Sensorium Ex



People / Culture

Science / Tech


An opera and creative technology project exploring the intersections of disability and artificial intelligence. Co-produced by VIA and Beth Morrison Projects.

"To Have A Voice Is Everything"

Jacob Nossell

Disability Activist, Sensorium Advisory Board


SENSORIUM is a multi-modal arts project exploring fundamental questions of what it means to have voice,and the nature of voice beyond language.

The project is centered around the opera, Sensorium Ex, by composer Paola Prestini and librettist/poet Brenda Shaughnessy and co-directed by choreographer Jerron Herman. The Sensorium Ex Opera - commissioned by VisionIntoArt and Beth Morrison Projects, and supported by the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts - is an opera of human proportions, set within the colossal confines of corporate omnipresence and ever-invasive technology.


Synopsis | Our story begins with Dr. Mem, a scientist and mother of Kitsune, a nonverbal, nonambulatory child with multiple disabilities, medically fragile. Mem has devoted her life to Kitsune and wants more than anything to find a key to unlock Kitsune’s voice—a way for him to make his wishes and needs known. Mem believes that if Kitsune can one day communicate decisively and clearly, he will be able to direct his life with full agency and dignity. Into this family drama enters Corp’s agenda, with its authoritarian demands. This mother-child pair are trapped, along with fellow researcher Mycelia, a woman who is half-tree and whose disabilities are better described as talents, affinities, skills and senses. They plan to escape their employer, intent on harvesting their human data, particularly Kitsune’s to complete their AI proto-human, Sophia. 

Sophia is the vessel into which Corp delivers all the human data they’ve harvested. Sophia will eventually replace humans, as humans have always feared. 

Mem and Mycelia are adults with the agency and ability to choose the direction of their lives, and if it were just the two of them, they might tolerate being downloaded into Sophia, but Sophia needs Kitsune’s data for completion. 

Kitsune is a child, who cannot communicate his choices or wishes, and so Mem and Mycelia must protect him. Whether they surrender to Corp or try to flee, the decision rests with Kitsune—it is he who needs to decide—amid few options—which way they are to go.


Sensorium AI is an international research, arts and technology project, with the overall aim of democratizing the development of voice-recognition AI and expanding possibilities for creative expression of voice.

The project has a specific focus on strengthening the experience of voice for people with voice-related disabilities, speech impairments and atypical speech patterns - beginning with the Cerebral Palsy community and expanding outward from there.

Sensorium AI will place an emphasis on both physical voice and expression, as well as voice in terms of social and democratic participation. The process will lead to a variety of outcomes including an interactive art installation and the development of creative voice technologies for artists with disabilities, which will be integrated into the Sensorium Ex opera.

The Sensorium AI project will be developed through a deep collaboration with the NYU Ability program and Arup.


Sensorium Ex is aiming to pioneer new approaches to creating opera in the 21st century.


Devising artistic practices which center disability equity and access at all steps in the process - pioneering inclusive casting practices; co-creating the aesthetics and expressions of the opera with disabled cast and artists; designing a fully inclusive and accessible audience experience.


The learnings and methods developed through the process will be documented, codified and scaled to partner institutions (for example: practices around inclusive casting, access needs, and co-creation - working with collaborators at across the country to integrate these practices institutionally.


Sensorium Ex has created a platform for artistic development and knowledge exchange bringing together major arts institutions (Kennedy Center, Artscape) universities (NYU) and companies (ARUP) to collaborate and generate both the artistic work and support structures which drive equity-centered practices.


90 minutes / Opera


6 principals, mixed chorus of 12, chamber orchestra and electronics. Music by Paola Prestini, libretto by Brenda Shaughnessy, co-directed by Jerron Herman and Jay Scheib. Community Lead Gregg Mozgala. Lead produced by VisionIntoArt with Beth Morrison Projects. Workshop production support: Artscape, Cape Town South Africa; the Shed; The Reach at the Kennedy Center.

Funders and Partners

Funded by The Ford Foundation, Alphadyne Foundation, and Nordisk Kulturfond.


Creatives are increasingly using digital tools and technology, not as accompaniments, but as central components of creative work, from the artificial intelligence opera Sensorium Ex

Inside Philanthropy

I am so excited to be part of an opera that provides a nuanced look at disability. As an artist with a disability, I’ve looked before at programming music that features disability… and time and time again, outdated and two-dimensional portrayals of what it means to have a disability have sent me back to the drawing board. With Sensorium, the explorations of disability and accessibility are so rich and nuanced… and ultimately point to the truth that disabled people are whole and beautiful just as we are, without the need to appear ever more able, or to fit into a world that demands we be so. Sensorium asks the world to change its perception of disability, instead of asking disabled people to change. This is a message I cannot wait to sing and share!

Hailey MacAvoy

I was introduced to the Sensorium initiative last year, and was thrilled to learn of an operatic work that gives voice to disability, inclusion, and access.  When I heard the music and met the team, my excitement grew tenfold.  After watching so many of the pieces come together this past year, I am truly excited to be a part of a musical union of sorts that brings together so many of the pieces.
Laurie Rubin