Elyse Blennerhassett (2016)

Elyse Blennerhassett: I am a documentary producer and sound artist for radio, film, and space. Through sound, I seek to reveal the world around us. As an oral historian, I record first person-narratives to explore the necessary incompleteness of the moments and the marrow that define us. I do this, with the intention to explore how recognizably shared sounds can cultivate a sense of belonging in spaces that are otherwise defined by alterity.

Prior to joining the Oral History MA program, I worked with several nonprofits throughout Africa and Asia, focusing on post-conflict agricultural development with grassroots women’s groups. Returning to the US, I worked as a freelance podcast and documentary producer in Chicago, covering: police misconduct, accountability, and transparency, racial-bias, gun violence, food-insecurity, housing, poverty, race, and incarceration. As an audio producer for Brown Planet Productions, I collaborate with experimental documentary filmmaker, Carlos Javier Ortiz, producing two award-winning short films: We All We Got and A Thousand Midnights. Independently, my audio recordings have been featured on various podcasts, including: 99% Invisible and The Theory of Everything.

At the heart of the work are communities who counter alterity by challenging the narratives imposed upon them. I am currently producing 'Concrete Is A Colour', an immersive documentary about belonging and collective destinies. It follows strangers disconnected by time, yet unknowingly connected by place or experience, focusing on the systematic displacement, institutionalization, and erasure of people through incarceration. The documentary is rooted in the voices of Efren Paredes Jr. (MI) and Adolfo Davis (IL), who incarcerated for more than half of their lives, were sentenced to die in prison as youth. Through this ongoing and collaborative project, I have recorded their daily lives for the past two years. Through our conversations, I seek to create a work that addresses displacement, identity, inequity, citizenship, and the impact of mass incarceration on the potential for self-expression, freedom, and trust, in an environment designed to segregate."