Video transcription Hoelle Corvest, Dorine in t’ Veld

Library of tactile and high contrast images of art historical works

DORINE: Welcome to the presentation about the Library of Tactile and High Contrast Images of Works of Art. The slide shows a high contrast image on the left and an equivalent tactile image on the right. What are we looking at? A man wearing a long robe, a crown and a sceptre is sitting on a horse turning backwards as if to see what comes behind it. The man has a double-pointed long beard and bat like wings. His horse is covered with a cloth. It looks like a hauberk, as we know from Mediaeval Knights, made of metal rings. So this must be a war horse, but look, it has a human head wearing a crown like its rider. It gets even stranger. His tail ends in a kind of demons head with a long tongue sticking out. Behind him, we see a man with a shorter double pointed beard and a kind of mediaeval hat, one hand above his brow and the other raised as if he wants to stop something. Around him, insects stalls a man's head, hovering in the air with wings like dragonflies and paws that identify them as grasshoppers. You may have guessed by now that what we are looking at, a scene from "The Apocalypse," the fifth trumpet has just sounded. It is a detail of the famous tapestry of "The Apocalypse" that is in the Castle of Angers, in France. The biggest in the world. It was made at the end of the 14th century. If you see the image you can now have a pretty clear idea of the original. If you don't see the image, you might wonder what exactly this looks like. It is a pretty long description yet, if you don't see the picture you still only have a vague idea. You know what's on it, but what is the composition? What does the beard imply, or the hulbeck? Or the crown or the grasshoppers? I have a consolation. If you want to know more as a blind person, you may consider to get your hands on the book that is shown in this slide. (foreign language) In the series called, (foreign language). The book contains 30 pages with tactile images, a book with high contrast images and a CD with explanation in audio, in French. And yes, the tactile image we discussed is on paper, a very special and long sought-after Japanese paper. Very soft but not too smooth, details are sharp and clear. The fingers quite enjoy this material. Even when reading for a long time, they don't get irritated. Why did we show you this example? Because it shows the techniques that will be used in the Library of Tactile And High Contrast Images of Works of Art, that's what this presentation is about. But first let me introduce us. There were two names on the first slide. It said, Hoelle Corvest, presented by Dorine in't Veld. The second is my name. I was to help Hoelle realising this presentation. Well, long story short, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will be presenting alone. There is a chance you know me, but don't recognise my picture. That is another effect of the pandemic. My hair has grown quite long, but luckily we are good. Now let me introduce to you the really important person, Hoelle Corvest. She was the advisor for, and the big stimulator behind many audio tactile books, and she is also the initiator for the library we will present. This slide shows a still of her from the video of Tele Matin, a French news programme. Subject was the Villa Cavrois. It had been renovated and to make it more accessible for visually impaired visitors, an audio tactile book was published. This book won a prestigious prize in 2020 and got a lot of publicity. Hoelle is announced, "A specialist on cultural accessibility and tactile images" This describes her quite good. Actually, Villa Cavrois is not a book but a box containing 30 tactile images of the same wonderful quality as you saw in the first picture, a book with high contrast images and an audio CD with explanation. Let me introduce Hoelle Corvest a little more. She worked for over 30 years, from 1986 to 2016 in Musee des Science in Lafayette, in Paris. She, herself a VIP, a VIP is a visually impaired person, was responsible for the accessibility of the museum for visually impaired visitors. This slide shows a picture from within the museum. On the outside you see the IMAX theatre, in the middle of the slide you see an internet address, dugta.wordpress.com. When Hoelle retired, she continued her work under the name of the foundation, DUGTA, D-U-G-T-A. The website is temporary and not always kept very up-to-date, but gives you some information and contact details. Hoelle loathes the prohibition of touching the museums. Of course there are objects that are too vulnerable to be touched but many statues, furniture, tools, et cetera would not suffer at all from the careful touch of a blind person's exploring a work of art or other museum object. Actually with DUGTA she pleads for an allowance to touch for VIP only, to realise real inclusion. I'll show you an example of her work from the last big exhibition she did in the Musée des Science. It was about Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor. This slide shows a model for a kind of predecessor of a tank. It is made of wood and iron. It is left open on one side to show what is inside. It looks like a flying saucer with a funny bulge on the top and we see two huge wheels on the inside. In the middle, under the bulge, is a platform. In the bulge, we see narrow horizontal openings, and at the bottom of the sole suggests under its widest point are round holes. In front of the model is a display visitors can touch. On the left, there are tactile images. They are on top of high contrast images, so one can both see them and read them by touch. There is text and there is Braille. To the right is a screen for visual and audio explanation. The same images as on the display are used in an audio tactile box, "Da Vinci Touch", that is shown here, with the same formula as the (foreign language) box. Tactile images, a book with high contrast images and an audio CD, this time with explanation in French and English. Let's have a quick look at those images. In a side view, we see the flying saucer from the outside, with canons sticking out all around. We see the lower part of the big wheels that stand on rails. Right underneath the side view, we see the top view with 12 cannons sticking out all around with the same division as a clock. And the mechanism for the wheels. On the right of the page, there are two side views. The first showing that in the middle a ladder gives access to an outdoor platform. A man stands on it and can look through the narrow horizontal openings. At the bottom, we see two men behind cannons, pointed left and right. The second showing how the driving mechanism is operated. There is not enough time to give the whole explanation that should be given to these images. But I hope this example makes clear how powerful this medium is to convey detailed information. With it now, thanks to these images with explanation, has a proper and precise mental representation. Let's go back to our rider of "The Apocalypse." I love this example because it clearly shows how you can play with depth. With swell paper, you basically only have one heart of lines. There may be a little variation in height but look here or better, touch here. You'll feel subtle and fluent bulging of surfaces and sharp details. Faces in three quarter view are easier to read in this type of (foreign language) than in an image with only raced lines. Here, even though a bit deformed because of the perspective in the drawing, you'll actually feel the cheeks, the nose, the chin and that for many readers is easier to understand than on the lines. The folds of the robe and the hauberk are at different levels. You feel with which folds falls over another. The variation in height is subtle but very well perceivable. How is this type of tactile images made? Time to introduce you to another member of the team, Christian Bessigneul, graphic designer of the engravings. In fact, he is an artist. I took some stills from a video about the making process of the tactile images for the book of "The Apocalypse." Christian starts with studying the object, making sketches and drawings. The final design goes into a computer and is transferred to a copper sheet. Then he starts to craft this sheet with gouges and bearings and other instruments for working metal. It is a very artisanal work. The stills from the video show how metal grinds up and however finer instruments are used for smaller details. Finally, imperfections and burs are ground away and polished. Every now and then, a print on clay is made to check the results. This way of working very much respects the way blind people will explore the tactile image. This slide, again shows the subtle but very distinctive differences in height that are clearly visible thanks to the skimming light. This slide shows our rider on the finished copper plate, on its way to the printing press. First, a positive mould must be made from a mix of marble powder, glue and water. It must be fairly well mixed to have exactly the right structure and smoothness. Between the positive and negative mould, there must be space for the paper. When the positive mould is dry it will have exactly the right dimensions. And finally all is ready to print. By the way, even in this phase the team can decide that corrections must be made. So indeed it is a meticulous and laborious process, but once you have the perfect moulds you can make thousands of high quality reproductions. And the more copies you can make, the lower the cost per piece. One last word about the series of the (foreign language). They are about French heritage and have more or less the same structure. They start with the geographical location of the site. Here you see the first page of the book about (foreign language). Then they continue with plans of the site itself and the architecture. In this example, from the book of the "Pont-d'Arc," we see two side views as we saw in "Da Vinci Touch." Next they zoom in on interesting details. In this example, from the book of "Grout, Cluny Abbey" we see this method of orthogonal projection again. On the left of the image, we see a capital from the front, above it you see the top view and below it another top view but this time of the base that is round just like the column underneath it. So the tactile reader will fully understand the shape of this capital, square with concave sites at the top and smaller and round at the bottom. The concave sides, these are bent a bit downwards. The side that is shown has a mandola, an almond shaped fit. In the mandola, is a duct. The explanation tells that there is a representation that is enlarged to the right of the mandola. There, we see a young woman with a book under her arms. She is the personification of spring. Again, but then the inside of this presentation we don't see the image, we'll have only a vague notion. I show you one last example to illustrate the diversity of possibilities, this relief printing technique, called go-frange offers. The rose window in the book about the Sainte-Chapelle. It consists of terribly drawn curved lines of different heights that allow the fingers to discover it better. This slide shows the fingers of a blind teacher leading the fingers of a blind participant during a workshop. DUGTA, on a regular basis, organises workshops all over France. Not all visually impaired readers have learned to read tactile images. Certainly not of this kind, the underlying notions especially the principle of orthogonal projection are unknown to them but participants learn quickly and the workshops are fun and people think. And that they open new worlds to the participants. Just a few words about the explanation that comes with these books. We didn't discuss that yet. VIPs often are not familiar with art, many terms and concepts have no real meaning for them. They are only words. The explanation fills in much of this missing knowledge, mostly on the fly while exploring the tactile images. So both the lines, forms and surfaces get meaning and concepts become clear. After reading the image and the explanation the VIP has not only a correct mental representation of the object, but also know it's historical or art historical and cultural context and interest. What makes it special or what is it representative for? In other words, the information tells about the object and offers knowledge of concepts that is applicable elsewhere. Time to introduce the team to you that is now working on the realisation of the library using all the ingredients we met so far. Hoelle Corvest and Christian Bessigneul were introduced before. Genevieve Bresc was a curator at the Louvre Museum and still teaches at the Ecole du Louvre. Mitchel Bris did a lot of research on tactile graphics. In the years, 1988 to 2000, he and Hoelle were involved in fundamental research. It was found that the method of orthogonal projection is very accessible for blind persons. It very much respects the way hands will explore an object since there is no deformation of angles or lengths, as is the case when perspective is applied. It is an international standard used, for example, in industrial design and architecture. And now it is applied to tactile images in France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and even more countries. Nadine Dutier, specialised occupational therapist, helps Hoelle giving the workshops I mentioned before. Florence Bernard is the youngest member of the team. She is a partially sighted artist, has been teaching at the INJA school for the blind students in Paris and now works at INSHEA, the Institute where Michel Bris used to work. And that in short, trains special needs teachers, does research and develops learning methods and materials. How will the library take shape? There will be no braille into tactile images. A QR code will lead to the explanations on a website. This approach makes it easy to use the tactile images in other countries, without a braille and other languages. I hope you remember my remark that once you have the moulds, one can print many copies and that lowers the price per piece. All the information, as well as the high contrast images will be on a website that addresses visually impaired individuals as well as cultural mediators and teachers. It will give information per work of art, and there will be educational appendices, here too, internationalisation is easy. The information with each work of art will contain schematic composition and a description, art, historical, geographical and cultural context and peculiarities. In order to focus the attention and curiosity of the reader in each work of art one aspect will have to focus, be it an attribute, a particular attitude or costume, or accessory, or whatever. There will be educational appendices for information about techniques, artists, styles and other general information. As well as for representation codes like orthogonal projection, perspective, Mediaeval and Chinese representations, technical, principles of photography, et cetera. In addition to the codes for representation when needed, as we saw in the examples given, important details will be enlarged. Partly hidden details will be completed and complex plans are split and built up successively. The selection of works of art for the library must be attractive and coherent but not treated as usual, mostly chronologically and/or per geographical area. The works of art will be grouped around themes that go for everyone. 12 themes have been listed so far, for example, "To be born/to love," or "To suffer/to die," or "To learn/to work," et cetera. But no doubt there will be other ones. The works of art that are chosen for these themes are transchronological and transgeographic. The works of art must be landmarks in art history and suited for tactile reading. Over 300 works have been examined so far and over 100 works have been described. Contracts are being signed, funding is taking shape. And more partners are welcome be it to add works of art or to use the tactile images and translated texts on your own websites. If you want to know more mail @dugta@free.fr. Free is F-R-E-E. Let's fill in the cultural gap around the world for visually impaired persons.

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