From 2013 – 2016 Jovanna, Dirk and I developed and co-organized Neue Perspektiven gewinnen (Gain New Perspectives) with Berlin based non-profit Förderband eV.
Neue Perspektiven gewinnen is about the “inclusive museum”. Inclusive museum in this sense means: the development of museums and their exhibitions so that all persons, whether they have a disability or not, can use them.
In 2009, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force in Germany. Since then, the topic of inclusion has enjoyed great prominence in general as well as in the field of arts and culture. Against the backdrop of scarce budgets and human resources, however, museums find themselves often entering new territory. The result is a lack of access to arts and culture for people with disabilities, as well as a lack of communication within this sector about experiences and knowledge of the needs of people with disabilities. Supported by one of the few disability arts funders Aktion Mensch e.V., we were able to initiate and carry out a series of 25 museum-specific workshops of varying orientation and intensity in addition to a kick-off event and a closing conference.
Our goals were:
Sensitize museum employees to different needs
Learn more, playfully experiment and learn from each other
Network with stakeholders and strengthen each other
The practical learning of people with and without disabilities
Better anchor inclusion within the museum
Inspire museum workers with other perceptual worlds and thus make their cultural offering more interesting
My role in Neue Perspectiven gewinnen was focused on contemporary art and inclusion. Together with Jovanna, I developed and led a multisensorial mediation and masterplan workshop for Berlinische Galerie employees from the fields of mediation, marketing, curation, exhibition design, technical design on 23.09. , 25.09. , 26.09.2015 and 11.02.2016.
This complex, multi-day workshop switched between theoretical approaches and practical exercises. The participants were also mixed: employees were joined by guests with mobility, visual and hearing impairment and guests with learning disabilities.
Photographs of the workshop courtesy of Neue Perspective gewinnen are below. You can find further details on the project on this page.
For over ten years I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Amie Robinson, the art teacher at PS77 in Brooklyn New York and her students as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s Community and Access education team. (PS77 is a public school in Brooklyn NY for middle and high school aged students diagnosed on the autism spectrum.)
Though every single year we have partnered has been a revelation, I’d like to highlight 2015:
For this seven week program we focused on two exhibitions about artists who use their studio space as an integral part of their art-making practice- their studios become the ground for a kind of “world” they create and inhabit. In particular we focused on Matisse’s cut-paper collages which filled the walls of his home in Nice, and the work of a contemporary artist Daniel Gordon, who makes life size, three dimensional collages out of found images.
A number of things happened as a result of our encounters at MoMA: the students were now familiar with the idea of a kind of “manipulated” reality- they had explored images that transform everyday objects into something surreal and expressive, there was a spirit of play and experimentation in the air rooted in something familiar, personal and communal. Back at the school we collectively decided to build a life size, three dimensional kitchen still life from found images:
Three classes participated in the construction of the final art piece; every student participated in both the conception and creation of the project individually and at times communally, it spread across their school day and involved their classroom teacher, their computer teacher and their art teacher.
Every one of our sessions built upon previous investigations as we moved from the concrete to the abstract.
When the kitchen still life was complete, we lit it with studio lights, set up a camera and a tripod, and invited the students to take turns interacting with the set by both directing the scenarios within the set, and being the performers- they were both behind and in front of the lens if they wished. The final series of images blur the boundary between fiction and reality.
Parcours der Nichtsehenswürdigkeiten (Non-Sight Seeing Tour), workshop and guided tour by Jovana Komnenić and Dirk Sorge, part of Die Auflösung des Sehens (The Resolution of Sight), Kunsthaus Kloster Gravenhorst, 2014
The project “Die Auflösung des Sehens” was a creative reflection about the dominance of sight in art and everyday life. The project wants to point out the mechanisms of exclusion and to work in the opposite direction by inviting blind and visually impaired audience in the gallery. It explicitly addresses these audiences, but it is relevant for sighted people as well, because it points out the creative potential hiding in other ways of viewing things, the ability of invisibility to broaden the meaning. The overall goal was to bring awareness for this theme by using irritation and reflection.
The exhibition venue was the building of a former monastery situated in a large park area in the west of Germany. The whole project consisted of three parts and lasted one year (January to December 2014) with the project grant KunstKommunikation which supports a participatory approach in the arts. One part was a series of workshops with blind and visually impaired participants with the goal to develop a tour through the park, the second part was the production of a tactile map with audio output to guide visitors to the stops of the tour. The third part was the artistic intervention inside the historic building with site-specific installations.
For further photos and a video of the installations please visit http://dirksorge.de/aufloesung.htm and http://www.jovanakomnenic.com/file/work/Pages/die_auflosung_des_sehens.html.
Further information on the project and Kunsthaus Kloster Gravenhorst (German only):
Werkzeug Wahrnehmung (Perception as a Tool), experimental art mediation walk at 6th Berlin Biennale by Birgit auf der Lauer, Jovana Komnenić, Silja Korn, Anja Winter and Dirk Sorge, 2010
Perception as a Tool was a moderated walk through the 6th Berlin Biennial exhibition of contemporary art. It took visitors through the exhibition and its surrounding in the public space. The concept of the walk made reference to the curatorial idea of the exhibition, but reacted to it in a participatory and playful way. The curator Kathrin Rhomberg posed questions about reality. She asked the audience: “Do you believe in reality?”
Our idea was to test the senses of the participants on the walk. To examine together how different perceptions convey different information, how they consciously and unconsciously connect with diverse memories and produce meaning in that way. In that sense, our focus was on the individuality of perception, on acceptance of diversity, and on the exchange within the group.
Another potential we saw was the possibility to focus on hidden or invisible stories in the surrounding of the exhibition.
BODY ↔ BILDER, workshop and exhibition between seeing and touching by Jovana Komnenić and Dirk Sorge, Schillerpalais, Berlin, 2013
In this workshop the participants built tactile pictures that are not flat, but have a relief surface and are supposed to be touched – not seen. The pictures were exhibited in a completely dark room and thus became invisible for the entire audience. It may seem strange to call them “pictures”, since they are not to be seen at all, but they are not sculptures either, they exist between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional realms.
In the exhibition we learned a lot about the mechanisms of the visual art system and the conventions that rule it. For touching a picture and following a line with your finger, you usually need much more time than you need when looking at it. When touching a picture, it is most suitable to only have one person standing in front of it. These two differences forced the audience of the exhibition to slow down in the dark room.
Not every picture could be recognized in the sense that it displayed concrete objects. Many were abstract and the process of touching itself was the subject of the art work.
For the sighted visitors it was an important experience to use their sense of touch. This sense is used a lot in everyday situations, but most of the time it happens without paying attention to it.