Seeing by Touch is one of the few exhibitions where you can touch everything—all 120 artworks of visually impaired students, 26 classic sculptures and one spatial installation!
The inclusive temporary exhibition is designed in such a way that visitors can tactilely experience the artworks of visually impaired students. The exhibition is completely adapted to blind and sight-impaired persons, and because of the extremely low budget all the production materials were recycled from previous museum exhibitions.
The key questions that guided the design concept of the exhibition were: How do blind and partially sighted people create works of art? How can sighted people experience their world? And, what is the best way to design an exhibition for blind and partially sighted people?
Blind and visually impaired people do not paint, sculpt, make reliefs or draw standing up. They create their artworks while sitting down at a table and find it the easiest to work on a flat surface. This is why all the exhibits and their captions, written in the Braille alphabet, were laid out on flat surfaces and made easier to touch.
The exhibition begins with a dark room, which offers a simulation of blindness and an impaired sense of mobility and spatial orientation to sighted visitors. In this dark room, there is a sculpture perceptible only by touch, thereby placing sighted visitors in a situation commonly experienced by blind and partially sighted people and in this way the design team intended to make an introduction into their world.
The students' artworks and captions in the Braille alphabet are mounted on an eighty-meter-long, meander-shaped base, positioned along the gallery walls. A special atmosphere is created by the lighting—custom made for this exhibition—consisting of seventy "probe lamps," each of them illuminating and accentuating an artwork. As the exhibition was produced with a very low budget, the lighting was ingeniously created using cheap PVC pipes, which were painted black and inserted with LED lamps.
Children's direct contact with the works of art is an indispensable component of art education. This exhibition is a rarity in that it also enables the tactile experience of the works of major 20th century Croatian sculptors. The exhibition closes with the art installation which offers an extraordinary spatial-tactile experience.
Exhibitions for blind and partially sighted people are often mounted with captions laid out at an angle, which makes reading difficult and puts a strain on the wrists. Likewise, hanging artworks on walls is not the best way to present the creations of the blind and partially sighted. This exhibition is therefore designed to enable any blind or partially sighted person to walk through it almost completely unassisted. Sighted visitors wishing to experience the exhibition the way visually impaired people do can walk through it blindfolded.
The exhibition garnered media interest, received great press coverage, and attendance was higher than usual for this Gallery. People showed great interest for art of the visually impaired and also other galleries and museums have shown interest in the exhibition. Just a few months later the whole exhibition was "recycled" and set up in other city.
“An exceptional and highly refined display, regardless of low budget. Approaches a topic of inclusivity and lack of ability in an unforgettable way.”
“Love the ingenuity and resourcefulness of this project. The simple and dramatic lighting and display enhance the experience for all visitors.”
Marko Rasic, Vedrana Vrabec (designers)
Karlovac City Museum, Center for Education "Vinko Bek" (organizers); Lana Bede, Tanja Parlov (exhibition authors); Lazo Cuckovic (production consultant)
Center for Education "Vinko Bek" (braille printning), Studio Barjaković (printing), Regeneration Factory (tuft installation), Karlovac City Museum Production (probe lights)