She sees the shadows - she even counts the tree-trunks along a promenade by the shadows, but sees nothing of the shape of things. (1)
In 1886, a 22-year-old woman in Lyon saw the world around her for the first time. Objects instantly recognisable by touch were hard to distinguish with her new sight, and shadows appeared more concrete than solid forms. Her doctors described the sudden strangeness of familiar environments, and her singular experience of the world as a newly-sighted person. In his 1932 book Space and Sight , Marius Von Senden collated the patient's experiences alongside testimonies of similar cases dating from 1020 to the present. These captivating accounts, which later inspired writers including Maggie Nelson and Annie Dillard, express how something familiar can show a previously unacknowledged beauty when seen in a new way.
She sees the shadows is a group exhibition of works from the David Roberts Collection that resonate with the ideas found in Space and Sight . Each artist has re-conceived day-to-day objects and materials in unexpected ways: a bench, plug socket, grate, section of railing or broom—inviting viewers to see alternative qualities and narratives therein. Each of the works in a collection, like the testimonies compiled by Von Senden, speak of personal experiences and moments. She sees the shadows is accompanied by a new publication with responses to the project from writers Orit Gat, Claire Potter and Sally O'Reilly and artists David Birkin, Jason Dodge, Marine Hugonnier, Marlie Mul, Magali Reus and Douglas White.
(1) M. Von Senden (trans. P. Heath), Space and Sight: the perception of space and shape in the congenitally blind before and after operation , 1932, Methuen & Co. Ltd.: London, 1960.