Tactile Island

Tactile Island: The open-ended documentary.

My innocent curiosity in Tactile flooring turned from an interventionist action into an open-ended documentary on the visually impaired in Japan with sound artist Kalna Katsoum and videographer Alessandro Mavilio.

The Payphone Memorial PROJECT ARCHIVE
photosBlind with a voice
PDFReport (PDF 2.3MB)
PDFCoin action (PDF)

They are everywhere: on platforms, stations, department store entrances. They even lead right onto the urinal. The tiles with knobs on the floors offer tactile surfaces (short: Tactiles) and originated in Japan in 1967. Initially marking the edges of levelled, wheelchair accessible sidewalks, Tactiles evolved into a navigation system for the visually impaired. Even though Tactiles are common public inventory worldwide many don't know much about their purpose. So it was high time to do something with them...

Tactile Island

Kalna Katsuom talking to musician and English teacher Hiroshi Yorishita about confidently living without eyesight

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A journey of connection and dialog began and together with Kalna and Alessandro were we looking to bring our learnings into an articulated project. The title "Tactile Islands" refers to the 30 cm of safety zone that Tactile walkways can provide to the blind in public places. I originally thought of Tactiles as a kind of fold lines for thought-provoking social and performative intervention simply to get people engaged on their wider implications.

Tactile Island

Can the Tactile flooring be used to engage passersbyers? Coin-laying performances in Melbourne showed some promising interactions...

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In early 2006 I tested the interventionist performance One Coin At-A-Time in Melbourne where I would simply place Pennies on the knows of Tactile surfaces around the city. The idea was to get people to stop, interact, and possibly contribute a coin to the mosaic-type collection. A good number of people contributed but in the conversations I realized that I had no idea how the blind used those Tactiles and what their reality was. I was not interested in a single-mided charity collection, I wanted to have people (with and without eyesight) converse with each other that normally wouldn't.

Tactile Island

Eventually we connected with blind individuals and the Kyoto Lighthouse to learnabout the stories of the people depending on Tactile surfaces.

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An extended phase of learning began for me and my artist friends Alessandro Mavilio and Kalna Katsuom. In an effort to realize a film documentary we started to discover the world of blindness like you learn a foreign language, or develop an affinity for a different culture. Coming from the more illusionary and superficial world of the "seeing" we realized that it is an very rewarding experience. Tactile Island never made it into a film or visual articulation, but it brought about the interview series "Blind with a Voice" between three artists and a group of blind individuals in Kyoto that can be inspiring to others.