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Technology brings art to life for the visually impaired

Nottingham Castle’s Long Gallery is currently exhibiting an installation with a difference: ‘Blockwerk Orchestra’ – a display which helps visually impaired people enjoy art.

At Blockwerk Orchestra, visitors can experience an audiovisual delight, as they carry blocks which trigger sound effects and music at different locations throughout the gallery.

Commissioned by ‘Artfully Sighted’ – a group of visually impaired people from the Nottinghamshire Royal Society for the Blind (NRSB), Blockwerk Ochestra was created by digital artist Noel Murphy and musician and sonic artist Tom Hill.

NRSB volunteer Marianne Atkinson said “We feel that Noel and Tom have created something really innovative that will encourage people with or without a visual impairment to explore their senses in a new way.”

Galleries across the country are embracing technology to make art accessible to everyone. Perhaps the most technologically advanced is London’s Tate Modern.

Since 2002, the gallery has offered ‘i-Map’ – an online art resource for visually impaired people.

Continually enhanced and improved, i-Map has won several awards for its vision, design and accessibility. It uses audio, image enhancement and deconstruction, animation and raised images to build imagery and an understanding of works of art.

Rather than examining the entire artwork at once, i-Map introduces detail in a carefully planned sequence, gradually building a picture of the work as a whole.

Alongside i-Map, the Tate also offers ‘touch tours’ to enhance users’ online iMap experiences. Tours involve direct handling of two and three dimensional works, coupled with description and discussion of each piece to, quite literally, bring what users have experienced online to life.

Check out Tate’s i-Map here, and you can experience the Blockwerk Orchestra at the Long Gallery until October 2011.