'Design dialogues'


Shut your eyes and see

According to the World Health Organization, around the world, there are 2,2 billion people that have a visual impairment. In Spain, there are 979.200 cases , for which 6% correspond to the blind and the other 94% with few or almost no vision. Fundación Once is the national institution in charge of helping people who have this disability. Many projects help them in their daily lives, as for education, leisure, health, transportation, and social areas. However, this project aims to bring them closer to art. I'm wondering if we can "alter" senses by giving touch and hearing an extra help to appreciate an art piece and what is behind it.

Whatever the particularities of all artworks, each piece represents an idea, a concept, a line of work for which the artist expresses its way of perception. For the audience, this concept is not necessarily inherent or visible to the eyes. Sometimes, there has to be a description, context, or common ground for understanding what the artwork is willing to show. Occasionally, the description is clear. A person with no background or sight can easily understand what the artist is portraying in its artwork. Viewers are familiar with the subjects. They can perfectly picture persons, architectural, or landscape details. As time passed by in the history of art, the use of cameras and optical devices became common. It was a huge turning point because artists freed themselves from realism. There was no more need to paint steady subjects. Descriptions became more complex as they challenge themselves to abstract ideas. Narrations are fundamental, but there has to be another way to feel what the artists want you to comprehend.

So how can technology help people with visual impairment to understand art? Can we train a machine to describe an artwork plus a device that can translate the piece into a touching experience? Could smell and hearing help us locate the artwork in context?

We live in a visual world, and as we search for equality, we cannot forget or leave behind people with disabilities. As time passe, lots of people start losing sight. So we might also need to learn from them. This project is about triggering and enhancing senses for understanding our history.