'The Blind Astronomer' by Berco Wilsenach

6 February, 2013

Spier is pleased to present the highly anticipated solo exhibition, "The Blind Astronomer" by artist, Berco Wilsenach. Join us for the opening of this experiential museum exhibit in advance of its permanent residency within the Spier Collection.


7 – 29 March 2013
MOAD (Museum of African Design)
281 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg

Artist Walkabout times: 15h00 on the 9th, 10th, 16th and 23rd of March

Spier' s Artist Patronage Programme is designed to give intensive support over an extended period (generally a period of four to five years) to artists we judge to be exceptional and who we believe could greatly benefit from the creative freedom that the programme provides. "The Blind Astronomer" is a culmination of Wilsenach' s four-year long practical and theoretical search, supported by Spier, for ways of expressing both the inaccessibility of language and the primacy of sight in the aesthetic.

Wilsenach' s massive installation 'Written in the stars' form a key part of a larger body of sculptural works. It is comprised of a series of glass panels shimmering in mid-air, lit from within and sand blasted with precisely plotted sectors of the visible night sky. Not only are these star maps presented as a tactile experience, but the necessary information is also written in Braille. This limits the experience for the sighted viewer, who can see the stars but only for their superficial beauty. The blind person has a more informative experience but cannot totally grasp the visual impact of the night sky. Both the blind and the sighted therefore remain in the dark.

In a second body of work, 'Set in stone' , that developed technically and conceptually from the tactile properties of the "blind" star maps, Wilsenach considers the idea of the cartographic gaze: the way in which cultures have "colonised" the heavens by placing different mapping conventions over this natural phenomena in order to make sense of the unknown.  Star maps are not entirely explanatory, but rather a confirmation of information that is accessible to those who are already knowledgeable and informed. Unlike a land map, which people can comprehend because they have moved through phyiscal space and understand the visual codes delimiting space and distance, star maps plot a realm that is beyond ordinary human experience. Wilsenach questions these conventions of representation by ironically placing the "fixed" stars in solid ground and allowing for our solid earth to float above.

Further Resources