Braille 2015 is a project thats been on my mind for several years and involves photographic images and Braille text. The idea is to take photographs and covert them into Braille descriptions and display those coded pages as if they were the photograph. This will hide the image from the sighted and introduce it to the sightless. I’d like to show my work to the visually impaired community and start discussions about photography and what I think is contemporary art with them.
I’d also like to open discussions about what an image really is, and how we interact with it. This also allows my work to viewed in a completely different manner.
There are aspects of accessibility here of course, but there’s also aspects of the piece that could introduce discussion about gallery space and how it’s used, as well as typical gallery and conservation rules.
Of course these would be about photography first and foremost.
I’ll have to fist chose photographs. I’ll select a new series of images from what has been calling “Wandering”. Wandering are images taken in various pedestrian adventures, typically in Toronto. I haven’t taken all of these yet, but there are a few that I have in the bank that I have not shown from the last year.
Then I have to write descriptions for the visually impaired or fully sightless. There are examples on how to write about art for the visually impaired on the internet and I can use those as a guide. I’ll probably then get someone to copy edit them, and check for any glaring grammatical errors. I’ll use Contracted Braille. That’s the most common form of Braille, and to do this I’ll have to get my written English descriptions transcribed by a Braille transcriber. The most appropriate size of Braille document would replicate the size of the print, and I think I’ve settled on 36″ x 36″. To fill a 36″ x 36″ inch space with regular 8.5 x 11″ paper and 12 point font text would look like this and take 12 sheets of regular size paper. If 1 sheet of 12 point font text translates to 2 pages of contracted Braille text, I estimate the plain text descriptions should be 6 pages long to fill 1 sheets of 8.5 x 11′ paper or approximately my 36 x 36″ square.So I’ll write the descriptions that are 6 pages long and translate into 12 pages of Contracted–or grade 2–Braille on sheets of 8.5 x 11″ Braille paper. When I get them transcribed I’ll also ask for Word versions of the Braille if that’s possible.
The next step is to translate those 12 pages of 8,5 x 11″ Braille to one big sheet of 36 x 36″ inch heavy weight archival art paper. I’m probably end up using a some cotton sheet, either a watercolour page or something like Stonehenge or some other drawing paper. To do this I need to fabricate an extra large Braille slate. The images below show standard Braille slates. So each of these slates can take up to a 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of Braille paper. They open like a book, hinged on one side. You insert the paper and close it. Then you can create the raised dots of Braille in each cell. Each cell has an opening that allows access to the paper, and a series of six indentations under the paper that guide the stylus into one of those six spots that denote individual letters. I originally planned to cut and join 12 of these plastic standard slates, but now I plan to get a CNC router technician to plot, program and manufacture a top and bottom “slate” section based on the standard slates, but that is 48, 48″ inches in size. It will have thousands of cells.
I can then take the transcribed paragraphs and painstakingly create large 36 x 36″ documents out of them.
These would end up being 3 foot squares of raised dots, that could be read by a Braille Reader, describing a photographic image. These would be framed in floating frames with no glass to allow the tactile nature of Braille to be “read”. There would also be a corresponding standard 12 page of Braille associated with each piece that would be easier for a Braille reader to read in the standard manner, rather than touching the art.
The other question is will I actually display the photographs each of the Braille pieces is describing. I haven’t decided this yet. I’ve toyed with the idea of making the images available in a catalogue that works with the standard Braille sheets. I’ve also thought about making the images available on line and people could access them after they looked at the code view a QR code or something. Part of me also wants to include English translations of the Braille. Whatever I decide the goal feels like, it’s going to be about inconveniencing the sighted. I’d like them to imagine the photographs from the descriptions and then look at the images and see how the two “object” differ.
I think this will be expensive to create the large Braille slate that I would use to create all the work. The translation would be fairly costly as well. I’ve contemplated finding a gallery to exhibit the work, then applying for a Canada or Ontario Arts council grant and then executing so I don’t a) loose my short, or b) have no where to show the work.
I see these pieces initially at either Gallery 44, Gallery TPW, or maybe even the Mississauga or Hamilton Art Galleries. I see them morphing from English into French and then other languages. Braille isn’t a language, it’s a system of code, and can be used to write any language that is based on a standard character set. So I can see this having relevance in other countries.
I also see this as being a plus for many galleries who most likely have accessibility mandates, either through the Trillium Grant system or through some other form of Government grants. Who knows, maybe there’s a grant I can access to create the work