More than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art

In the quarter century following the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, art museums, along with other public institutions, were tasked with making their facilities and collections more accessible to people with disabilities. Although blind and other disabled people have become marginally more visible in recent years, the vast majority of blind Americans remain undereducated and unemployed. In More Than Meets the Eye, Georgina Kleege shows how the scrutiny of one cultural issue-access to arts institutions-in relation to one subset of the disabled population- blind people-can lead us to larger and more general implications. 

Kleege begins by examining representations of blindness, arguing that traditional theories of blindness often fail to take into account the presence of other senses, or the ability of blind people to draw analogies from non-visual experience to develop concepts about visual phenomena. Following this, the book shifts its focus from the tactile to the verbal, describing Denis Diderot's remarkable range of techniques to describe 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 inextricably tied to language and thus not entirely dependent on sight. 

By intertwining her personal experience with scientific study and historical literary analysis, Kleege challenges traditional conceptions of blindness and overturns the assumption that the ideal art viewer must have perfect vision. More Than Meets the Eye seeks to establish a dialogue between blind people and the philosophers, scientists, and educators that study blindness, in order to create new aesthetic possibilities and a more genuinely inclusive society.

 Georgina Kleege
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