14-20 August 2015 #771

The vision thing

In Visible highlights the visual dependency in our society
Stéphane Huët

GOPEN RAI

The leaflet announcing the photo exhibition, In Visible, was already very unique. It only had a fingerprint, the dates, the venue and photographer’s name, Rohan Thapa. For more information about the event, we found out that photographs can be used to ‘bridge the gap between the visually impaired and sighted through perceptual experimentation’.

Last Sunday as one stepped in the ground floor gallery of the Nepal Art Council for the In Visible’s launch the first sense to be awakened was hearing -- with an ethereal music accompanying a video of a blinking eye (coming from the archives of the Sudrishti Eye Clinic) on an empty wall.

The 72 photographs of In Visible are stuck on six tables displayed in the middle of the gallery. Each picture is a blurry portrait – 72 people shot by Thapa after they had undergone eye surgery at Tilganga Eye Hospital.

When the photographer went to take pictures of Tilganga’s patients three years ago, he had no particular concept in mind. “I just wanted to address the vision issues in Nepal,” he says. The first pictures Thapa processed came out blurred by mistake. “I realised the people I was shooting were probably seeing me like this,” he says. Like all great inventions, the technical mistake led to a creative new idea.

At first, pictures of In Visible look like simple portraits. But for sighted visitors, it becomes disturbing as they are not able to identify the details of someone’s face. For a brief moment, they can see as a visually impaired person sees. Thapa does this with sensitivity and perceptiveness, as it were.

Every picture has small pips in different alignments. These are words used in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights printed in Braille. In Visible breaks the usual barrier of galleries and museums because visitors are invited to touch the pictures and feel the Braille characters.

With In Visible, Thapa wanted to provoke interaction between the visually impaired and the sighted. “I think we can learn from each other,” he says about the shifting of roles in his exhibition. While blind people are usually those who are guided, at In Visible’s launch a visually impaired mother helps her sighted child to understand Braille words on the pictures.

Thapa conceived this sensory exploration to highlight visual dependency in our society. “It’s our nature to touch,” he explains, “like a baby who palpates everything to explore the world.” With touching, sight and hearing, we wish In Visible had also stimulated smell and taste.

In Visible By Rohan Thapa

Set up by photo.circle

Nepal Art Council

Till 14 August 2015

Read also:

Feeling words, Suresh Raj Neupane

Different, but able, Brikuti Rai

Bestseller in Braille, Manesh Shrestha

Two decades of vision, Skye McParland

In the dark, Mina Sharma

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