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‘The Blue Description Project’ – reinterpreting Derek Jarman’s final film

5 June 2024 / 6.30pm / IFI Dublin
aemi & IFI present: The Blue Description Project

In 1993, Derek Jarman released Blue, an epoch-defining account of AIDS, illness, and the experience of disability in a culture of repressive heteronormativity and compulsory able-bodiedness. Though often referred to as a feature film, Blue never existed exclusively in one medium. It was screened in theatres, simulcast on television and radio, released as a CD, and published as a book, creating opportunities for many different kinds of sensory abilities—visual, aural, and textual—to experience the work. Conceived by artists and writers Christopher Robert Jones, Liza Sylvestre, and Sarah Hayden, the Blue Description Project builds on the multifaceted nature of Jarman’s work through newly commissioned and expansive accessibility. Reflecting Blue’s standing as a foundational work of Crip* art, the project challenges ableist hierarchies in art while focusing on the generative possibilities of difference and interdependence.

The Blue Description Project (BDP) is produced by Liza Sylvestre and Christopher Robert Jones (Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts) in partnership with Sarah Hayden (Voices in the Gallery). BDP is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with support from the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and additional support from the Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities HEIF Research Stimulus Fund.

On June 5th in the IFI, the screening will have creative captions and audio description embedded throughout. Working with partners aemi (a Dublin-based initiative that supports and regularly exhibits moving image works by artists and experimental filmmakers) and The Irish Film Institute; Ireland’s national cultural institution for film, this inaugural Irish presentation of the Blue Description Project, it will also include specially commissioned Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpretation of the entire work from interpreters Lianne Quigley (Di), Vanessa O’Connell (Hi) and Elzbieta Cichocka (Hi). The discussion afterwards will also be live-captioned and ISL-interpreted.

A block of priority seating has been allocated for audience members who wish to be closer to the Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreters. If you rely on ISL please purchase an ‘ISL Priority’ ticket and a member of staff will point you in the direction of your seat on the night. 

This new iteration of Derek Jarman’s Blue features an audio description track that has been created by gathering descriptions of the visuality of Blue from many invited contributors. This version of the film also features 3 open caption tracks. One of these makes legible the spoken audio descriptions. One provides captions for the film’s voiceover narration and the last is a creative sound description track, which translates the musical score and sound effects of the original film.

Alongside the audio description ‘The Blue Description Project’ also features a new captioning track that applies a new method of captioning that includes descriptions of the non-spoken soundtrack of the film.

A group of people are gathered in a room. They are mostly seated and are facing a medium sized screen. A single shot of saturated blue colour fills the screen and bathes the room and the guests in a blue glow. A caption is seen on the bottom of the screen but is not legible in this image.

Blue Description Project presented by Personal Space and Winslow House Project, Vallejo, CA, April 2024. Image credit Lisa Crallé.

‘The Blue Description Project’ premiered in Chicago in February and at the BFI in the UK in March. We are thrilled to be presenting the Irish premiere of this extraordinary project at the IFI Dublin on June 5th.


Liza Sylvestre is a multimedia artist and research assistant professor within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she has co-founded the initiative Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts. Her work has been shown internationally, including the Plains Art Museum (Fargo), Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis), John Hansard Gallery (Southampton), ARGOS (Brussels), and Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt). Sylvestre has been the recipient of both an Artists Initiative and Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, a fellowship through Art(ists) on the Verge, a VSA Jerome Emerging Artist Grant, an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, and a fellowship from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. She has been artist-in-residence at the Weisman Art Museum and the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science. In 2019, she received a Citizens Advocate Award from the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing. Sylvestre’s work has been written about in numerous publications and books including Art in America, Mousse Magazine, Ocula Magazine, Art Monthly, and SciArt Magazine

Christopher Robert Jones is an artist and writer based in Illinois. Their research revolves around the “failure” or “malfunctioning” of the body and how those experiences are situated at points of intersection between Queer and Crip discourses. They are a regular contributor to Art Papers magazine and their work has recently been exhibited at the Krannert Art Museum, Gallery 400, and the Weisman Art Museum. Jones is the co-founder of Crip*—Cripistemology and the Arts, a transdisciplinary initiative that is housed within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where they are also a research assistant professor.

Sarah Hayden is a London-based Irish writer and Associate Professor in Literature and Visual Culture at the University of Southampton. From 2019–2023, she led “Voices in the Gallery,” a research, writing and curatorial project on intersections of voice, text and access in contemporary art, funded by the AHRC. In 2022, she developed slow emergency siren, ongoing: Accessing Handsworth Songs in partnership with LUX. Recent writings include as if […] wearing anklesocks (for Sarah Browne’s Buttercup), an extended essay for Charlie Prodger’s “The Offering Formula” at Secession Vienna and one on captioning as “unvoiceover” for Angelaki.

A single shot of saturated blue colour fills the image. This rich, vivid blue colour is called International Klein Blue, named after the French artist Yves Klein who mixed the colour. This colour is a variation or shade of Ultramarine; which was made by grinding lapis lazuli or a synthetic equivalent called French Ultramarine. The image is captioned twice, the top line reads: (slower, Blue singlets, on the edge of hearing - then four fast) this text is displayed in a turquoise colour. The caption underneath reads: A blue...at times, a witness...of what is to come. This text is displayed in a bright yellow colour.




Thanks to everyone who so generously contributed their descriptions to the Blue Description Project. Warm thanks to Elaine Lillian Joseph and Corvyn Dostie. Special thanks to James MacKay, Basilisk Communications, and Zeitgeist Films.

aemi would also like to extend sincere thanks to Hannah Gumbrielle, Adrian Colwell and all at Arts & Disability Ireland as well as Project Potential Coordinator at Project Arts Centre, Cathy Coughlan for their invaluable support with this event.