72. Speechless: Different by Design Reframes Accessibility and Communication in a Museum Context
Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm in Elsner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums each episode. So he's never longer than fifteen minutes so let's get started. Museums tend to be verbal spaces. There's usually a lot of words. Galleries opened with walls of taxed. Visitors are presented with rules of do's and don'ts and artists Guide headphone users from one place to the next it paragraph by paragraph but there's a new series of exhibits designed to be different designed to guide visitors as far away as possible from words. It's one of. These is a collaboration of the Dallas Art Museum and the High Museum of art in Atlanta. It's called speechless. And to underline the point it is subtitled titled Different by design. Beaches has been an exhibition that merges research and aesthetics and innovative new design to explore accessibility accessibility and modes of communication in the museum setting. This is Sarah schladming curator of speechless. Low My name is Sarah shortening and and I am the Margo Be Perot. Senior curator of decorative arts and design and the interim chief curator at the Dallas Museum of art and I love to focus focus on projects that really explore ideas of how design and art can transform our everyday life. The roots of speechless come from linings linings own rethinking of how communicate without language. The idea really germinated out of something very personal for me. which is that one of my children has motor planning disability a neurological issue that rendered him when he was younger fairly speechless? And and I had to sort of rethink how I communicated with him in how we as a family interacted with somebody where language wasn't the primary. Hi Mary Avenue so it started in that idea but I was also in my curatorial work has been really interested in issues of playscapes and interactivity. And how the exposure to aesthetics and design are really great gateways to get people to to really think about about how that impacts their everyday life and so. This project was a merger of these ideas even museums specialize in the visual arts. Have a tendency communicate verbally with their peers. I think that that was the thing that I realized even for myself ideal in visual culture but the way I communicate about it is through words and that I myself have hyper hyper verbal. All of a sudden I had this very close proximity to somebody buddy who wasn't interested in learning from me through language and what I started to realize really because we started using the picture exchange system could occasion Asian system which is a series of images that you use to communicate. So you'd say what do you want to eat and on the sheet would be a picture of a series of different foods and then they could point and and so it's very prescriptive and it would be apple and then when I started thinking was we at museums are sitting on this vast repository of images of you could use Magritte's apple there's so many different looks and feels and kind of different nuances to what an apple could be or these images and in an essence that communication is kind of a two way thing the project is made up of six art installations. Intended to foster participatory Tori environments within the museum context and in particular engage the senses. We had the opportunity about a year ago to invite six designed Zayn teams to come to Dallas and work on this project and then we invited six specialists from the Dallas community that were the scientists but kind of both your Titians and practitioners who specialized in fields like neuroscience and Autism Dementia Communication Disorders Orders Physical therapy related to sensory issues and really to think about the broader spectrum of what disability. Looks like. And how to broaden our own perceptions of how to design for that and think through those ideas but I think the biggest underpinning depending of the exhibition for me and for the institutions were that it was an experience that ultimately was positive in joyful. So that these Foley immersive interactive spaces that each design team was creating was really something that was positive and felt like it offered an opportunity to see the the greatness in the difference between US instead of Seeing a sort of a a negative one of the pieces the by Yuri Suzuki is called sound of the Earth Chapter two and future giant unmarked black globe without the context of the familiar outlines outlines of continents visitors instead here sounds recorded at the part of the Earth. Where would they place their ear against the surface of the globe? Another by me Shikan features features a garden of colorful sculptures that inflate and deflate throughout the day the task of bringing all these installations together fell on designer and educator. Laurie Laurie Haycock Makhala. Makhala was responsible for the overall graphic identity and the corresponding exhibit publication. Tie My name. Is Laurie Haycock Makhala Accola. I'm a graphic designer educator and I'm working on the hook and some of the kind of related exhibition graphic identity issues or for speechless. You know as a book designer ideal with words also so there's a certain irony in working on this project but it made me really attentive to you. Know How do we use image and or language to communicate best like Shining Makhala understands what it's like to communicate eight non verbally. I've been book designer and an educator and all that for years and years and then I I had to brain hemorrhage is in brain surgery which really made my Everything stopped you know. Sarah brought many of in here because of certain personal experiences that make it so we really elite understand in some pretty deep way experiential way what our options are when we are left with maybe for a while Al.. I couldn't I didn't speak or write or read or anything like that so I had to rethink all that so I really identified. With the concept of this project from the very beginning the six installations only female relate to one another and they're introduced by the ground rules. Be Curious be thoughtful. Be Gentle so one of the few instances of taxed in the gallery visitors can experience the installations in any order. They choose by going into rooms off the main area which shining explains by invoking sea creature the exhibition itself will be designed kind of like an octopus is the best way I can describe private. And when you go in the room if you think of the octopus sort of head it is actually going to be an empty room and that room will have some furniture. We'll have some things and they'll be these kind of videos that are really Spin Abi sort of short boomerang videos of each artist in their space kind of showing people what to expect what they would use their so that you could understand yes. They're six spaces. This is a little bit what I do. This might have sounded and I can touch this. This idea that these these spaces are fully interactive is really is really different and that they are gonNA have to sort of unpackaged them a little bit than the place like Lawry's doing Israeli. We wanted to make a space. That was what we called kind of de escalation down and you know those spaces. Typically Museum like sensory spaces and others which are becoming more commonplace in institutions like museum often are off of the sort of educational space or in other places in we wanted to put primary in the exhibition. It we wanted wanted to be fully accessible and not You know stigmatized is probably too hard but making it feel like it was accessible to everyone. Everyone that everybody may need the opportunity to just have a moment to take a rebound in refresh in that space there will be rockers and waited blankets. One of our specialists deals primarily with that so we vetted that project and what we wanted to use in there in that and then the book that lorries done which really shows the whole creative process of each of the different designers will be. We'd pasted on one of the walls and until we'll both be a place for reflection for people to look at these but also a kind of stabilizing line for people if they need to calm down or recenter even though the museum world has a term for visitors needing a break from galleries. It's called museum fatigue and you can listen to a brief overview of it on on episode two of this show the causes of museum fatigue and a best practice. Approach remain speculative researcher. Beverly sorelle found that visitors typically quickly spend less than twenty minutes in exhibits regardless of topic and size before becoming much more selective about what they explore who research supports the notion Russian that visitors have a limited timeframe after which their interest in the gallery diminishes. And this is the reason why you can usually find it least bench twenty minutes. It's into a linear exhibit. But it's clear that museums can do much more. The designers of speechless hope that their approach can contribute the other. The thing that I really wanted to make sure happened in the exhibition was that you never walked from one project to another. You always go into space in the new comeback into the central sort of emptier zone so that you always have a chance to. It's almost like a pallet cleanser. Right you always kind of go from one experience and then you're able to reflect decompress and then you can move into another. We don't know how it's going to go. I mean part of the idea of being being experimental and I applaud both institutions for encouraging. US to go Really go for it is that you don't know what's going to be successful. We're not and so we are investing in doing evaluations during the project. And it's our intention to then Sort of published those findings at the end because we want to understand what worked and what didn't so much of the planning for this. Exhibit comes from making visitors comfortable enough to have a non museum like interaction within an art museum but visitors are used to a museum context with clear taxed instructions so it would be interesting acting to see how soon into visit do visitors. Start playing and lose some level of inhibition. Lose some of the museum context. I stay up at night thinking about that. I think it's been really interesting because even with you know the designers themselves you know it's that balance between I mean they wanna make something that's really spectacular in. Its in in art museum and they wanted to really have you know be elevated at at that level and at the same time how would you interact with this as a child. And how would you change that to be more responsive to that or to think through these things and try and trying to work through you know the best you can but you never know. And and that's what makes it both exciting and anxiety. designee producing started biting my nails speechless with fits. Visually striking rooms is opening into a world. More comfortable than ever expressing itself non verbally audio and images and animations of images are just as easy to create modify and share as words episode fourteen of the show which was an entire discussion of museum. Southeast from Twenty fifteen feels hopelessly outdated in two thousand nineteen images and sell fees are just how many visitors talk about the galleries. They visit like any language. There's a continually evolving grammar in images in Southie isn't one strategy is for museums to give visitors the tools of that that grammar.