Common Bond was an international collaboration project between myself, and photographers Rosita McKenzie (Edinburgh) and Jan Bölsche (Berlin). Common Bond followed on from the success of CAE’s previous project Through the Looking Glass, Dimly developed by myself, Rosita and Australian based photographer Andrew Follows, which saw Rosita McKenzie develop a body of work in response to Andrew’s work and encouraged a peer-mentoring relationship between the two artists during Andrew Follows Edinburgh residency. Where Through the Looking Glass saw Rosita take on the role of “host artist”, the Common Bond residency allowed Rosita to become the “visiting artist” and pursue a new peer-mentoring relationship with Berlin based photographer Jan Bölsche.
The initial project was developed in partnership over a year featuring a 2-week artist residency programme, a series of photo-shoot sessions in selected locations around the city; meetings and studio visits with Berlin based artists and photographers; a practical photography workshop led by Rosita and Jan for both sighted and non-sighted participants; and a public discussion group on the theme of normality, ableism and genetic engineering in September 2013.
Central to the residency was Rosita’s development of a new body of work in response to the concept of the “common bonds” between Britain and Germany. Rosita’s investigation of the city from an historical and cultural heritage perspective, interprets this visually rich city from her perspective as a blind person.
The residency enabled Rosita to forge new international connections with other artists and audiences and gave her an opportunity to help people with disabilities participate within contemporary art despite geographic and language barriers. Building on from her previous projects such as the Sight Unseen group exhibition in California, the residency has strengthened links between blind photographers Berlin and in Scotland.
The project continued with Jan, Rosita and myself developing and delivering further Blind Photography Workshops in other cities, exhibitions and the establishment of an international network of blind photographers.
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.
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):
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.