A collaboration between QUT Art Museum and the QUT School of Design to help people who are blind or have low vision better enjoy art has received national recognition this week.
Announced on Wednesday 28 October at the 2020 Museums and Galleries National Awards, the 2019 exhibition Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection was selected as winner of the Research category.
Celebrating excellence and innovation across Australia’s museums and galleries, the AMAGA National Awards win reflects QUT’s strong commitment to accessibility and inclusion and cements QUT Art Museum and the QUT School of Design as leaders in best practice in making artwork accessible for all audiences.
Dr Janice Rieger, Associate Professor, School of Design, said the award brought national recognition to important research.
“Receiving this MAGNA for our inclusive research at QUT, and the collaboration between QUT Art Museum and QUT Design Lab on the winning project, Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection, shines a spotlight on the significant issue of access to art and cultural participation,” Dr Rieger said.
“As museums today try to come up with engaging new experiences for all, there is enormous interest in the creative potential of audio description, interactive experiences, tactile experiences, sign language descriptions, and other techniques, using them creatively to come up with new artforms, which engage all audiences in new ways.”
Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection (11 May – 4 August 2019) was conceived to embrace different ways that people who are blind or have low vision experience art.
Dr Rieger said that with the QUT Art Collection as the starting point, Vis-ability drew upon the knowledge of university researchers and experts within the community who have lived experience of blindness or low vision to propose alternative ways of engaging with the university art collection, encouraging audiences to ‘see’ differently.
“Vis-ability grew from conversations around ideas of how exhibition design and curatorial practice could create alternate ways of experiencing art outside of vision-driven experiences,” she said.
“The exhibition responded to an identified need and demand, as access to art is still very limited for people who are blind or have low vision.”
Through an extensive and intuitive consultation and research process with audiences who are blind or have low vision and experts in the field, Dr Janice Rieger and her colleagues worked closely with QUT Art Museum curators to reinterpret select works from the QUT Art Collection.
"The process challenged their own assumptions as curators, forcing them to revisit their understanding of the works. Artworks were translated through alternative mediums such as tactile and audio experiences, offering fresh sensory approaches to the experience of colour and patterns,” she said.
Vis-ability included a co-created tactile interpretation, along with a soundscape by Aymeric Vildieu, of QUT Art Collection artist Catherine Parker’s painting, Present portal 2017.
Throughout the exhibition, audio descriptions by QUT’s Dr Bree Hadley opened new ways of understanding and experiencing the artworks of Karla Dickens, Karla Marchesi, and a collaborative work by Lyndell Brown, Charles Green and Jon Cattapan. The audio descriptions could then be heard before the artworks were seen.
“Visitors to the exhibition were encouraged to consider how they might engage with artwork by senses other than sight. These other senses gave a more in-depth understanding of the works and added a new dimension to the experience of art,” said Dr Rieger.
Read the Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection exhibition catalogue to learn more about QUT research undertaken in preparation for the exhibition.
Caption, main photo:
- Sarah Boulton and Kevin Currie at the opening of Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection, May 2019. Photo: Thomas Oliver
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