Abbotsford Convent in conversation with Mischa Long

This was originally published on the Abbotsford Convent blog – see it here.

Step into the imaginative world of Light Pickers, a dimly lit dreamscape reminiscent of the deep sea or an alien planet, filled with otherworldly objects emitting diffused light and soothing sounds.

Polyglot Theatre artist Mischa Long has dreamt up this interactive installation for children to explore their natural fascination with sources of light. We sat down with Mischa to discuss Light Pickers and the value of letting children explore wondrous spaces freely with their eyes, ears and hands.

What’s in store for young children at Light Pickers?
Children enter a mysterious darkened space illuminated only by the objects within it. Long vines of light, strange glowing bubbles, objects that respond to noise and strange inhabitants with costumes that emit light. What they are doing there is also a mystery: are they gardening? Collecting? Where are we? It could be underwater, it could be anywhere. By interacting with the objects, the children will help to create the installation, filling the dark corners with light.

Light Pickers encourages children to sculpt and play with light-filled objects. What inspired you to explore light as a central source for creative play?
Watching children play with and respond to lights is what inspired the show – toddlers jumping on lights set into a pavement, kids playing with torches. The idea is to let them pick up and play with everything in the space, and not tell them that they ‘can’t touch’.

Can you tell us about some of the objects that inhabit the Light Pickers space?
Their nature and usage are unclear: vines that could be tentacles, boxes that emit light, and sound reactive ‘flowers’. Everything glows and can be picked up and moved around. The costumes are also going to be pretty special, with lights on them and really cool helmets that look like deep sea fish.

How have you incorporated sound into the experience?
The speakers are as portable as the lights. Glen Walton has created a shifting soundscape that is as abstract as the objects, and creates a series of moods as it plays. Each speaker has its own soundtrack too so by moving them around, the sound in the space shifts with it.

The show’s quiet, gentle nature seems to be a deliberate departure from most experiences aimed at children, which are filled with sound and frenetic energy. How have children responded to the show so far? 
Children have responded well! The low light and gentle soundscape create a subdued mood and space. It comes alive as the kids interact with it, but never gets too frenetic. The show is aimed at younger children and infants so we want it to be a gentle exploratory experience rather than a hectic one. This also gives parents a chance to play gently and discover the world as their children do, without having to contain their desire to pick things up!

Convent Kids presents Light Pickers by Polyglot Theatre from Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 June 2019 at Abbotsford Convent. Read more here.

Drop-in visitors are welcome at the Light Pickers session on Saturday 29 June in the Convent’s Oratory. This 2-hour session is suitable for children ages 0 – 5 years. Come and go as you please between 10.30am – 12.30pm. There may be a short wait if the installation is busy.

Light Pickers at Abbotsford Convent is supported by the City of Yarra.