concept to explore illness/disability through puppetry, is far from finished. Although I must also admit too that I have very little energy to remain fully engaged in the current process. But there is always a way...!


'The walls we continue to face'


I am only starting to understand a whole new level of the power of the puppet, 
in all its forms.  
And in the process, I am hoping to find that light again, 
measured by the intensity of its shadows.




What a journey is has been.
Thank you Emma Fisher from Beyond the Bark for guiding me on this amazing journey.
Thank you Lorraine Shanahan for wonderful PA support;
Aram and Marwa for input in filming. We are not finished yet.
Arts & Disability Ireland for awarding me the mentoring funding through Connect.

 Thank you to everyone who supported me through this time of creative growth, accompanied by challenging realities. Big thank you to you, My readers and followers on social media -  thanks for joining me and for your kind comments and responses through various media of Facebook, Instagram Twitter, email and in person. 

It means a lot to know that although my life is as ‘hermit’, 
I am certainly not alone.

shadow puppetry, figure in wheelchair and skyline of Haarlem, Netherlands
traveling back in time... through shadow puppetry




I am one 
In a worldwide community of hermits
where freedom of movement
is no longer a right



PS, if you were inspired by the puppets I made... I have an online puppet making course available, to create puppets with clay head, hands and feet. Suitable for all levels of ability. See more HERE


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