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1 December 2004

Visually impaired artist Lynn Cox explains why this London-based project is so ground-breaking

Lynn during a touch tour at the Tate gallery

Lynn during a touch tour at the Tate gallery.

I first came across the organisation known as Art Through Touch about six years ago, when I read about some workshops being run for visually impaired people at Wandsworth Museum. My first thoughts were that the organisation sounded interesting but I had a few reservations. Firstly, I was uncertain whether they would cater for my arts background (I was part way through a BA in Fine Art at the time) and I thought the standard of discussion and actual making of art would be basic. Secondly, I wasn't just interested in touching art, but I wanted to discover art through all of the senses. Thirdly, I had the idea that Wandsworth Museum would be too difficult to reach. Therefore, with a busy workload at college and other projects continuing I decided not to try out the workshops.

I next came across Art Through Touch in the winter of 2000-2001, when I worked with a group of artists including David Rice, who was one of the members of Art Through Touch, on the collaborative 'Knowhere' project, which was initiated by London Fieldworks. As part of this 'Knowhere' project (which investigated the relationship between light and landscape), a number of events and presentations were arranged. During a presentation, by the collaborative group, to Art Through Touch, I met many of the members and the Project Coordinator Steve Webber. From this one occasion of meeting everyone concerned with Art Through Touch, I knew my initial reservations had been unfounded and that I had missed two years worth of friendships and activities.

Since that date I have gained great pleasure, knowledge and skills by being apart of Art Through Touch. The organisation is inclusive with visually impaired and non-visually impaired people equally welcomed, The only proviso is that all events (talks, museum visits, seminars, conferences and the monthly bulletin) should be made as accessible as possible. For example, all slides or purely visual materials within an art talk must be described and not glossed over, and the monthly bulletin is produced in a number of alternative formats including large print, tape, Braille and electronically. Care is taken not to exclude other disabled people by catering for inclusion of visually impaired people. For example, every Art Through Touch event occurs in a physically accessible location, and all of the members are careful not to talk over each others comments when a British Sign Language Interpreter is being used by a deaf participant.

Art Through Touch has gained a reputation within the arts community, as a provider and promoter for excellent access to the arts for visually impaired people. The organisation encourages museums and galleries to increase their provision for visually impaired visitors. Although many museums and galleries are making some access provisions for visually impaired visitors, most of these events are designed more to be social occasions where a little art is described, rather than interactive fun art events. However, Art Through Touch, Shape and the Serpentine Gallery are working on an in-depth project for 2005, which is designed to creatively explore sensing the built environment through all of the senses.

Going back to my three initial reservations. Firstly, the content and accessibility of all of the talks, seminars and conferences is extremely high (without fancy intimidating language being utilised). Secondly, Art Through Touch is interested in appreciating art through all of the senses without denigrating the visual aesthetic. Thirdly, the organisation is easily reached with a number of alternatives being available, including mini-bus collection, assistance from the closest bus stop, underground and/or train station and clear simple directions for people who wish to make their own way to events.

In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone who wishes to explore and develop their artistic skills and knowledge in a friendly diverse cultural setting, to contact Art Through Touch. Those of you that live too far away to participate directly in the regular events (which are mainly London based) should still have a look at their accessible website and subscribe to the monthly bulletin.

If you are interested in attending Art Through Touch events contact them in advance to discuss any specific access requirements you may have.

Related information

London Fieldworks
www.londonfieldworks.com

Shape
www.shapearts.org.uk

Serpentine Gallery
www.serpentinegallery.org

Lynn Cox : Biography

Tactile art by Lynn Cox

Tactile art by Lynn Cox

I would describe myself as a concept driven mixed and multi media artist, which basically means I envisage a notion/project and then decide which medium is best suited to the realisation of that project. I produce (sometimes in combinations) sculptures, installations, drawings, videos, audio artworks, photographs and web art in order to accomplish the required affect.

My artwork questions the validity of the image as 'spectacle' (as a passive representation of reality). Challenging the ocularcentricity of western culture, my work is designed to elevate sensations, perceptions and language to a higher status (which is usually granted to the purely visual), without denigrating sight and the image to a subservient position.

Another strong constituent of my artwork is the Situationist-style practice of psycho-geography (the mapping of locations by connecting them through their ambience rather than their physicality) and exploring the associations between work and leisure (and between different leisure activities). This work is illustrated by providing isolated glimpses, snap shots or remnants, that are only partially conceived by the participants, of events in time and space. These snapshots may manifest themselves as still images of action scenes or as short segments of sounds collaged together to create the illusion of physical and psychological movement.

The concept behind my visual/tactile drawings is to construct, via quite simple line drawings, an image of movement that can be appreciated through the senses of touch and sight. My rope light drawings are also admired through the sense of warmth/cold - which is now considered by most scientists to be a separate sense from that of tactile touch.

My digital audio artworks - or installations and videos which incorporate digital audio - intrinsically explores the utilisation of language and its intra-translation between different uses of a single linguistic language. The three main areas of investigation, within the basic premise of language, are the use of synthetic voices on computers, real sound tracks of journeys (to develop a psychological understanding of audio mapping) and the recording of different leisure activities to illustrate the temporal/spatial relationship of a particular event or group of events.

To discover more about my artworks, as well as my work as a Disability Equality/Visual Awareness Trainer and Consultant for museums and galleries (specialising in collection, building and website accessibility), please visit www.lynn-cox.net

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