Notes on darkness

Since before its birth, Sensescapes has been growing from a both practical, philosophical and artistic interest in the aesthetic potential of carefully facilitated, sensorial experience. Sensescapes is intended to be a multisensorial laboratory – An aesthetic playground for the senses, encouraging deep realizations and impressions to appear through and with the body as a sensitive, living being.

Sensescapes is inspired by theatre and performance, philosophy, pedagogy and ethics of nature. These are huge fields, hard to capture and make concrete in small company with big ambitions. Yet, within all the explorations and works towards making sense of sensation so far, runs a thick, black thread of darkness. Darkness as an ungoing theme, a fascination, a material, a phenomenon, a dialogue partner and first and foremost an aesthetic strategy.  Here some notes on darkness:

Non-visible sensescapes

For years, the work of Sensescapes has evolved around personal, blindfolded explorations as a method to create, sustain and share aesthetic and playful experiences of relation between self(s) and surroundings. Not as performance, but as a simple, practise-based method of the philosophy of the phenomenolgy of embodied perception. Read more about the investigation of blindfolded sensorial walks, and about turning landscapes into sensescapes, in the Sensescapes master thesis published here on the blog.

Lately, new modes of sensorial exploration and deep listening has come to surface. On a summer afternoon in 2017 a beautiful collective sound improvisation was facilitated in the end of a workshop with young folk musicians at Rethink Folk Music Festival. In this task, each personal non-visible sensescapes from our one-on-one blindfolded outdoor explorations, transformed into a shared moment of playing-as-listening and listening-as-playing, making the whole group of players and audience one sensitive organism in a non-visible sensescape.

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Memories in the dark

This year, an exciting new project, titled “Mit Barndomsalfabet – 28 fortællinger i mørke” (My Childhood Alphabet – 28 stories in the dark) has begun to find its form. A journey away from outdoor explorations and workshops, into the dark walls of the theatre blackbox as a secret room, an intimate space, a personal cave. Framed as a solo performance piece for a small audience, a fragmented, text-based narrative of childhood memories is staged in darkness, using the blackbox as a sensorial and intimate frame for profound listening and playing together.

The performance has been curated and developed through a series of test-showings at Museum Ovartaci in Århus 2018, and will continue its production and development before its premiere at Ubåden, Bådteateret in Copenhagen in August 2019.


Good night stories

For around a year now, Sensescapes has held storytelling workshops with 4-6 year-olds and their teachers in many local institutions. With “Good night stories” as our theme, we have explored the atmosphere of darkness related to sleep, dreams and the dramaturgy of being put to bed. The children are wonderfully imaginative, and each workshop has given form to a unik good night story in rhyme, based on drawings and stories from the participants. The programe is compressed, introducing the kids to blindfolding and guiding, dream meditation and dream-drawing, fragmented storytelling, new songs, audience-participants and other theatre-related elements. Whenever the physical conditions allow it, we work in dimness or darkness, however the slow pace of sleep and night is present in the work no matter how lit up the room is.

Thanks to the local cultural institution, Børnekulturhus Aarhus, for enableing and supporting this project!


In the context of darkness

This month, Sensescapes was invited to participate in three enriching days of Performing Arts Relay lab and Articulating Artistic Research seminar at the University of Calgary, Canada. The overall theme was “context” and thus Sensescapes was asked to set the frame of a research process connected to the theme. For three days, artists and scholars from all over the world was therefore encouraged to curiously approach and investigate darkness as a specific context, tool and phenomenon. Immersing ourselves into the dark, our journey brought to surface strong impressions, moving moments, and a space for respectful sharing of work and of reflections.

The outcome of the lab is rich: new tools for creation, new relations, and new ideas for future projects. Perhaps most important is a higher awareness of the importance of reflection of both one´s own artistic language/signature and of the importance of reflection in one´s own production process.  As is many lab processes, a few questions are answered and many more have risen, such as: How to tone darkness? How to capture personal darknesses? How to approach the environmental conumdrum of darkness? And wonderful ideas, such as: darkness as a shower, a variation of sensation and a poetic potential for interbeing. Gratitude to Barbara Simonsen from Seachange Lab for the generous invitation, and to facilitors in Canada for a rewarding week.


Ending with an anecdote told by one of the participants in my lab group – the canadian puppeteer and director Peter Balkwill – who´s old school teacher would begin every movie class by demanding:


Dark greetings from a dim winter afternoon in Denmark


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