Brenda Longfellow’s immersive audio experience takes listeners into the drug overdose crisis
Brenda Longfellow worked with Darkfield, a U.K. theatre company specializing in immersive audio, and Crackdown, a monthly podcast covering the drug war through the eyes of drug user activists, to produce Intravene to plunge listeners into the heart of the overdose crisis in Vancouver.
Intravene, which uses binaural 360 degree sound, will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. From June 8 to 19, the team will host an onsite installation that will place participants into a re-creation of an overdose prevention site (OPS), immersing participants in the audio experience.
Longfellow, who teaches at the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, produced Intravene to shine a spotlight on the silent crisis of drug addiction, which has claimed countless lives in many cities across North America. “We know very well that existing drug policy regimes that criminalize and stigmatize people who use drugs have had a direct and catastrophic role to play in overdose death,” says Longfellow. Intravene focuses on the drug user activists who bring new perspectives and are at the forefront of this crisis through their work setting up overdose prevention sites, providing a safe source of clean needles and their lifesaving efforts to reverse overdoses through naloxone.
The project emerged out of the UK-Canada Immersive Exchange, where Longfellow was one of 12 Canadian creatives chosen to be a part of an intensive series of workshops on the art and business of immersive media. Partnering with Darkfield and Crackdown, the project was one of two audience-ready projects to receive funding. The UK-Canada Immersive Exchange is supported by an international collaboration between StoryFutures Academy, the National Centre for Immersive Storytelling (run by the National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway, University of London), Arts Council England, the Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab) and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Longfellow explains the project will immerse listeners into the charged atmosphere of an OPS, while learning the stories of fearless peer workers who are saving lives every day.
“Immersive audio provides a really powerful and deeply emotional way to communicate. As a listener, you are not on the outside looking in, you put on your headphones, close your eyes and you are suddenly inside the overdose prevention site, and by the end you realize that you are the one experiencing an overdose and are brought back to life by the peer workers. You’ve had an intense and deeply visceral experience and we hope that is one way to get folks to think differently about the crisis,” she says.
Longfellow produces and directs documentary and interactive work with a strong social justice and feminist focus. Her award-winning documentaries have been screened and broadcast internationally, winning Best Cultural Documentary at the Havana International Film Festival, a Canadian Genie and the Grand Prix at Oberhausen. Offshore, an interactive documentary co-directed with Helios Design Lab, was released in 2013 and screened at Hot Docs, the Sheffield Documentary Festival, SXSW, among other festivals. She recently completed The Circle, an interactive art project co-created with formerly incarcerated women and is producing a public art project on women and incarceration with collaborating artists in Vancouver.