Seeing in the Dark by Workneh Bezu

‘Seeing in the Dark’ will be an art exhibition held in a total darkness, the first time such a concept has been attempted in the Middle East region.  For this extraordinary show, audiences will have to use their sense of touch to enjoy the works of art. Create Hub Gallery commissioned leading contemporary artist Workneh Bezu, to produce tactile art which will then be displayed in a blacked-out space.  The goal is to create a one-of-a-kind experience that enables people to rethink the way they perceive art.

“Not being able to see facilitates a different way to experience art.” says Gallery Managing Director and Founder, Lidija Khachatourian. “With ‘Seeing in the Dark’, Create Hub is breaking all the rules of traditional gallery shows.  We will need audiences to touch the art, when this is usually forbidden - and unlike any other art experience, they will not be able to rely on their sense of sight or hearing.  Art, like all creative mediums, is subject to interpretation, whether an individual perceives art with their eyes or hands may well be irrelevant to their enjoyment. ‘Seeing in the Dark’ will be a uniquely immersive art experience; we are challenging audiences to reactivate their forgotten senses and to enjoy art in a more intimate way.”

For ‘Seeing in the Dark’, the usually bright Create Hub Gallery will be draped in darkness to present the art in an enigmatic environment.  Using their sense of touch only, audiences will scrutinize the art which has been created with tactile features, with canvasses that are layered and embossed with different textures such as rope.  The art will include words that can read by touch, so to simulate a similar to reading braille.  

To compliment the exhibition, Create Hub Gallery has produced a commemorative box-set of prints of the art by Workneh Bezu, structured in the style of a book.  With playful and attractive images, accompanied by text in braille, the book can be enjoyed both seeing and visually impaired people. The style of the book is inspired by Dubai-based author Angela Boshoff Hundal’s book, ‘Goodnight; Sleep Tight’. 

The multi-talented Workneh Bezu is the perfect choice of artist to rise to the challenge of producing work for both the ‘Seeing in the Dark’ exhibition and book.  In line with the Gallery’s mission to work with emerging African artists, Workneh is a leading Ethiopian contemporary artist, and a founding member of one of Ethiopia’s highly popular artist collectives, the Habesha Art Studio. Workneh practices in many different media including rug puppets, paintings in oil and watercolors, sculptures video works and graphic art. He is best known as the pioneer of puppet and short animation film in Ethiopia. He’s widely known as a writer a director and a producer of the first children film in puppet film in Ethiopia, entitled Sasase fable ye sasase teret.

“Workneh has produced a fantastic set of art-work, very fitting for this highly-unusual show.” says Lidija. Explaining the concept of the exhibition, she adds. “As we develop as humans, we gain knowledge through our senses. When one of these senses is compromised, we will adapt and sharpen the other senses.  We are all taught to experience art as a visual or auditory pleasure, with the sense of touch universally left out as an additional, or alternative, way to enjoy art. Lack of sight gives us a different conception of shape, mass, size and colour – and a revolutionary new way to appreciate and enjoy art.”

‘Seeing in the Dark’ opens on 28th February at Akka Project Warehouse #4, Al Quoz 3.  

The exhibition will run from 1st to 10th March. 

 © 2020 by Lidija Kostic Khachatourian

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