This film is an experiment in creative access-oriented media production. The starting point is the final sequences of Rihanna’s Fenty x Savage vol. 2 show, which debuted on Amazon Prime in October 2020. The task was to describe and caption this film in ways that model new possibilities for the aesthetic of access.
Audio description is a permanently unfinished protocol for creating spoken and aural material from visual content. Captions work the other way, making visual material from audio content. While the Fenty show had both of these as options to toggle on, they were created according to the usual, unimaginative, compliance-minded way that reigns where audio description and captions appear.
This video was produced by students in a fall 2020 course at NYU called Disability, Technology, & Media taught by Dr. Kevin Gotkin. The challenge is to rethink how we usually conceptualize access media forms, dispensing with notions of “translation” from one modality to the next as if the goal is to achieve a perfect symmetry – and as if that’s even truly possible.
Students either described one minute of the show or captioned two minutes, which is why only the first half of this sequence has both description and captions. Each student took a different approach to their task, which is why the overall video refuses to cohere into a single style. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the combination of stimuli here, you might consider this as a collective achievement of this work, successfully displacing an idea that there is a hypothetical audience member who is supposed to receive everything a work has to offer.
The audio description was recorded by Cyler Daigle, a Brooklyn-based voice actor and artist.
The NYU students who produced the various segments of this video are:
Jae Wook Kim,
and Cathy Xu.
If you have thoughts or questions, you can send them to Kevin Gotkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.