More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art

November 28, 2020
More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art

In the quarter century following the enactment of the Americanswith Disabilities Act, art museums, along with other publicinstitutions, were tasked with making their facilities andcollections more accessible to people with disabilities. Althoughblind and other disabled people have become marginally more visiblein recent years, the vast majority of blind Americans remainundereducated and unemployed. In More Than Meets the Eye,Georgina Kleege shows how the scrutiny of one cultural issue-accessto arts institutions-in relation to one subset of the disabledpopulation- blind people-can lead us to larger and more generalimplications. Kleege begins by examining representations ofblindness, arguing that traditional theories of blindness oftenfail to take into account the presence of other senses, or theability of blind people to draw analogies from non-visualexperience to develop concepts about visual phenomena. Followingthis, the book shifts its focus from the tactile to the verbal,describing Denis Diderot's remarkable range of techniques todescribe art works for readers who were not able to view them.Diderot's writing not only provided a model for describing art,Kleege says, but proof that the experience of art is inextricablytied to language and thus not entirely dependent on sight. Byintertwining her personal experience with scientific study andhistorical literary analysis, Kleege challenges traditionalconceptions of blindness and overturns the assumption that theideal art viewer must have perfect vision. More Than Meets the Eyeseeks to establish a dialogue between blind people and thephilosophers, scientists, and educators that study blindness, inorder to create new aesthetic possibilities and a more genuinelyinclusive society.