La Venezia che non si vede (Unveiling the Unseen)
Mery Cuesta and Roc Parés, organized and produced by the Institut Ramon Llull
Cantieri Navali, Fondamenta Quintavalle, Castello 40
La Venezia che non si vede
Catalonia brings a very intriguing project to Venice, which you should certainly mark on your list. Antoni Abad is creating a locative sound map of Venice using the BlindWiki app. This enables blind and visually-impaired people to enhance their visit to Venice by listening to a variety of persons talk about their everyday experiences in the city. Hence, he creates an international network to share experiences, stories and thoughts about everything that is not visible.
The geolocated recordings for the project in Venice started in February, and continued during the weekly expeditions coordinated by the artist in collaboration with Valeria Bottalico, an expert on art and accessibility. The primary participants of these mappings were people who are blind, alongside volunteers from community associations and students from the Iuav and Ca’Foscari University in Venice. The BlindWiki app has been created for blind people, but it can be used by anyone with a smartphone. You can download it for free and the previously posted recordings are always accessible from mobile phones on the streets. It will certainly also enhance your visit of Venice.
The project also consists of an exhibition on the BlindWiki tool and development, an international seminar ‘Cartographies of the Unseen’, and a boat trip. The boat trip will be a unique experience and is not to be missed. After you board a typical Venetian sampierota (a small boat), you will be exploring the canals while being guided by a blind person. The first guide is Giulia, a young woman who focuses her tour on the sounds and sensations when you can’t see. The second guide, Anna, is an older woman who was born in the Arsenale. She tells you about the sounds that disappeared in Venice since her youth. I’m sure that afterwards you will look totally different at Venice, and appreciate the sound and surroudings much more. The boat tours are only available on Friday and Saturday, and in July and August, only on Saturday. I do fear however that this free boat trip will be immensely popular, which will result in long waiting lines. You can however reserve your place in advance at the pavilion or by phone.
In the meantime, you can always buy the tactile comic with haut-relief designs by Max (who is the cartoonist Francesc Capdevila, winner of the 2007 National Award for Comic in Spain) and read it while you queue. The drawings were created in collaboration with the participants who are blind, under the direction of co-curator Mery Cuesta.
I think this is a very valuable initiative, first of all for the blind visitors of Venice, but also to make other people aware of the impact of being blind. I once visited the exhibition ‘Blindekuh’ (blind cow) at the Expo.02 in Switzerland, where visitors were led into a completely dark room. We were guided by blind people across a small bridge above water to reach the bar, where we had to order a drink, pay for it and drink without seeing anything. I can tell you this is an experience you never forget and I’m sure this project can have a similar effect.
Antoni Abad was born in Lleida, Spain in 1956. From 2004 to 2013, he devoted his time to undertaking the www.megafone.net online communication projects based on publications from smartphones done by various groups. In October 2014, he began developing the BlindWiki project in the Spanish Academy in Rome, a prototype of an online citizen network conceived for people who are blind or visually impaired. The project promotes the collaborative creation of a sensorial public map to be extended to other cities. Various editions of the BlindWiki project were implemented in Sydney (2015), Berlin (2016) and Wroclaw, Poland (2016).
His work has been presented at several art biennials, such as Venice in 1999 and many other venues in Europe and the Americas. In 2006, he was awarded the Visual Arts National Prize of Catalonia and the Golden Nica Digital Communities of the Prix Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria.
“It is a pleasure to be part of this process where the blind participants are building an audio map of the sensorial unseen Venice.”
The exhibition is located at a shipyard in the north east of Castello, and is also the location for the start of the boat trip. While you are there, make sure to visit the church and bell tower of San Pietro. This used to be the basilica of Venice until 1807, while the current basilica of San Marco was still the private church of the Doge. You can read more about this in my post ‘Castello: Mark these hidden gems on your map’.
Viva Arte Viva
In line with the ‘Unpacking my library’ project of La Biennale di Venezia, the book which inspired Antoni Abad is ‘Le città invisibili’ (Invisible cities) of Italo Calvino. This book tell many stories about one subject, i.e. the city of Venice.
Review by The Venice Insider
The efforts done by the Catalonian team and Institut Ramon Llull to make Venice more accessible for people who are blind or who have bad eyesight are really incredible. Together with many volunteers, they have recorded the descriptions of hundreds of locations in the city for the Blindwiki app. If you want to know more about this, you can find plenty of information in the pavilion. You can also use their tablets to listen to the recordings.
Another important goal of this project is to create awareness about the impact of being blind or visually impaired in everyday life. After I joined the boat tour, I realized again how challenging life must be and how much these people depend on others, for instance to get in or out of the boat. As soon as we got in the boat, we were asked to put on masks so we could experience how it feels to be blind. Our guide Giulia, a young woman who just got her degree in languages, talked very enthusiastically about all the sounds we heard. She made us listen to the difference between a small canal and more open water. She could also hear the birds sing much earlier than we did. One thing which struck me is how easily we, i.e. people who can see, are distracted. When I heard voices, my head almost automatically turned to see who was talking. However, as I couldn’t see due to the mask, I felt watched and stared at even though I had no clue if these people were within sight or not. This boat tour is a real eye-opener and I can really recommend this for everyone.
The Catalonia pavilion is one of my 8 favorite exhibitions which has a powerful message hidden underneath a beautiful work of art. Discover the other 7 pavilions in my post ‘The Art Biennale 2017 is not only about art’.
Katia – The Venice Insider
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017′. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Boat tour, Catalonia in Venice 2017 – Photo: Antoni Abad)
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