Audio/Visual Play

Audio and Visual description:

Multi-colored speech bubbles floating in black space appear and disappear with each new statement read by different voices. A synthesized computer voice analyses the responses on a regular basis to determine levels of access. When access is actually achieved, the computer generated voice is accompanied by a drum roll. When all the voices shout: “STOP! REWIND!” all the speech bubbles appear at once and then slowly fade away accompanied by a whirring sound until suddenly, the screen goes completely blank and turns white except for three small dots …


Starting From Zero Audio/Visual Play English Transcript

(Voice 1)

In winter 2021, we asked disabled people working in the arts in Germany, how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their ability to participate in and produce art and culture. Here’s what they said…

(Voice 1)

What are the pre-pandemic barriers to arts and culture that still exist?

(Various Voices)

“One is dependent on the goodwill of others.”

“Depression, panic attacks and a lack of prospects are the rule rather than the exception. And nobody cared.” 

“All the same barriers exist for me as before the pandemic.”

(Voice 2)

barrier = infrastructure

barrier = artworld is unknown/unfriendly/unwelcoming

barrier = digital events are not completely accessible

barrier = no physical access

barrier = communication failure

barrier = cost

(Voice 1)

What are new barriers that have emerged?

(Various Voices)

“Being online so much can be just as exhausting as travel to/from events.”

“Many artists were simply “excluded”, and were no longer allowed to visit their institutions.”

“The problem is that one misses the liveness of being together in the same time and space – nothing to do about that..”

(Voice 2)

New barrier = the conditions of the pandemic

New barrier = the lack of human exchange

New barrier = even less visibility for disabled artists

New barrier = fewer accessible cultural events

(Voice 1)

Have digital spaces failed? What is missing from digital space?

(Various Voices)

“Sharing is made more difficult in digital spaces, as non-verbal signals are even more neglected, it’s exhausting to concentrate all the time, and with video on it’s even harder to relax.”

“I miss the direct exchange, acoustics, smells…”

“The sensory perceptions on the screen only happen through the eyes and ears, the other senses are omitted.”

“When an online event is over, you close your laptop and you are alone in your apartment. I miss the shared moment, even if I know that 50 other people have seen the performance, I can’t feel it at the moment when the laptop is closed, like after a live performance.”

“For artists with mental or intellectual disabilities, they actually fail all the time. The speed of the contributions is too high, it is not possible to establish a bond (or only with difficulty), the technical hurdles are too high, the devices with which one can participate are too expensive, it is too anonymous or not anonymous enough, it makes no real daily structure possible and leaves many behind, only more lonely. The only positive thing is that now people from other continents can, in principle, “meet” online more often. Digital spaces are also not parochial spaces that allow for random positive encounters. Instead, many rooms are scary and don’t protect participants from hate speech or discrimination”

(Voice 2)

missing from digital space = human interaction/feelings

failure of digital space = new levels of exhaustion

missing from digital space = a variety of senses: smell; touch, temperature, presence

failure of/missing from digital space = no collective participation/loneliness

failure of digital space = technical hurdles and a lack of information

failure of digital space = the lack of control over levels of interaction, the tempo, the cost

missing from digital space = a lack of balance

missing from digital space = safety

missing from digital space = familiarity

failure of digital space = poor formats

(Voice 1)

What are some new, successful, or exciting spaces for culture that have emerged?

(Various Voices)

 “Artistic presentations and performances that consider Zoom as part of the artistic aesthetic.. not just as a sharing platform. For example: using background filters, camera perspective, the artists appearing and disappearing as part of the concept.”

“Digital/telephone and virtual tours”

(Voice 1)

What new strategies or artistic practices did you develop as a result of the pandemic?

(Various Voices)

“I used the time to create more.”

“I have transformed live work and presentations into the virtual.”

“I phoned the artists entrusted to me a lot, brought utensils, started 1001 attempts to keep 3G, provided them with mentoring”

(Voice 1)

Online access for you means…

(Various Voices)

“As an autistic person, I’m happy about the “adjustable” volume and the “off” button on the computer.”

“Recording of events so one can experience them asynchronously ”

“At some meetings or seminars I was able to participate on the same conditions as everyone else.”

“Online’s online format has allowed me to attend events outside of the city where I live.”

(Voice 2)

access = autonomy (controlling the conditions of participation)

access = personalised assistance

access = full digital access

access = mentoring and support for artists

(Voice 1)

What support do you still need?

(Various Voices)

“Someone who figuratively takes my hand, at least at first, until I get used to the new and unfamiliar.”

“Many artists with mental or emotional disabilities cannot use online formats. They rely on attachment and having a “good gut feeling” in a room. You need to establish trust. This is hardly possible online. As a result, many have lost what is often the their only access. Many artists with mental or emotional disabilities do not even have any devices with which they can participate. Many are also so lonely that the hurdles to finding new contacts have become too great.”

(Voice 2)

access = affordability

access = accessible design and communication 

access = more space for audiences

access = being sensitive/welcoming/approachable

access = the promotion of disabled artists

access = equal access to digital spaces

access = acknowledgement of systemic ableism

(Voice 1)

What should we keep?

(Various Voices)

“Protected rooms”

“Working from home, hybrid events, international exchange, digital mediation offers, extended barrier-free accessibility.”

(Voice 1)

What should we add?

(Various Voices)

“Accessibility as an integral part from the start.”

“Isn’t a person with a disability also normal?”

(Voice 1)

What should we throw away?

(Various Voices)

“All the lip service.”

“The idea that disabled artists have to work out “”access”” themselves.”

“Almost everything.”

(All voices together)


[Sound effect: the whirring sound of rewinding. Visuals: all the text wizzes backwards]

(Voice 1)

“What if we start from zero?”

[Visuals: the screen goes blank except for the little blinking cursor waiting for someone to type]