Casa Fiat de Cultura, group of people

​"It's exciting to be able to feel the works of art and get to know their history"

Casa Fiat de Cultura launches 3D versions of renowned paintings, made by the FCA Design Center, for the appreciation of the visually impaired

"A picture is worth a thousand words".

"Every person has his/her vision of the situation."

"You have to look at it from another angle."

September 21, 2018 - What do the three sentences have in common? It’s that they understand the action of looking and seeing, as synonymous with experiencing reality. Let's face it: if the human body has five senses, why does knowing the world seem, for most people, to be something restricted to the image that is formed before their eyes?

How can a person with visual impairment, blind or with low vision, learn about a painting in detail if, for conservation reasons, they can't touch it? If you've never stopped to think about it, the good news is that Casa Fiat de Cultura and FCA already have. The 3D versions of paintings created by the FCA Design Center are part of the exhibition "Saint Francis in the Art of Italian Masters" which has just been released. The goal is to increase accessibility. Thus, three renowned paintings – representative of the artistic movements are present in the exhibition: Pre-Renaissance, Renaissance and Baroque – were "translated" for tactile appreciation and turned into pieces to be handled by visually impaired people.

Celso Morassi with a 3d version of a painting

Directly involved in the initiative, Celso Morassi (photo beside), supervisor of Modeling at FCA's Design Center, explains that the pieces were made from a resin similar to wood, with a machine that chops a block of the material to create the three-dimensional shape drawn virtually. This design guide is a kind of programmed route for the machine to go through the solid block, a design created from the team's interpretation of what, in the two-dimensional work, should be in each plane in the reinterpretation, adding to the painting layers of depth. "The machine worked for 26 hours on the piece with more detail, reducing the diameter of the milling cutter for each phase, starting with the 10 mm all the way to 1 mm, to ensure more delicate contours", explains Morassi. Then each version of the paintings was sanded by hand, to make the result more refined and make it even more pleasant to the touch for those fingers with a sharp sensitivity.

"It was a challenge to turn something two-dimensional into a three-dimensional piece, defining the most important contours to give it volume and the notion of planes and depth," says Celso. The president of Casa Fiat de Cultura, José Eduardo de Lima Pereira, agrees by saying: "It is a challenging job because it is very difficult. We thought at all times about the experience of the visually impaired, taking into account the feedback we had from these visitors in previous projects. In addition, we used the knowledge given by area professionals who have theoretical and practical studies on how best to provide this accessibility service". The experience of the visually impaired public with the 3D version pleased everyone. "I was very happy to be able to touch the pieces", says Nívea de Paula Martins (pictured below), a Library Science student who is part of the Lar das Cegas or Home for the Blind, maintained by the Association Louis Braille for the Blind and works in the socialization and promotion of citizenship for people with visual impairment. "It's another imagination, different from when someone describes the image to us. It is exciting to be able to feel the works of art, to know their history". Nívea says she was enchanted by the curtain made of thick ropes which is part of one of the galleries of the exhibition and hung from the ceiling all the way to the floor, offering tactile stimulation. "I also loved the panel with fabric scraps that resemble Saint Francis’ clothing," she adds.

Nívea de Paula Martins  touches a 3d version of a painting

The pedagogue and massage therapist Maria da Conceição Pires, who is also part of Home for the Blind and has low vision, was happy with the possibility of using what she considers her most accute sense in order to get to know the paintings. "It's a very good opportunity to be able to touch all three woks, it was a soft touch. And I also liked the colors expressed with textures, because they offered a good understanding of everything", she says, referring to the tactile color system being tested by the Accessibility Center of Casa Fiat de Cultura's Educational Program. This methodology allows for the recognition of colors through geometric shapes. For example: if a blue surface is filled with embossed circles and red one with triangles, then a purple surface is the junction of these two. "Knowing that there are people who think about this type of public, with other needs, is very pleasing", says Conceição about the initiative.

Someone who also had a chance to touch the art was the journalist Renato Lara Júnior, who chose his favorite one: Saint Francis of Assisi and four flagellants (1499), by Pietro Perugino and Giovan Francesco Ciambella. "That's the one I understood best. I was able to perceive his head, his tunic, the shape of the cross, it's all easy to distinguish", recounts Júnior, who says that he also got the triangular composition of the painting, with a central figure that goes to the top and the smaller ones lower, characteristic of the Gothic period (Middle Ages) that developed in the Pre-Renaissance period and became the canon of the Renaissance. Clarita Gonzaga, coordinator of the Educational Program of Casa Fiat de Cultura, explains that the exhibition resources were developed taking into account the specifics of each artistic movements. "We constructed a series of strategies and tools, mainly thinking about making accessible some basic concepts of Saint Francis' iconography throughout the History of Art", she says, citing as an example the concern to highlight the triangular composition perceived by Junior.

The journalist considers that the 3D works of art were very well executed. "The world is all very visual, so it is so important to have exhibits with a tactile appeal for people with visual impairment" he adds, also praising the real-time audio description in galleries , where everything is narrated, even the arrangement of common objects, such as the benches in the video room of the exhibition.

Flávio Oliveira touching a 3d version of a painting

History professor and writer Flávio Oliveira (photo above), who is also visually impaired, experienced the exhibit and praised what he called the protagonism of Casa Fiat de Cultura in guaranteeing this experience for people with special needs. "Access to the cultural, historical, artistic heritage of humanity, access to memory is a human right, therefore it’s universal", he argued, noting that the initiative of the space can encourage other museums and cultural centers to be more concerned with accessibility. "In general there is a restrictive idea of what it means to understand the world through all the senses. When I'm touching a work of art, I'm not seeing it with my fingers, I'm feeling it with my fingers", explains the teacher. "It is important for people to understand that a part of the world, whether it is a landscape or an indoor space, can be understood more fully in an integral, holistic, synesthetic way with all the senses", says Flávio, who considers that each sense has its own way of perceiving. It's a much richer understanding of art when these senses are stimulated.

The lesson is that art goes far beyond what is seen for those who can see — those who see without disabilities. The three pieces created can also be touched by these people as a way to deepen their knowledge. "We believe that aesthetic experiences open new possibilities for perception and interaction with the world, because they offer diverse stimuli that can even awaken new perspectives and channels for this perception. It's perfect for both the disabled and the regular public", says Clarita.

And if life imitates art and art imitates life, Celso Morassi tells us that FCA's design, consecrated worldwide, is learning a lot from each of these exchanges. "For us, it's the reinforcement of the understanding we have always had that making cars goes far beyond vision. The design should take experience into consideration as a whole: from the texture of the panel to the smell of the seats, every curve of the structure", he says, and happy to have participated in yet another project aimed at inclusion.

Check the details of the production of the works in the video below:

Words: Bárbara Caldeira

Pictures: Marketing

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