Ways of Not Seeing, Andrew Leland, δημοσίευση στο Art in America [6/10/2022]Marilena Pateraki
In her influential 2017 study More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art, Georgina Kleege, a blind writer and UC Berkeley professor, visits the Museum of Modern Art in New York to look at some paintings. When she rents an audio tour, the little handheld device that MoMA provides presents Kleege with three options: there is one program produced for mainstream visitors, another for blind visitors, and a third for children. Like a blind art-loving Goldilocks, Kleege decides to try all three.
She finds that the mainstream audio tour, narrated largely by the museum’s curators, is rich with historical and technical descriptions of the works. The children’s tour encourages a playful, exploratory approach to apprehending an artwork. But the tour for the blind—particularly when it presents representational paintings—follows the established industry guidelines for Audio Description, offering an “objective” account, in minute detail, of what the painting shows and how its composition is arranged. Kleege points out what any reader or writer of art criticism knows implicitly: this objectivity is a fiction. A good description for the blind, she argues, would incorporate both the historical context and playfulness found in the other two tracks.
The blind or low-vision artist must engage with a related set of issues in the creation of their own work: Are the needs of a sighted audience different from those of a blind one? Should access for the blind be optional, available on a separate track or in the form of a touch tour, or is there an imperative to integrate it into the mainstream art-viewing experience? Working with minimal or no sight in a sight-dominated field, they must also contend with prejudice and low expectations, and decide how disability itself figures in their work, and their lives. Is blindness a central, generative force? Or an obstacle to be overcome?