At the e-Volver Festival, shadow puppets meet live-streaming in Mind of a Snail's A Light Touch

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      Holed up together in the weeks before the new e-Volver Festival, partners in life and art Jessica Gabriel and Chloé Ziner found themselves feeling anxious and disconnected. “So many things were shifting. Why make art that isn’t part of the revolution right now?” says Ziner. “What is needed right now?”

      The answer, as usual for the two performers behind Mind of a Snail, was shadow puppets and old-school overhead projectors—but now boosted by live video and Internet streaming.

      “We were talking about how there’s no-touch pandemic distancing juxtaposed with this violent, heavy touch by police,” she continues. “We decided to make our show about care and connection—that welcoming in our playful, creative space, which is so healing to us, and using the tools around us.”

      The result is the new live-stream show A Light Touch, which invites three predetermined volunteer audience members to appear on the live feed each night. Each will enter a digital-analog Holo-Deck that conjures longed-for travel destinations or “psychedelic spa experiences”, with wildly crafted “light therapy” customized to their desires. Gabriel describes it alternately as a “playful kind of clown healing centre” and a “layered feast for the eyes”.

      Mind of a Snail is toying with the idea that isolation has made us fall out of touch—with our chiropractors, our massage therapists, our palm readers.

      Expect the same warped but warmhearted humour and surreal handmade innovation that have made past Mind of a Snail shows like Multiple Organism cult hits. The two artists, who have worked together for 17 years, trace their one-of-a-kind shadow-puppet work back to the time Gabriel’s dad lent them an overhead projector for a performance at a “rave in the forest”.

      For the record, they now own nine overheads. And Gabriel’s father is one of A Light Touch’s first volunteers.

      Their show is just one of nine premiering at e-Volver, which switched gears quickly in the face of COVID-19 to replace the live rEvolver Festival. Like the fest’s other experiments on different platforms, A Light Touch has been created amid the craziness of the last six weeks. To hear these two describe it, they have turned their entire home into a creation space, wielding cameras, computers, and their usual paper and scissors. Or, in their more-colourful description, they’ve transformed their digs into an “avant-garde sanctuary-laboratory living-room surgical theatre”.

      Video projections altered during the live-stream will even play out on a big bedsheet hung in the duo’s living room. “We have big, south-facing living-room windows and we’ve made it into a black box,” says Gabriel. “We’ve been trying to watch live-stream shows, and the ones I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones that share a bit of their space.”

      “It’s somehow more intimate,” Ziner adds. “We’re trained as clowns, and a big part of our work and what people enjoy is us making things in front of them. And discovery can come with imperfections and trying some risks—we want to show that and share that.”

      Mind of a Snail presents A Light Touch on YouTube Live on Thursday (June 18) at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday (June 23) at 8 p.m., and next Thursday (June 25) at 9 p.m. as part of the e-Volver Festival.