‘Listening Distance’ is an audio-visual performance that evokes a live portrait of Thomas Tajo, blind expert in human echolocation. The piece is for a small group of audience at a time, sat in a semi-circle around a large monitor. Via 'open' headphones, they listen to Thomas who appears on screen, recounting his childhood spent in a tribal community in Arunachal Pradesh India. As he speaks, the image slowly fades to black, eventually turning into complete darkness. What follows is an experienced illusion of his physical presence in the room, evoked through binaural sound recordings.
In this, viewers are turned into listeners and asked to trust their ears the way Thomas trusts his. In an attempt at wanting to dismiss any preconceived ideas around blindness, most notably as a form of disability, the intention of Thomas is here to shift our attention to a curiosity towards learning to expand our ability to sense the world beyond our culturally dominant sense of sight. How might we share our particular way of perceiving the world with one another? And how can we reach an understanding of difference, of otherness, without falling into assumptions and presumptions defined by fear?
The title ‘Listening Distance’ considers the act of listening (to someone, to something) and that of keeping, measuring and perceiving distance (to things, to people). Both are central to the technique of echolocation, the ability to locate things at a distance through sound.