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Home ยป Beyond Visuals: The Role of Sound in Multisensory Art Installations

Beyond Visuals: The Role of Sound in Multisensory Art Installations

Do you ever dream of wrapping you in a soft, sculptural form or lay your hands on the canvas? From scratch-and-sniff-style paintings to 3D images that are accompanied by sound multisensory art is an obscure but rapidly growing niche within the world of museums. These exhibits are attracting different types of visitors museum and artist are now collaborating with visually impaired and blind people to consider how art can be displayed in their space.

Exhibitions that allow visitors to engage with artworks beyond the scope of sight are likely to transform the perception of the concept of fine art, according to experts. Artists are eagerly engaging in the process, as they did with the recent exhibition titled “Please Touch the Art” in Watertown, Massachusetts, which included 52 art pieces that were created to be interacted with.

Why We Designed This

What happens when you touch the experience of visiting museums? Artists and curators are working with visually impaired people to create artwork that goes beyond sight and is beneficial to everyone who visits.

If visitors are able to use all five senses, they are more in tune with the artist’s vision, according to Georgina Kleege who teaches creativity and disabilities in the University of California, Berkeley. She says that even though museum experiences that provide information like audio tours, can be helpful however, multisensory experiences are more enjoyable for visually impaired and blind visitors.

“Really it’s only through the touch the way … every one of aspects of the work are let out,” says Professor Kleege.

Do you ever dream of wrapping your body in soft sculptural piece or move your hands across the canvas? From scratch-and-sniff art to 3D images that are accompanied by sounds multisensory art is an obscure but rapidly growing niche within the museum industry and is providing artists with the opportunity to think of various ways to let viewers connect with and be inspired by their work.

Check out the Illusionaries for more art of this type.

As of 2015, as an instance the London’s Tate Britain Museum featured “Sensorium,” which included tastes of sounds, smells, and tastes created to stimulate feelings as well as make certain hues appear more vivid. In 2014 it was revealed that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York worked with a guest artist to create “Multisensory Met,”” which brought scent and sound to tiny copies of their iconic sculptures. Recently, in Watertown, Massachusetts, the Dorothy and Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts allows visitors to come close to and personal by touching and smelling pieces of art work in “Please Feel the Art.”

Although these types of exhibitions attract all types of visitors museum and artist are increasingly working with members of visually impaired and blind communities to consider how art can be shared within their space.

The Reason We wrote This

How can touch alter the experience of visiting museums? Artists and curators are working with visually impaired visitors to create art that extends beyond the visual – and will benefit everyone who visits.

“Instead of going into a museum, only to have it become a solitary space with nothing going on, a multisensory exhibit] can bring an exhibit alive,” claims Norma Crosby who is the director of National Federation of the Blind of Texas and has had a meeting with museums. “It is also a way for museums to think of new ways to make their exhibits more interactive.”

Exhibits such as “Please Feel the Art” and other exhibitions aren’t only about touching artwork, but also about interacting with the viewer. They aim to create a unique experience for everyone who visits the museum by encouraging them to engage the five senses and connect more deeply with the artist’s vision, says Georgina Kleege, a professor of in the areas of disability and creative writing in the University of California, Berkeley. While informational experiences are beneficial like audio tour guides, artistic experiences are more satisfying for blind and sighted art lovers.

“Really it’s only by touching which … the aspects of the artwork are revealed,” says Professor Kleege who was the juror and curator of “Please Feel the Art.” Professor Kleege who is blind, says that these tactile encounters are vital to exhibit involvement.

John Olson, founder of 3D Photoworks in New York and 3D Photoworks in New York, is adamant. The founder of 3D Photoworks in New York, John. Olson develops touchable versions of the most famous works for museums across the country. The 3D pieces include braille text and textured surfaces. They also include audio that is activated by a touch, and even smell. In his version of “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” the audio element lets viewers to hear water hitting the wood as the narrator relates historical details concerning that particular moment.

“The smell stimulant can be extremely powerful,” says Mr. Olson. “When you are able to sense the scent of water or when you smell gunfire, it aids to … to create that mental image.”

It was in Watertown, “Please Touch the Art” originated from the suggestion of a designer who wanted reconsider how to communicate the meaning to different viewers”, says Aneleise Ruggles director of the shows at the Mosesian Center. The idea of thinking beyond the visual was a challenge embraced with enthusiasm by 40 artists who came up with 52 pieces of art for “Please Touch the Art.”

“Inherently visual art doesn’t offer a different method of engaging with the art,” says Ms. Ruggles. “We consider”‘Please Touch the Art'” as] less of an exhibit that is geared towards blind people. We view it better as an exhibition that isn’t excluding those with disabilities or who with poor vision.”

The addition of a new dimension of interaction to art creates shared experiences among patrons through encouraging conversations and interaction, she says when visitors talk about the details of the artwork.

“That people with all levels of ability and with all kinds of interests and perspectives can come and be a part of the same art work is very important for all of us.” adds Ms. Ruggles.

In the last weeks in “Please Take a moment to Touch The Art” some patrons who have visual impairments seemed especially concentrated. First, they shook their hands and were able to pass over the bright, cool sharp-edged tiles which formed the wide-eyed fish from John Cummiskey’s “Go Fish.”

One man was attracted by the textured blue canvas in Michael Moss and Claudia Ravaschiere’s “Whirl.” While the man walked his hands across the canvas, a soft synthesizer music accompanied his movements, resulting in an unique piece.

At the end of the tour, visitors were confident about touching the pieces, and they embraced each other and put themselves in a sash of the form of a hanging felt piece and velvet stuffed.

The audience was seated in the front on Julia Cseko’s “Embracers,” one visitor took a long, bat-filled arm, before lacing its soft fingers with her own before passing it over to her friend, and draping that black and velvety arm over his neck while she danced around the arm around her like a boa.

Exhibitions that allow patrons to engage with art could alter the perception of what is considered to be fine art, however it will not be done in a single day, according to Professor Kleege. “Art patrons along with art historians, critics, and curators will have to think of new ways to understand the nature of art and what it is able to do,” as well as “a method of discussing the work of artists when they create work that is designed to be felt.”