Transmediating meaning
Audio guides for visually impaired visitors in art museums
1 September 2020 - 31 May 2021

The project ‘Transmediating meaning’ is, in broader terms, concerned with the question of how museums can actually narrate and mediate meaning and information. It examines audio guides as exemplary complex transmedial formats on which objects, for instance, are translated into spoken texts, and thus into a different medium with different characteristics in regard to the perception of the artwork. Audio guides are not simple forms of art description; they do not just (or actually not at all) describe artworks, but construct and stage meaning, e.g. by creating certain interferences between objects and artistic ‘intention’ (on which many guides focus).

This is especially relevant when it comes to modern and contemporary art, moreover within abstract, conceptual, and political connoted art, because these art forms all assert a certain correlation between the ‘intention’ of the artist and the object. On (most) audio guides, the set out meaning they refer to only exists within the narration and performance in a juxtaposition to the displayed artworks.

The residency at the IAC enables the archiving of relevant existing guides, their examination, and experiences with possible forms of (spoken text) mediations. The goal of the produced guide and the project is of course not to ‘educate’ specific visitor groups, but to address and discuss the production of meaning in the art field, and it moreover (potentially) encourages the awareness of exclusion/inclusion of visually impaired in museums at a time of positive changes when it is popular among museums to provide guided tours for infants and Alzheimer patients.

It thus supports museum’s educational goals, as it implements new impulses towards inclusion, and, furthermore, demonstrates the societal value of academic research and humanistic theory and the importance of more artistic approaches.

Photo credits: At the Egyptian Museum Munich, © dpa

Janneke Schoene