HAPPENINGText: Andrew Sinn

What does the world feel like, when you’re blind? I found out at the exhibition “Dialogue In The Dark“. It’s concept is very easy: build some rooms with an usual environment and delete all the light in it, so that it is completely dark. Then let the visitors be guided through by blind people.

My group of about 10 people was prepared by a guy who handed out some sticks and told us to keep them on the ground. We had to also remove all our illuminated watches and phones and then entered the darkness, where a blind woman told us what we had to expect. At this point, two people decided to better leave the darkness and I felt quite uncomfortable too, in an empty room of an unknown size, tapping totally irritated around on other people’s feet listening to a woman I haven’t seen. We passed a door and went into the first room:

Forest. First thing that surprised me, was the moss underneeth my feet. It was totally soft and as I didn’t expect it (because I couldn’t see it) I nearly fell! The air strongly smelled like forest, and I walked against a bush, that I examined carefully (i hope no one watched me ;-). I realized that the room wasn’t very large as I wanted to go on and always found some bushes in the way. So I didn’t know where to go! Soon the guiding woman told us to come to her direction and walk over a bridge next to her. And then another bridge which starting to swing as soon as I was standing on it! Crazy feeling for the sense of balance without seeing! Door.

Level 2: Ancient Civilisation. A stake and a small hut made out of straw with a small entrance. It was very hard to find the way out again after more and more people came inside. I really had to calm down and breathe deep. Outside I was lucky to find my friend Alex again and cuffed his nose which was hard to find.

Level 3: Market-Place. Walking on stone pavement and trying to figure out some objects like coconuts, potatoes and a car (a Citroen 2CV, Germans call it a “duck”). Suddenly there were some barking dogs but I wasn’t very afraid. It all started to become an entertaining show, with many nice effects here and there.

Level 4: Next was driving with a boat where everyone was led to his place by the blind woman knocking on the target-place of the boat’s bench. I used my stick to check if there was real water around the boat, because we obviously were still in the building. Yes, there it was! As everyone sat down, the boat started. It slowly moved left and right, we heard the engine running and a soft wind started blowing. The woman told us, that we had to wait for a ship to pass, and I felt fine water drops in my face.

Level 5: Changed the tour to a quite esoteric thing: we all had to lay down on the floor and listen to a relaxing multi-culti mix of music with a lot of bass effects. That didn’t impress me much!

Level 6: Dialogue. The next room was “the bar in the dark” and that was my favorite place. This place was made to stay, so the people of earlier groups were still sitting and talking there which made it harder to orientate on the directions of sounds but after spending that much time in the dark, we were already fit for some real-life demands!

So we first had to walk to the bar and order something to drink. That meant that you first had to ask the barman what choices you had, because there obviously was no menu-card. I took a beer and a choclate-bar (hope this combination doesn’t confuse you!) and then had to pay. I took my wallet and tried to realize what kind of money I had and decided to give a note instead of coin, telling the barman what I thought how much it was. He confirmed and gave me the change – I had to trust which was easy but left some mixed emotions. Maybe that’s where they earn the money there 😉

The blind woman helped us with finding a place. I sat down next to some unknown people and talked with them, trying to imagine how they could look. A girl knew, that I am very tall (I am about 2 meters tall..) and that tall people had longer vocal chords and therefore darker voices. I never heard that before! We clinked glasses (which was surprisingly easy – we seem to be used to do it with dimmed senses!) drank our beer and spent some more time in the dark…

As we left the darkness it was like a flash. It took some time until I got used again to all that light. For the rest of the day I was feeling my reality very intensely!

The exhibition to me was not so much about being blind but more about discovering the other senses we have, that are often dominated by the impression of our eyes. That was a real interesting experience.

Dialoghaus Hamburg
Address: 4 Alter Wandrahm, Hamburg 20457
Tel: +49 40 3096 3430

Text: Andrew Sinn

[Help wanted] Inviting volunteer staff / pro bono for contribution and translation. Please e-mail to us.