“The power of language to stimulate visual imagination allows all of us, even the congenitally blind, to see with another person’s eyes.” Oliver Sacks, The Mind’s Eye, 2010
What is Vislan?
Vislan is a project that intends to make the richness of the experiences of visual culture autonomously attainable to people who are remote from them.
The Vislan method, created by Mr Geoffrey Munck, leverages the skills that blind people develop for conceptualising their surroundings, and applies them to guide sighted people to improve their powers of observation and description. Removing lack of sight as a barrier to meaningful engagement with visual culture can help to end the sense of social exclusion felt by people who may not be able to see quite so well.
Vislan is not a disability aid although the blind are among those to benefit from it. Rather it is an innovative approach to community communication that is informed by the lived experience of blindness, with game changing benefits for the sighted and visually remote alike.
How Vislan works
Questions posed by a visually remote individual lead a dialogue in which a sighted person's replies reveal visible phenomena.
Through this process of visual translation not only can the visually remote person generate a more complete conceptualisation, but the sighted must slow down and really see what they are looking at.
Vislan’s specific question and answer format seeks to improve on tactile and audio description techniques that suffer from brevity, uni-directional communication and inadvertant censorship. Unfortunately such processes are costly to produce and can cause valuable information to be omitted, denying the audience the dignity of exploring and reaching their own conclusions. The Vislan technique affords vision-impaired individuals comparable experiences to that of the sighted audience. This averts the tendency to single out the visually remote for limited engagement with sample content.
The following artwork description was based on the Vislan dialogue process:
“The TRUST series is a metaphorical exploration of different aspects of self, individual identity, vulnerability and freedoms.”
AT A GLANCE
This work comprises six sculptures each appearing to have the form of an upright slender human torso. Their “skins” seem to be patchworks of ripped coarse handmade paper pieces of various sizes in light to medium range warm mottled tones. They are differentiated by both their posture and tokens they bear. The edges of each piece appear frayed.
Six casts of the artist’s bare front torso are arranged in a horizontal line at eye height along the wall.
The sculptures are described from left to right.
#1 / fire
The shoulders of this torso are set square and the collarbones are fine yet pronounced. A short section of the upper right arm is cast as if rolled slightly backward from the line of the shoulder. Opposite, the cast ends at the left shoulder point. The throat is slender with the casting running up from the right shoulder around the voice box to just below the left ear. Breasts are petite, round and taught with a well-articulated ribcage below. The casting ends curving around the line of the bottom of the ribcage and tailing to the waist on the right side. The frayed edges of the casting appear blackened as if burnt.
#2 / shards
The shoulders of this torso appear square. The upper right arm indicates movement away from the body and slightly backwards, while the tip of the left shoulder is more rounded giving the impression of the left arm rotating backwards. The cast of the throat follows the line from the left shoulder around the larynx upwards to underneath the right ear. The collarbones are prominent with an obvious notch at the base of the throat. Breasts are flattened appearing to be drawn outward across the chest. The ribcage is well defined with a slightly concave surface beneath it that reflects the shape of the abdomen. Taken together the above features suggest the body is arching backwards. The cast ends in a line that follows beneath the left-hand ribcage and slants across the abdomen tapering around the right waist. Snaking down the sternum between the breasts, are seven pieces of broken glass. Each is about 4mm thick having jagged shapes with edges and surfaces dulled by weathering. Their colour shades range from vanilla to apricot, complementing the shades of the body tones.
#3 / skin
The torso is posed upright and straight. The right shoulder is higher than the left, both are rounded and rolled forward with the upper arms reaching backwards. The breasts flatten onto the body. The ribs are not obvious. A strip of tattered shed snakeskin runs down the centre line of the body - from the throat along the sternum between the breasts to the bottom end of the torso below the naval. The skin is patterned along its centre line with dark and light earthy tones in diamond shapes and edged by translucent broader scales. While the skin is largely flattened out it begins as a tube that has been scrunched to form a ring at its open end which rests upon the base of the throat.
#4 / plain
This torso is posed with the left shoulder raised higher than the right shoulder, indicating the motion of the left arm reaching up and slightly backwards. The right shoulder is slightly rolled forward as the arm reaches backwards. The chest expands in a shallow arch and the collarbones are not obvious. The right breast is rounded. By contrast the left breast is flatter and drawn upwards the chest. The cast of the neck runs from just behind the right ear around the throat down to the left shoulder. The bottom edge of the cast follows below the contour of the right side of the rib cage, crosses the abdomen downward and then flares over the left hip. The ribs on the left side are more pronounced than the ribs on the right. Below the left rib cage a distinct concave line clearly defining the waist. Taken together the above features suggest movement of the torso in an anti-clockwise rotation.
#5 / hair
The posture of this torso is straight. The shoulders are square and rolled slightly forward indicating the arms are backward. Part of the throat is visible with an irregular outline. The collarbones, round petite breasts and ribcage are obvious but not pronounced. The bottom edge of the casting makes a jagged line from the right waist to the left hip. On the sternum is a triangular patch of deep warm colour which traces the contours of the collarbones and the breasts tapering downward to the top of the ribcage. It is made of matted human hair throughout which are random stitches of fine copper wire in a contrasting colour and meant to resemble an amulet.
#6 / seeds
The line of the left flank of this torso describes a gentle concave curve from the armpit to the top of the hip. Meanwhile the right flank describes the complimentary convex curve. The shoulders are rolled forward with upper arms backward and away from the body. The breasts are flattened against the chest. Collarbones and ribcage are pronounced while the solar plexus is sunken. Running down the centre of the body from the notch of the throat to the beneath the navel is a line of heart shaped flat seeds the size of a small finger nail. Each seed has a translucent filament around it. The seeds are coloured by a dark perimeter surrounding a lighter shade in its centre. The bottom of the torso tapers in from each hip to the bottom of the abdomen.