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BLAK BOX is a light- and sound-filled pavilion that invites deep listening

Presented by Urban Theatre Projects as part of Sydney Festival 2019, BLAK BOX is a full sensory experience designed for sharing a deeper and broader understanding of contemporary Aboriginality.

Deep listening in the Aboriginal culture is the process of deep and respectful listening to build community. It is a means of exploring, understanding and learning from Australia’s First Peoples’ culture, knowledge and experience.

BLAK BOX is inspired by the significance of deep listening. Presented by Urban Theatre Projects, BLAK BOX is an immersive experience with a pavilion designed by architect Kevin O’Brien, soundscape curated by Daniel Browning and lighting conceived by Karen Norris. The full sensory experience – combining sight, sound, touch and smell – is designed for sharing a deeper and broader understanding of contemporary Aboriginality.

BLAK BOX debuted in Barangaroo, Sydney, in June 2018, and makes its second appearance in Blacktown in January 2019 as part of Sydney Festival. The freestanding pavilion provides an enclosed environment for visitors to listen to and reflect on First Peoples’ stories. Daniel’s soundscapes are specific to the location of the pavilion, and Karen’s lighting evokes a colourful, daydream-like quality. “The pavilion, as a vessel, is designed to amplify the soundscape and lighting,” says Kevin.

The shape of the pavilion is rectilinear on the outside and circular on the inside. This form is inspired by traditional gatherings around the campfire as well as an asymmetrical egg-shaped lounge room in Villa Snellman, designed by Swedish architect Eric Gunnar Asplund in 1917. “This lounge was rumoured to be the perfect room for conversation,” says Kevin.

The BLAK BOX pavilion has an aluminium frame and transparent Danpalon polycarbonate panels. It can be easily constructed and deconstructed by a small team, and the double layer of polycarbonate diffuses and reacts with colour and light. There is no floor in the pavilion.

“The point of the project is to make you aware of Country.” – Kevin O’Brien

“The point of the project is to make you aware of Country, so it was important to affect as many senses as possible,” Kevin says. “There is an absolute direct connection with the ground. The ground always has a smell to it and there are opportunities to scorch it with fire.”

Daniel has curated a new deep listening experience for the Blacktown location. Four Winds draws on the oral history and speculative future of Blacktown and Greater Western Sydney with musicians and storytellers presenting a cross-generational dialogue bridging the past and the future. “With this soundscape, I’ve tried to get at what it means to be conscious of every beat, every breath, every musical note, every birdsong. It goes with the concept of deep listening – being fully cognizant of everything going on around you,” Daniel explains.

Urban Theatre Projects’ BLAK BOX will be at Blacktown Showground Precinct from 9 January to 2 February 2019, in partnership with Sydney Festival and Blacktown Arts.

Photography by Barton Taylor.

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