The New Zealand Maritime Museum’s new exhibition Knot Touch celebrates the versatility and variety of knots.
Using netting, rope and a range of knots, artist Jae Kang has created an installation to stimulate the imagination and provide a unique experience. The tactile nature of the exhibition makes it accessible to all ages and abilities. Often, galleries and museums are off-limits to visitors as far as touching the art and objects. Children are “educated to hold their hands behind their back and to stand back from the artwork,” says Kang, “This restriction greatly affects their experience and what they learn”.
The site-specific installation Knot Touch, which is located in the museum’s Edmiston Gallery, removes this restriction and invites visitors to interact and engage with the work. Jae Kang is a Korean-born, sculptor and painter who lives in Auckland. A trained art teacher, she has worked with both children and individuals from the autistic community. The sensory-friendly exhibition was inspired by Kang’s son, who has severe autism and is intellectually disabled. “I started this project as tangible installation especially for children and those with special needs,” she says, “I have never been able to take my son to galleries to see exhibitions because I know that he will touch the works.” Kang is also passionate about the work being accessible everyone and is particularly suitable to the blind community and those with low-vision. “How they can see the art works? Touching is their major sense for seeing, understanding, feeling, learning and enjoying,” Kang says.
In the past she has been involved in several projects that were designed to invite and engage those with special needs but found there were limitations. “We still had to focus on controlling them not to touch the art works. I felt I failed them. My thought was that it would be better to make an art work
for them.” Knot Touch has been created to offer these groups an opportunity to fully interact with an artwork without fear of being reprimanded for touching. The ability to move through and be surrounded by an artwork provides a very different and engaging experience. “I am an artist who understand the minorities in our art industry and I want to invite them as the major viewers in this exhibition. They will become the centre of the work,” Kang says.
The exhibition opens on September 20 and runs through until April 29, 2018