This blog post is a reflection on my experience of ‘Walk, Hands, Eyes (Edinburgh)’ by Myriam Lefkowitz at the Talbot Rice Gallery*
Closing my eyes, I entrusted my sight with a stranger. They took my hand, placed another on my back and began to walk. At first, my steps were tentative because I had to become used to the feeling of my feet on the ground and the pace at which the guide led me.
Whispering the instructions close to my ear, I was told to take a step down, again, again and again. These were slow and careful movements. I slid my shoe along the surface of the paving just to check that was the final step. The quiet courtyard turned into a busy roadside, with people talking and walking past, with cars and buses feeling frightfully close. A suitcase rattled past.
It was strange feeling, I felt I was being stared at but I could not look back. I wanted to know what people’s reactions were as they saw me being slowly guided by the hand down the street. I wanted to see how people walked past us, maybe they just ignored us. Yet, I knew that these questions were a significant part of the whole experience and I remained determined to keep my eyes tightly shut.
I began to become aware of insignificant details such as road surface changes and noises which seemed more prominent and distinct than ever before. I was listening intently to everything, trying to discover clues of our location.
Suddenly we entered a warm space, I heard crockery clattering, soft voices and gentle Christmas music in the background. I was unaware that we were going to go into buildings, which threw me off the track I had envisioned us walking. I then felt very confused, lost in time and space.
During the walk, on four different occasions, I was asked to open my eyes and very quickly close them again. These moments revealed nothing but strong images which I would instantly associate with other things. The only time I could directly pinpoint our location was inside the Museum of Scotland. It was the sounds of children, echoing environment and with a familiarity from my childhood, I instantly recognised our location in one of the instructed eye opening moments. For one of these snapshots, I was face to face with another person. Closing my eyes again, I realised- it was me.
Walking around Edinburgh in a totally unfamiliar sensory way, has enhanced my sense of place by changing the way I listen to the sounds of the city.
*you can find more information about the exhibition here: https://www.trg.ed.ac.uk/exhibition/myriam-lefkowitz-walk-hands-eyes-edinburgh