Dallas Museum of Art and High Museum of Art to Present Pioneering Design Exhibition Exploring the Spectrum of Sensory Experience
Opening at the DMA in November 2019 and Traveling to the High in April 2020, Speechless will Debut New Works by International Designers Ini Archibong, Matt Checkowski, Misha Kahn, the Ladd Brothers, Laurie Haycock Makela, and Yuri Suzuki
The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) (Dallas, TX) and the High Museum of Art (High) (Atlanta, GA) today announced the co-organization of Speechless, an exhibition that merges research, aesthetics, and innovative new design to explore the vast spectrum of sensory experiences and new approaches to accessibility and modes of communication in the museum setting. Speechless will debut new work by six leading and emerging international designers and design teams—Ini Archibong, Matt Checkowski, Misha Kahn, Steven and William Ladd, Laurie Haycock Makela, and Yuri Suzuki—whose projects were informed by conversations with specialists from prominent academic and medical institutions. Their site-specific installations and new commissions will create participatory environments and distinct situations in which senses merge or are substituted for one another.
Curated by Sarah Schleuning, The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design and Interim Chief Curator at the DMA, Speechless will open at the DMA on November 10, 2019, and remain on view through February 23, 2020. The exhibition is presented in Dallas by Texas Instruments. The High will present the exhibition in Atlanta from April 25 through September 6, 2020.
“This exhibition is about blurring the boundaries between senses, media, disciplines, and environments to encourage visitors to interact and communicate through design,” said Schleuning. “Speechless is about what makes us as individuals unique—the challenges we experience through ourselves and others—ultimately defining the interconnections among all of us. Our perceptions, experiences, and differences should unite us instead of divide us, heightening our understandings and creating a greater sense of empathy in ourselves and our community.”
“The DMA is committed to offering our audiences opportunities for discovery and for learning about different perspectives and cultures through our exhibitions and collections, and the intersections between them,” said Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “In line with this approach, Sarah’s work on this groundbreaking project—involving years of cross-disciplinary study and collaboration with designers, scholars, and scientists at the forefront of innovation in art and accessibility—is truly pioneering within our field and creates an incredible opportunity to provide a truly distinct museum experience to our audiences. We are pleased to partner with the High in presenting Speechless, an exhibition that creates meaningful experiences for visitors of all backgrounds and abilities, and also contributes important scholarship and insight about how museums can innovate with everything from installation to the visitor experience.”
“Sarah Schleuning began to develop this important project while serving as our curator of decorative arts and design, so it feels very fitting, and full circle, to co-organize this exhibition with our esteemed colleagues at the DMA,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Director of the High. “This exhibition dovetails perfectly with our ongoing and evolving commitment to access. Consequently, we’re excited to welcome audiences with wide-ranging abilities to experience these unique and immersive installations. We hope to learn something important about how such a diverse group of visitors interacts with these works as well as engages with each other within the spaces.”
Harnessing the power and impact of design, Speechless offers audiences unconventional multisensory experiences that foster understanding of the varied ways in which we experience the world through our senses. The exhibition presents opportunities for new modes of communicating ideas beyond speech and words. Organized in five major sections, the exhibition is connected by a central introductory space and sensory de-escalation area, through which visitors must pass to move between sections. Six contemporary designers will create spaces that fuse multiple sensory experiences—for instance, rendering sound visible or language tactile. The works include:
- The Oracle, designed and engineered by California-born, Switzerland-based multi-disciplinary designer Ini Archibong, will explore non-traditional ways of experiencing sound. The space occupied by Archibong’s work will be infused with a soothing, harmonious soundscape created by a custom synthesizer, which removes discordant sound and produces pure sound waves. The installation will feature an array of interactive elements designed to illustrate sound through movement, shape, light, and color, including a pool with an obelisk that visitors can rotate to tune the sound to various bass tones, thereby changing the shape and movement of the water as well; a gridlike shelving system holding handblown glass shapes that pivot to initiate shifts in light and color; and knobs throughout the room that visitors can turn to communally alter the sound in the space.
- Glyph, by designer and filmmaker Matt Checkowski, will explore the creativity behind each designer’s work in Speechless and the role of empathy that informs it through a series of narrative and intimate short film portraits of each artist. He is developing a method of word and image translation whereby the filmed speech of each artist will be transformed live into images, offering a new, universal visual language for the ideas conveyed by the creative minds involved with this project.
- Brooklyn-based designer and artist Misha Kahn will create a meandering coral garden composed of vibrant, dynamic inflatables that will move in multiple ways, inflating and deflating over the course of each day. Visitors can touch, sit, squeeze, and otherwise interact with the inflatable forms, both observing the landscape change around them and themselves participating in the alteration.
- Scroll Space, presented by New York–based brothers and artists Steven and William Ladd, will be a vibrant and tactile room created entirely of tens of thousands of hand-rolled textile "scrolls." These scrolls will be made in collaboration with 2,000 community members in Dallas and Atlanta through the Ladd Brothers’ community engagement program Scrollathon®, which brings the arts to underserved populations through hands-on creative workshops. The Dallas program will include participants from the Center for BrainHealth and the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas.
- The exhibition’s graphic identity and corresponding publication Speechless: Beyond Sense is created by Laurie Haycock Makela, a leader in the field of experimental, transdisciplinary graphic design. Playing with the multiple meanings of the word “speechless,” the publication will explore the evolution of the project, document the installations, and feature conversations between the designers and the curator. Both innovative and accessible, her work contributes to the foundation of total inclusive and interactive experience of the project.
- Sound Of The Earth Chapter 2, a sound installation by London-based sound artist and designer Yuri Suzuki, will integrate audio crowdsourced from around the world. The work will take the form of a spherical sculpture with which visitors can interact by placing their ears against the surface. Each spot on the sphere represents a different area of the world and will “whisper” back a corresponding sound sourced from that region, enabling visitors to experience the globe in a fresh way, beyond text and words. Anyone around the world can submit audio via the DMA’s website at earthsounds.dma.org.