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This article was published 17/2/2016 (1949 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
"Don’t touch the artwork" is a common warning seen in museums and art galleries. But a new exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is encouraging art lovers to do the opposite.
The exhibit, Sight Unseen: International Photography by Blind Artists, will showcase the work of photographers who are visually impaired. Originally shown at the University of California Riverside, it’s the first time the exhibit is being shown in Canada.
Maureen Fitzhenry, the museum’s media relations manager, said the exhibit will "challenge some of the assumptions that people have about those who are visually impaired." It will also help mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
'Our vision is a powerful sense that can blind us to other senses.We end up only perceiving things through our eyes and ignoring our other senses'
Fitzhenry said the exhibit is a way for the photographers to connect with the sighted world and communicate ideas and realities through their art, while encouraging sighted people to question their own perceptions. The goal is to show sighted individuals how visually impaired photographers work.
"Our vision is a powerful sense that can blind us to other senses," said Fitzhenry. "We end up only perceiving things through our eyes and ignoring our other senses."
The exhibit will feature 100 photographs from 13 photographers. Six of the photographs were printed using 3D printing technology by a company called 3DPhotoWorks. The technology gives the images depth and texture, converting them from two-dimensional into three-dimensional tactile art. The visually impaired are able to touch the photographs, enabling them to "see" the artwork.
It’s the first time the 3D printing technology will be used in a museum exhibit.
The photographs are embedded with one to four sensors. When touched, the sensors can describe the colour, the background of the artist and the context of the image. John Olson is the co-founder of 3DPhotoWorks, which started seven years ago.
Olson said the process is new for the sighted who aren’t used to looking at length and depth in photography.
"For the blind, it’s the first process that allows them to create a mental image that they see in their mind’s eye... When a blind person can make their own determination about an image — without the help of a docent — that provides them with freedom, independence and equality."
Bruce Hall, a nature photographer, is one of the photographers featured in Sights Unseen. Legally blind from birth, he uses photography as a way to "see things I don’t see with the naked eye. I get an impression and then later I see detail. For me it’s like seeing things twice."
Hall’s work in the exhibit revolves around his twin sons who are severely autistic. Hall said photography "opens dialogue, and that’s what you have to do, whatever the human rights issue is."
The exhibit is meant to be experienced by both the visually impaired and sighted communities. Sighted museum-goers are also able to interact with the exhibit in other ways through interactive stations, film screenings, taking photos without being able to see the subject, and the display of several tactile ink drawings.
The exhibit opens Saturday and runs until Sept. 18.