At the crossroads of disability studies, design, comics studies and art, Shapereader was initially designed for comics readers with visual impairment. It is built on a growing repertoire of tactile ideograms (tactigrams) that provide haptic equivalents for all the semantic features of a comics narrative. Shapereader transposes semantic cognition to the reader’s fingertips. Its research was funded by the Kone Foundation in 2015 and its ongoing outreach plan for raising awareness has been unfolding in a variety of formats, contexts and collaborations. It is a transdisciplinary, inclusive project that promotes an embodied, non-retinal, narrative experience with an international outreach unique in the history of comics. More information can be found on the Shapereader website.
In 2021, and in the middle of the global pandemic, Shapereader’s tactile resources are put to use in the field of sonic experimentation and musical notation during a residency at the Vooruit Kunstencentrum. Eighteen performers from a variety of backgrounds, were invited to question the normativity of conventional notation tools, discuss the de-emphasizing of vision in regards to reading music and explore the manifold ways sound can be translated and stimulated by touch. The installation and the two music performances commemorate a certain mutuality, subscribed within a larger sensorial frame of acknowledging the physicality of surfaces, consistencies and forms, a sense of touch which might never be the same again. This is an international coproduction between the Onassis Foundation (GR), Vooruit and C-Takt (BE). The following documentary showcases Shapereader and its tactile resources as a speculative tool of musical notation.