Teen superheroes take flight! A year of adventure with CanTeen Ireland

It’s been an amazing year of creative exploration and experimentation with CanTeen Ireland, the young people’s cancer support group, and artist mentors on our Two Suitcases community project.

In April, we hosted Planet of the Capes, a film and music showcase, at The Sugar Club in Dublin. The event featured a series of collaborative artworks by CanTeen members, Two Suitcases artists and multi-instrumentalist and composer Sean Carpio, together with interactive experiences for the audience. Planet of the Capes was open to the public and attracted over 80 visitors on the day.

In advance of the showcase, CanTeen members took part in a music workshop with Sean Carpio to devise an event soundtrack inspired by their superhero-themed film. This was the first time the young people had the opportunity to create music together and the music-making went down so well it has to led to a new project!

Planet of the Capes

The main attraction at the April showcase was the premiere of Planet of the Capes, a superhero-themed film by young people from CanTeen created with professional artists on the 2016 Two Suitcases project.

The Soothsayers’ Sounds of Superpowers

In March, Sean facilitated a music-making workshop workshop at The Lir in Dublin for CanTeen members. The young people chose themes and moments from Planet of the Capes to explore. They also chose percussion instruments which they were drawn to and felt best represented these moments. With the aid of sound samplers and contact mics, participants devised a soundscape with Sean and the final piece came together during a separate rehearsal session. And hence a new supergroup was born … The Soothsayers!

At the showcase, The Soothsayers performed a live soundtrack akin to the foley artists of the silent movie era, in this case to imagine lost scenes from Planet of the Capes. Using a mix of musical instruments, electron­ics and Foley art techniques, they scored these imaginary scenes live, with the visual aid of selected footage from the editing room floor, which was curated by Emma Eager.

New explorations in music

Following the showcase, CanTeen decided they would like their next project with us to be built around music. In August, we hosted a daylong exploratory music and art workshop led by Sean Carpio at Goldsmith Hall, Trinity College Dublin. We played music individually and as a group and everyone had their own interpretations of what they saw and felt. We then created visual interpretations through collage. The idea was to encourage imagining through music, whether visually or emotionally, and the young people came up with ideas on how these visuals and emotions might be explored through film.

‘I thought it allowed us to convey a lot of our own emotions through music, to level out our ideas through music…’ – participant

‘You know the way Sean was telling us to close our eyes and visualise what we were feeling, I was just thinking if you had music to go with our feelings, that could help us with making a movie, out of the feelings that we felt …’ – participant

‘The playfulness and calm spirit of the day was possible because each person found a preferred way to work within the group, whether through the conceptual, visual, sonic or performative. Their ability to do this shows a remarkable promise for any future projects.’ – Sean Carpio

Everyone was excited about embarking on a new phase of the project that would be led by music. Stay tuned for developments in 2018!

Artists’ work inspired by Planet of the Capes

Inspired by the imagination of the young people and their film collaboration, Two Suitcases artist mentors Louise Manifold and Ben Murnane produced new work in spring 2017 and Sean Carpio came on board as a collaborator. The work was showcased at our April event.

Fortress of Solitude

Drawing on the fantasy of being a superhero, visual artist and experimental filmmaker Louise Manifold created a short film piece overlaid with a poetic narration composed and spoken by Ben Murnane and featuring performer Lauren Trainor.

The Hero No One Believed In

For poet and writer Ben Murnane, the project was an opportunity to ‘to delve deeper into one of my own main sources of succour and inspiration when coping with my illness: the fantasy of being a superhero.’ His poem ‘The Hero No One Believed In’ and an accompanying essay ‘Why heroism matters’ were included in the event programme and excerpts from the poem were featured in Ben’s film collaboration with Louise Manifold. You can read Ben’s essay here.

In Orbit

From sprouting wings to walking on water, early myths to modern superhero comics, humanity is eternally fascinated with stories of metamorphosis. This 16mm film by Louise Manifold explores our desire to escape ourselves – to become a “super other” – and how this is felt in physical body performance. The score was composed by Sean Carpio and performed live at the showcase by Sean.

An interactive screening experience

At our Planet of the Capes showcase, Siobhán Clancy, lead artist on the Two Suitcases Project, curated a series of sensory and interactive happenings for the audience taking inspiration from the culture of the picture house during the World War II era. These activities were facilitated by 12 costumed volunteers, who undertook performative roles.

On arrival, guests were given News of the Planet, an 8-page programme produced in the style of a superhero comic. This must-read featured all our favourite superhero characters and stories from the project!

Performer Aoife Raleigh invited audience members to practice their superpowers in a secret training course, which included super skills in object balancing. A drop-in mask-making workshop gave guests the opportunity to transform themselves into superheroes and capes made by Siobhán were provided to get the full superhero effect. Once transformed, guests were invited to pose for the paparazzi in front of an laboratory installation inspired by the evil scientist’s lair in Planet of the Capes. Photos were then shared on Helium’s Facebook page.

At the end of the showcase it was wonderful to see lots of little superheroes making their way home, capes flapping in the afternoon light.

Funding Acknowledgements

The Planet of the Capes project and event 2017 was funded by the Arts Council and Dublin City Council Arts Office with support from Flying Tiger Copenhagen. The film Planet of the Capes was funded through the Arts Council’s Young Ensembles Scheme. The August music workshop was funded by CanTeen Ireland with the support of Trinity College Dublin.

Thank you to the wonderful volunteers who helped to make Planet of the Capes such a special event and to photographer Paul Gallagher for taking pictures on the day.