Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Braille Window Project

I spent half the day at the National Gallery today. In between looking at the exhibitions, I attended a couple of talks at the Fullscreen08 forum. Fullscreen showcases the work of selected artists who use digital media, eg: AV recordings, blogging, computer-generated art.

The stand-out project for me was the Braille Window Project by Anne Walton. This work consisted of a shop window covered in transparent braille texts. People passing by could feel the texts, while blind writers were invited to type up their observations and have them pasted onto the window.

I found this project interesting because art is normally such a visual medium that blind people are excluded from it. I didn't fully realise this until Anne pointed out that art has nothing to offer blind people because they can't interact with it in the way sighted people would (think of your typical art exhibition or museum collection, with objects hanging from walls or behind glass windows).

After meeting blind advocate Bruce McGuire, Anne was very conscious of creating an art installation that would include blind people without tacking them on as an afterthought, or treating them as a "special needs" group. I think she succeeded with this project.

(Interestingly the main toilets in the National Gallery don't have braille signage, so pity the poor blind person who wanders into the wrong toilets by mistake.)

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