Theater archives

A Senseless Act


You stand poised on the stairwell’s bottom step, arranging your velveteen blindfold. Once sightless—barring those lysergic patterns you get inside closed eyes—you feel a hand grasp your arm. You shuffle tentatively where the hand guides you until a downward pressure tells you to stop. Then a different set of fingers places your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you. Others file in behind. Hey, it’s a blind conga line.

The conceptual, performance, and, um, visual artists behind Red Dive’s One Less Sense (CSV) aim to create “site-specific, multi-sensory art events.” The recipient of the first Bessie award for installation and new media, Red Dive is a sprightly four-year-old collective of five women artists. And while One Less Sense throws ’90s postmodernism, ’70s happenings, and junior high haunted houses into the aesthetic blender—and employs the work of male artists—it’s unavoidably girlie. That’s not at all a bad thing.

From the fuzzy furries to feel, to the soprano singing a Cat Stevens song, to the guiding hands, to the soothing voice asking, “Would you like a taste?”—the effect is overwhelmingly female. The participant is subject to very little conflict or confrontation—the piece mostly proceeds one sense at a time—and the emphasis is on togetherness. Tours of 10 or 12 people depart every 20 minutes, and you might want to check out your compatriots pre-blindfold. You’ll soon be walking, crawling, singing, even exhaling with them. “Breathe,” says a voice. “Now listen to your neighbor’s breath.”

Despite some casualness in the setup and some imprecision in the vocal commands, the piece as a whole succeeds. You do find yourself focusing on oft ignored senses, thrilling to a sound or smell. And just wait’ll you feel the fruit wall.