Mapping the city by sound and smell

The invisible map is a peculiar guidebook created by people who have never seen the place they describe or the city where they live. Wroclaw already has a map like this. Krakow, which presents “The Invisible Map of Wroclaw” exhibition in Pauza Gallery, now proves itself as being a city open to unconventional ideas. For the time being it is only presenting others’ original ideas, but hopefully it will come up with its own interesting social-awareness projects.

The exhibition entitled “The Invisible Map of Wroclaw” reveals how this unique guidebook about Wroclaw was created. It consists of a photographic record from visits to parts of the city that blind inhabitants find most significant and unique. These visits resulted in a guidebook of 31 various places described through photography, sounds and words. In the course of its development “The Invisible Map of Wroclaw” was additionally expanded to include interviews with its authors. The book and the exhibition about the city, as rediscovered by its blind inhabitants, are being promoted throughout Poland. Most of us live in a world dominated by signs and symbols in which we are used to experiencing reality, space and movement through visual stimuli and information. We tend to ignore our other senses and focus only on what we see. The blind, on the other hand, who cannot explore the reality surrounding them by using their sense of sight, rely on hearing and touch.

Different places and materials sound differently. The sound makes recognizing each place and location possible, highlighting the importance of enriching an image with sounds that usually accompany it. The blind experience the world differently – their world is filled with different stimuli and is therefore explored through different senses. “The Invisible Map of Wroclaw” exhibition shows how the same reality can be experienced in a totally different manner by different people. Sandra Tworkowska, one of the blind participants in the project, says “For me the idea of looking pretty is something completely abstract. Such a notion doesn’t even exist for me. Telling me that I look pretty doesn’t mean anything for me – these are just empty words, nothing more. Still, there are times when I would like to look exceptionally good, of course. I guess that I am not different from other girls in that respect. On such occasions, though, I ask my friends for advice. I have one girl-friend, Lidka, who always advises me on that matter. At the beginning I had to learn – and it was very hard for me to comprehend it – that everyone has his/her own opinion on the question of one’s appearance”.

There were 16 blind and visually impaired persons aged between 21 and 72 taking part in “The Invisible Map of Wroclaw” project, invented and coordinated by Maciej Baczyk. Karol Kurowski is the author of both the photographs included in the guidebook, as well as the photos documenting the realization of the project in 2005-2006. A two-year long cooperation between Osrodek Postaw Tworczych (Center for Creative Behaviors) and blind inhabitants of Wroclaw resulted not only in the unique guidebook but also in the innovative exhibition. The idea of documenting the surrounding reality of the blind is nothing new, however. In 1998 a Finnish photographer Santeri Tuori made use of a similar idea in his video installations. This shows that the element of creative inspiration in pro-social initiatives is not only much needed but also effective. This interesting initiative could work out well in Krakow, too. The question is, how would such a map look and who could participate in the project. The number of blind persons living in Krakow is substantial (there is even a school for the blind at Tyniecka street). By following the example of Wroclaw and being inspired by something already developed and tested, Krakow has a chance to meet the needs of a so far marginalized social group.

The Invisible Map of Wroclaw
Pauza Gallery
ul. Florianska 18/5; 2nd Floor

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