As technology moves on and more people yearn for a different, more fulfilling experience, art which is enjoyed using all the senses is destined to become more popular. Installations, sculptures and audio visual works which stimulate the other four senses can have a much greater impact on visitors to galleries.
There is an increasing number of artists working in multi-sensory forms and more galleries hosting exhibitions of this nature. Dr. Tereza Stehlikova formed Sensory Sites in 2009, a collective of artists who create art which aims to ‘explore, create and promote experiences that enhance and reveal the role of the body and the senses in the encounter with art and with places’.
Dr. Stehlikova puts her preference for sensory art down to a desire to deepen people’s engagement with the world: ‘The role of the senses is vital, because they literally mediate our encounter with our surroundings. What art offers is a way of heightening, framing, distorting and exploring this relationship.’
Sensory art can take many forms and, indeed, appeal to a broad spectrum of people. Tereza focuses mainly on cinematic art. The work of Sensory Sites involves collaborating with a diverse group of people and overlapping into the worlds of science, philosophy and psychology as with the project Moving Water. The video below (as well as the image above) shows the project in action. Through sensory experience, the installation aimed to explore our physical, biological, psychological and cultural relationship to water.
Moving Water at the October Gallery, London.
Multi-sensory Art for the Disabled
Sensory art is all about participation. This makes the medium all the more accessible to a wider audience. Arts practitioners all over the world run sensory art workshops with disabled participants. Multi-sensory works are a perfect way for visitors who are blind, deaf or have other disabilities to connect to the art world.
Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel is the President and CEO of Art Beyond Sight, an organisation which advocates accessibility in art galleries. In terms of accessibility, Axel is very positive about the current state of the art world: ‘It’s a great time to be involved in multi-sensory arts for all purposes and all people. The cost of 3-D printing, apps and other technologies are within reach for most — and there’s such an openness to experimentation on the part of cultural venues.’
Advice for Sensory Artists
Entrepreneur and art dealer Joelle Dinnage has some advice to those who work in the sensory art field: ‘To get sensory art noticed the creators should investigate in exhibiting their works as much as they can. Art fairs can be a great help, with thousands of people coming over the floor it’s an easy way of engaging with people. And many art critics, press, agents, blog writers, etc, visit the events, which could give them great coverage. The sensory artworks could easily be a remarkable highlight of any art fair.’
When it comes to artists with disabilities, Axel doesn’t see a lot of work out there which explicitly deals with this aspect of identity: ‘People don’t speak about Chuck Close as an artist with a disability. He’s an artist who happens to have a disability. His disability doesn’t create the context in which we view his art, while we do incorporate his differently-abled self into our understanding of his changes in technique and style. I hope as the Disability Pride movement ages, we will see more works by artists exploring identity and I’ll be answering this question a bit differently.’
What is clear is that multi sensory art adds to gallery visitors’ experience. The work is exploring interesting areas and is enabling a wider section of society to appreciate art.