About the project

This project started out as a reaction to a rather traumatic experience in my childhood which made a profound impression upon me: at the age of five, I temporarily lost my eye-sight due to a viral infection. Suddenly, I found my world reduced to the immediate outskirts of my body and felt completely disoriented and helpless when navigating through space and conducting simple tasks. However, after a year in quarantine, and intense hospital treatment I recovered and could see once again.

When confronted with the need to choose a theme for my thesis, I decided to explore how textile design could help those less fortunate than myself to move about spaces and their daily routine with more ease. At the same time, it seemed quite challenging to eliminate sight in the context of a master degree in visual arts.

I ended up questioning much more than just the dominance of sight in Western art and culture. For example, the different manner in which visually impaired people perceive the world, forced me to reconsider interiors and their functions. These aren't as much perceived as places to reside in, but rather as transitional spaces in which colors, textures, and patterns aren't so much used for decoration as for signaling purposes. So even these basic principles of (textile) design as well as the design process itself where questioned over and over again.

The research project itself consists of two parts:

During the first phase, a questionnaire concerning the different aspects of interiors (atmosphere, orientation/navigation, safety) was posted on Bliksem, an Internet forum for the visually impaired. This resulted in an e-mail correspondence with and visits to several visually handicapped persons.

One important finding was that the visually impaired are often excluded from decisions concerning their interiors. This has partly to do with prejudices from those who can see properly, but is also a consequence of materials not being adapted to the specific way of perceiving of the visually impaired, making it hard for them to make decisions on the matter.

Another, more surprising conclusion was that the visually handicapped attach a huge importance to visual factors like color and light in interiors, using these for both their signaling and atmospheric properties.

The ideas derived from this fieldwork are currently being elaborated in Homelab I: