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Blindness, art and exclusion in museums and galleries

By Fiona Candlin

Abstract

Drawing on interviews with blind people, this paper examines both their exclusion from museums and galleries and their responses to the art educational provision which is specifically designed to remedy that marginalisation. Blind visitors’ responses to these educational projects was polarised; respondents were either highly critical or very enthusiastic. This paper begins by outlining the interviewees’ criticisms which included, education officers’ misconception of how touch facilitates learning and aesthetic response, a lack of educational progression and blind people’s clear exclusion from mainstream events. I then ask why, given these problems, did other respondents respond so favourably, suggesting that these high levels of satisfaction were had little to do with museum provision but were the result of social interaction and of inclusion within the sighted community. I argue that, ironically, this sense of inclusion is premised on blind visitors’ structural exclusion from art institutions. Finally, the article examines those visitors who, illicitly or otherwise, already experience some aspects of the museum in multisensory terms but maintain that until museums’ and galleries ocularcentric orientation is reconfigured, there will be little possibility for these rogue visitors to develop their knowledge of art. Likewise, without institutional change educational events for the blind will continue to be an inadequate supplement to a structure that is and remains inequitable

Topics: hafvm
Publisher: Wiley
Year: 2003
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.bbk.ac.uk.oai2:745

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