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Touching the Art

By Anna Chiaretta Lavatelli
Andrew Yang Touch Tour, 2016. Film still courtesy of the MCA.

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Since 2016, our Chicago Works artists have generously taken time to share their art with visitors who are blind or have low vision. Our next touch tour will be led by the artist Amanda Williams in her exhibition tomorrow, Saturday, December 16.

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As a curator working in the visual arts, I sadly feel almost predisposed to privileging sight. Being in conversation with blind and visually impaired participants enabled us to challenge museum protocol by enabling the tactile to occupy the central point of artistic and intellectual contact. There were pivotal material differences in the objects on display that were much more impactful to touch, a fact that was not available to general audiences during the regular run of the exhibition.

—Joey Orr, Former MCA Mellon Curatorial Fellow and Curator of Chicago Works: Andrew Yang

When the MCA invited Andrew Yang to lead a tour for blind and low-vision visitors last year, the conversation centered around an installation that features an array of naturally occurring materials such as rocks, coral, and plant matter alongside visually deceiving objects, such as a juice box so heavily worn that it appears to be plant matter or a soda can that is returning to a more natural state (rusted metal). Visitors had the opportunity to touch the art objects while Yang described their materials, significance, and history. It was a very busy day at the museum and many sighted visitors joined in the fun and experienced the installation through Yang’s eyes, with their own hands.

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In this video, Andrew Yang guides the hand of a visitor over a large striated rock. Andrew, a well-groomed, dark-haired man with glasses and a flannel shirt, describes his experience of sharing his work. We cut to a close up of Andrew placing a very textured gourd into the hands of a visitor to feel.

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In this video many hands are touching various kinds of organic matter: rocks, coral, shells. Andrew Yang, the artist, guides blind visitors to touch various objects including a lightweight object that appears to be a rock, but is in fact paper.

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Experience Amanda Williams's installation through her eyes tomorrow at noon.

Witnessing the Beautiful Manipulation of Wood