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Behind the sonic landscape of Wired, a production that traces the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ through aerial dance

For Deaf Awareness Week, composer Ailís Ní Ríain explains her involvement in this project.

Wired, Kinetic Light Credit R Sweeny

In 1874, Joseph F. Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois received a patent for “The Winner,” with its twisting entwinement of three metal strands it became the most widely produced model of barbed wire in the United States. Beyond its racial implications, barbed wire has also historically administered the involuntary segregation of disabled people from the rest of society, often demarcating the perimeters of institutions and representing various forms of cultural and societal othering, separation, confinement, or control.

Wired is a long-form disabled-led work which honours histories of race, gender, and disability in America through an exploration of barbed wire. The project has been in development since 2018 when I was first approached by Alice Sheppard, the founder and artistic director of Kinetic Light dance company in New York. Alice became aware of my music through a commission which was supported in the UK by Unlimited.

When a production of my work opened in New York I met up with Alice in person to discuss what I could bring as a composer to the Wired narrative vision. In September 2019 I joined Kinetic Light for a residency at Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts to being to develop a sonic language for Wired which was initially centered around what I call the ‘pencil piano’, a form of prepared-piano which I had been developing at Yaddo Artist Colony, New York and Ragdale Foundation, Illinois.  Wired is my first dance commission and has enabled me, as a composer, to create a sonic environment for moving bodies in space held by a provocative and challenging narrative framework, aerial performance and meticulously detailed lighting design.

As for many of us, the pandemic prevented me from re-joining the company in person as planned in 2020, however they formed a ‘bubble’ and worked intensely in San Francisco during the pandemic while I contributed remotely in response to shared video rehearsals, photos, texts, zoom calls and email exchanges.

Just as Wired challenges us to view barbed wire differently, so too does this production challenge conventions of dance and aesthetics through the lens of disability. The work opens in Chicago on 5th May 2022 and transfers to The Shed, New York in Autumn 2022.

Watch the livestream from 2pm GMT, 7th May. Book your ticket.

About Ailis Ní Riain and link to SoundCloud


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