“Go Ahead – Touch and See!” Tactography™: an Innovative Technology that Allows Blind People to “See” and Experience Art

Exhibition of Tactography™ images by the art photographer Gabriel Bonfim at the Museu da Imagem e do Som, São Paulo, October 12 - 22, 2016 – Free entry

 

Thanks to the innovative new technology known as Tactography™, visually impaired people can now “see” photos and images through the power of touch. Because of their special three-dimensional design, the images can be felt by blind people, while – in diffuse light conditions– their white color allows them to be viewed by sighted people from a few yards away. Viewers are then not quite sure whether they are seeing a painted picture or a 3D relief. Tactography™ thereby provides an equal quality of experience for both visually impaired and sighted people. For the blind, the photograph becomes an image, while for the sighted the image becomes art.

 

Gabriel Bonfim, the well-known art photographer and native of São Paulo, will be exhibiting two series of “Tactographies™,” each containing twelve three-dimensional images at the city’s renowned Museu da Imagem e do Som.

Alongside the two series, the exhibition will also feature a brief excerpt from Bonfim’s photographic work, in which he demonstrates his mastery in depicting people in their environment. The exhibition is free of charge for visitors.

 

A NEW ART EXPERIENCE FOR THE BLIND AND SIGHTED ALIKE

Thanks to the new Tactography™ technology, visually impaired people can touch the photographs and “see” them in their mind’s eye. Whereas touching and feeling the exhibits are usually expressly forbidden in most galleries, visitors are invited to do exactly that at São Paulo’s Museu da Imagem e do Som.

The exhibition space is equipped with special floor-level guides and Braille captions. These will enable blind visitors to follow a route past the images on display, and touch and experience three-dimensional photographs with their hands. The Museu da Imagem e do Som (or “Museum of Image and Sound”) will thereby become the “Museum of Image, Sound, and Touch” for the duration of the exhibition.

 

A FASCINATING INTERPLAY OF LIGHT AND SHADE

The exhibition represents a new experience not just for blind people but for sighted visitors, too. The Tactography™ images have been painted white, thus recalling to some degree the famous white paintings by Robert Rauschenberg, the American pop artist. Thanks to their relief-like appearance and special white coloration, from a distance the photographs can be viewed as art by sighted people, too. What’s more, in diffuse light conditions, such viewers will be intrigued as to whether they are seeing an image with painted shadows or a three-dimensional relief.

 

COME AND TOUCH THE STARS: TENOR ANDREA BOCELLI AND BALLET DANCER DENIS VIEIRA

On display at the Museu da Imagem e do Som is a twelve-part Tactography™ series featuring the blind Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli. The pictures were taken February 22, 2014, on the occasion of a concert by the famous tenor in Istanbul (Turkey). They depict the singer both on stage and behind the scenes with his family.

 

The exhibition also includes a twelve-part Tactography™ series on the young ballet dancer Denis Vieira. This was created in the early summer of 2016 in Zurich (Switzerland). Vieira was born in 1991 near the city of Joinville to the south of Rio de Janeiro. He benefited from a world-class training at Joinville’s “Bolshoi Theater School,” the only dance academy outside Russia affiliated to Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Theater. Vieira subsequently danced in cities around the world. In 2014 he joined the ballet company of the Zurich Opera House, where he was quickly promoted to soloist. In the 2016-17 season, Vieira can be seen as a soloist at the State Ballet company of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

 

GABRIEL BONFIM: A PHOTOGRAPHER WITH A PARTICULAR EYE FOR PEOPLE

Thomas Kurer, Manager and Organizer of the Gabriel Bonfim Collection, says, “Gabriel Bonfim has an extraordinary eye for people in their environment. This talent for taking sophisticated portraits of his subjects distinguishes him from others in the field and makes him a true art photographer.

Gabriel Bonfim’s extraordinary eye for people in their environment has led him to create sophisticated portraits, as well as series featuring the “Bar-Barians” street fitness gang and male and female dancers in New York and Rio. A further series of images is currently being created on the topic of “Angels” and will be shown later this year in Engelberg (Switzerland). The name “Engelberg” (“Angel Mountain” in German) partly inspired this series of images.

Bonfim was born in São Paulo in 1990 and spent his childhood there. He showed a remarkable affinity with art from an early age. After completing a degree in law and initially working as an attorney, Bonfim eventually decided to pursue a career in photography. He developed his professional and technical skills as a fashion photographer. After several years studying and traveling in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, he came to Switzerland, where he got to know Thomas Kurer.

 

TACTOGRAPHY™ – A SOURCE OF NEW POSSIBILITIES

“As our experiments in schools for the blind have shown, with a little practice visually impaired people can quickly learn to read and see a TactographyTM,” Gabriel Bonfim explains. “With our exhibition in São Paulo, we also want to reach a point where blind people are motivated to read in a way that expands their horizons of perception. The new Tactography™ technology, which works like a relief, creates new opportunities in this way. During the exhibition in São Paulo, we will be surveying visually impaired visitors about their impressions to help us improve Tactography™ further.”

In the near future, there are plans to make Tactography™ images available as thin cards that are also based on photographs. On their reverse side, these will include a brief description of the image and a message in Braille.

To support the creation of these three-dimensional images and photographs for visually impaired people, the name Tactography™ has been created and registered, together with a logo showing the scanning hand of a blind person.

 

ABOUT TACTOGRAPHY™

Tactography™ is a way of representing photographs in three dimensions so that they both can be read by blind people and are visible for the sighted. Tactography™ is also a design process invented in Switzerland based on stereolithography printing (STL).

After sculpting the Tactography™ in computer aided design software starting from the original photograph in several steps, the STL file is sent to an STL printer.

Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing process that works by focusing an ultraviolet laser (UV) on to a vat of photopolymer resin. With the help of computer aided design software the UV laser is used to draw the Tactography™ design on the surface of the photopolymer vat. Because photopolymers are photosensitive under ultraviolet light, the resin is solidified and forms a single layer of the desired Tactography™. This process is repeated for each layer of the design until the Tactography™is complete.

After printing, the Tactography™ is sprayed white (RAL9016), ensuring that it can also be appreciated as art by a sighted person viewing it from a distance. In diffuse light conditions, viewers will be intrigued about whether they are seeing an image with painted shadows or a three-dimensional relief.

 

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