How can we translate the lived-experience of blindness in all its dimensions to a fully sighted audience through both an immersive experience (non-visual) and graphic narrative (visual)?
According to the studies of Dr. Lotfi Merabet and Alvaero Pascual-Leone in 2008*, it takes the brain five consecutive days of sensory deprivation until cognitive changes start to become noticeable. Already being familiar with the lived-experience of visual impairment, the artist conducted an experiment of fully depriving themselves of the sense of sight (through the aid of blindfolds) for a period of eight days. The insights of this experiment lead to an installation called Whispering Walls and and immersive exhibition called Daring Into Darkness, both decimating the findings of the previously described experiment.
*Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye ( New York: Picador USA,2010)
The aim of Daring Into Darkness was to invite people to question the often stigmatised experience of blindness and start a conversation about how blind people ‘see’ the world around them. In part, this was inspired by an effort to move away from a deficit based narrative surrounding visual impairment and rather educate people about alternative ways of seeing and navigating life. Daring Into Darkness was an exhibition as part of the Royal College of Art Degree Show, 2017.
A multi-modal approach was chosen to display the contents of the exhibition which can be experienced both, visually and non-visually.
Walls; often blank, white, cold, large surfaces can provide a strong sense of emotional and physical comfort when navigating a space without sight. Utilising this, the non-visual and immersive aspect of the exhibition guides the visitor throughout the space via a network of tactile elements covering both the walls and floor. For those who dare, there are blindfolds available to navigate the exhibition non-visually. In order to provide an alternative for those not willing to experience this, a graphic narrative accompanies the tactile navigation, translating the sensations of blindness into a visual format.
The exhibition Daring Into Darkness was an immersive journey through the artists experience of visual sensory deprivation, including three main exhibits, a tactile navigation network as well as a visual representation expressed through the means of a graphic narrative.
The graphic narrative visualising the emotional journey of blindness.