Sculpture for the Blind, by the Blind
2017 / Made in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia / Sculptures for the Blind made by Angela Carr, Sarah Lewis, Arnold Mack, Monae Keller, Angel Miranda, Ethan Ruddell, Robert Sulkin, David Stephens, Brysheen Payne, Jessica Bobo, Rhonda Gray-Upsey, Ashlee Preston, Pamela Howell, Joey (Marques) Perez, Ronald Bryant, Frank Madison, Gabby Zachwieja / Dimensions variable / Plaster, linen, wood, Braille sign, mounted digital photograph, portfolio of photographs / Photos: Carlos Avendano
Constantin Brancusi’s Sculpture for the Blind (1920) is on permanent display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art – inside a glass vitrine. The title of the artwork and the institutional logic of the museum collide to create the beautiful absurdity of a “sculpture for the blind” that exists only for the sighted.
Playfully interpreting Brancusi’s poetic title as a literal instruction, I followed various lines of inquiry in an attempt to get his Sculpture for the Blind into the hands of the blind. I applied to officially loan the sculpture from the museum, then attempted to gain limited physical access, and finally requested permission to make a facsimile in pink marble – all of which were impossible.
Instead, using the means available to any sighted member of the public, I studied the sculpture inside its glass vitrine and wrote a description of it. I invited people from Philadelphia who identified as blind or visually impaired to listen to the description and to make their own Sculpture for the Blind, interpreted from the words they heard.
Sculpture for the Blind, by the Blind - Workshop Documentation / 2017 / Made in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia / Photography by Michelle Cade. Additional documentation by Lonnie Graham, Lenka Clayton
Description of Brancusi’s Sculpture for the Blind (1920) that I wrote and read out to the artists:
"This object is 6 11/16 x 11 7/16 x 7 1/8 inches. The length is roughly an elbow to wrist span or about the size of a medium-sized cat, curled up. Like a cat, it would fit easily on your lap and would take two hands to hold comfortably.
The object is a simple, solid, abstract form, with no corners or sharp angles. It lies with its longest side facing the viewer and has two ends at the right and left. The right end is larger and appears to swell, resembling the back of a baby’s head. This volume gently and somewhat unevenly tapers down the length of the object on all sides. It ends in a smaller, rounded point on the left that would fit inside a loosely-cupped hand.
The top of the object is a flatter, gently rounded plane. The bottom describes a beautiful curve. The weight on the larger end of the object sits higher, the smaller end slightly lower. It balances on a central point from which the entire form lifts up, making it appear weightless and graceful.
Its gentle curves recall the eroded planes of a river stone. The form somewhat resembles an egg but unlike the perfection of an egg it is enlarged, greatly elongated and asymmetrical.These idiosyncrasies reveal that it is created by human hands.
Except for a thin fold line on the front, shorter than a finger length, the surface is smooth and unbroken.”
Sculpture for the Blind, by the Blind - Artist Portraits / 2017 / Made in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia / Portraits by Lonnie Graham / Portraits show the Sculpture for the Blind Artists; Angela Carr, Sarah Lewis, Arnold Mack, Monae Keller, Angel Miranda, Ethan Ruddell, Robert Sulkin, David Stephens, Brysheen Payne, Jessica Bobo, Rhonda Gray-Upsey, Ashlee Preston, Pamela Howell, Joey (Marques) Perez, Ronald Bryant, Frank Madison, Gabby Zachwieja