Hearing Voices of Support

Schizophrenia is probably the most misunderstood brain disorder.

People with schizophrenia or a related brain disorder are often reluctant to talk about it for fear of being judged or discriminated against.

These interview films are part of a series of 18 interviews that were conducted across America with people who deal with schizophrenia every day. For many, this was the first time they had ever spoken publicly. Their direct-to-camera, deeply personal stories are powerful and captivating.

After capturing the interviews (which live at the website - hearingvoicesofsupport.org ), the next part of the project involved designing an installation where people could experience the voices in a setting with other people and give the audience the opportunity to comment and add their voice to the project.

New York was chosen to be the first city to create this installation. We found a gallery in TriBeCa in which we could build and installation and showcase 8 interviews. Although the space could accomodate 40 or 50 people at a time, each person needed to have a very personal experience. Using highly directional speakers that created a “cone of sound”, that intimate experience in a shared space was achieved.

To this we added lights and atmospheric smoke that created a visual “cone” to complete the experience. As people walked into the light, a sensor on the floor would trigger the speakers to start the soundtrack and then an excerpt of the interview would begin to be screened on the wall. The effect was that it really felt as if the people in the interview films were speaking directly to the person in the “cone” giving them a uniquely personal connection and insight to their story.

One of the major objectives of the installation was to measure whether people’s perception of and empathy toward mental health and schizophrenia in particular had been changed by the installation. After people exited the installation we briefly interviewed them on camera. This video material was then channelled to three additional elements. Firstly, we took a comment for each person and posted it with their name to a "word wall” - a screen of rolling comments from people attending the installation. At the end of each day, this stream of comments was animated into a word of support and then these pieces of animation would run on screens within the installation thereby making the people attending interactive participants and an integral part of the installation. The brief interviews were also posted to social media to share with a wider audience which in turn resulted in comments and engagement from that audience. Finally, all the video comments from the attendees, plus survey cards were provided to a research study to measure any change in view about schizophrenia and empathy towards the issue. 80% of respondents said their level of empathy had increased.

Linda Stalters - CEO of SARDAA said, "Ian Fowler was an intricate expert in producing, directing and helping with all of the technical aspects of our Hearing Voices of Support (HVoS) Initiative. Ian worked in multiple roles on the HVoS project from directing, lighting and editing the 18 interview films and oversaw the design of the installation with it’s beams of light and highly directional speakers, post experience interviews and designing the “word wall” which animated people’s comments into words of support making the experience truly interactive. We look forward to hiring Ian for future interviews and replication of the HVoS Perception Changing Art Installation."

Credits -
Agency: The Bloc
Creative directors: Sharon Howard-Butler and Brit Till
Director/Producer: Ian Fowler
Sound and Light Installation: Glowing Bulbs, Inc.
Editors: Ian Fowler / Matt Butler
Music: Rafael May / Evan Pinciaro
Client: SARDAA - Linda Stalters, CEO

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