Stereotypes are keyword to common perceptions of people with disabilities. A stereotype of the sort says people with disabilities are kin to an isolated caste. We rarely meet them in the street, and almost never in the theater, cafes, or supermarkets. Most people tend to think, "Thank God I'm not disabled." However, in our age of technological disasters it is naïve to look with detachment at the problems of the disabled, without trying them on ourselves at least in theory.
Another stereotype says the disabled are doomed to loneliness; their lives are limited, poor and pitied. This is true, but only partly. The "Visible" exhibition is about successful people with disabilities. Natasha Podunova’s characters are blind. Some of them cannot see from birth, others grew blind as adults. But blindness does not prevent a woman from being a woman, nor does it prevent a father from raising a child; blindness does not deprive people of joys of life, which are inherent in the sighted.
Lack of vision is a serious problem but it’s not fatal. It does not take away a happy childhood, provided that loving parents stand by. It does not deny the young man to lead a sports way of life if he has a strong will and determination. An unsighted entrepreneur, if he is a leader by nature, will still succeed and lead the others. The exhibition’s characters prove it every day. Albeit they are in the minority, the future lies with these people. They will change the attitude of society towards people with disabilities, as they’ll do toward themselves.
Yet another stereotype – sightless people live in the dark. In fact, they live in a world of imagination. You don’t need to see to know. Do you really have to see what is written in the novel? Didn’t generations of Soviet people follow football matches and plays on the radio?
The exhibition is addressed to both sighted and unsighted visitors. We’ve used special techniques in the audio commentary to describe paintings that psychologists had developed for the blind. Words can give a boost to imagination, allowing a contact with what you can’t see with eyes. In contrast and against their will, the sighted viewers will put themselves in place of the unsighted.
Artem Berkovich (Metenkov House Museum of Photography)
Photo descriptions are courtesy of Nadezhda Golubeva, Chief Librarian of the Sverdlovsk Regional Library for the Blind, the author of typhloexcursion by Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.
Video from exhibition...