WHAT IS IT?
‘The Blind Astronomer’ includes various sculpture works but the main installation consists of a series of star maps, displayed one after another on large glass panels, supported and lit, where a viewer can walk in-between.
The concept for the work arose from a connection between Braille and star charts: each uses a coding system of dots to convey information.
Not only are the star maps presented as a physical experience, but the necessary information is also written in Braille. This limits the experience for the sighted viewer, who can see the stars but without the information. The blind person has a more informative experience but cannot totally grasp the visual impact of the night sky. Both the blind and the sighted therefore remain in the dark.
WHERE IS IT?
The exhibition is to take place in a very ‘hip’ space called MOAD in the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg (near Arts on Main). Visitors will enter a darkened space with the only light coming from the artworks themselves.
WHEN IS IT?
The exhibition runs 2 – 27 March 2013
HOW IS SPIER INVOLVED?
Spier’s Artist Patronage Programme is designed to give intensive support over an extended period (generally a period of four to five years) to artists considered to be exceptional and who would greatly benefit from the creative freedom that the programme provides. ‘The Blind Astronomer’ is a culmination of Wilsenach’s four-year long practical and theoretical search, supported by Spier, for ways of expressing both the inaccessibility of language and the primacy of sight in the aesthetic experience.
MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
The first space is filled by a large-scale installation that the viewer can move through. The successive glass panels create the spatial effect of infinity; the stars in the sky appear to float in the darkness.
The second space is an accurate star atlas for the blind as well as a “star table”. It involves two interactive tables with glass panels depicting different parts of the night sky, which can be manipulated by the viewer.
In the last space, the focus shifts to be about the conventional representation of the universe. The works are in stone and glass.
The project relies to a large extent on the exchange of senses. You must feel to see to understand. Hopefully this will inspire people to start looking (and touching) again… even if it is only for a short while.
- Visit www.bercowilsenach.com
- Part of this article appeared in VISI magazine’s interview with artist Berco Wilsenach. Read more here.