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The Disordered Eye

Disabled artist and film-maker Richard Butchins investigates whether good vision equals great art and looks at modern and historical artists through the lens of their impaired vision.

Disabled artist and film-maker Richard Butchins challenges the importance of good vision in making great art. He suggests that visual impairments have contributed positively to its creation. We take the things we see for granted and assume that what we look at is actually what it is. What is it that we are actually seeing, if vision is all just electrical impulses sent to our brains and then turned into images of reality by our minds? Richard questions whether we need good eyesight to make great art at all.

Examining the work of Monet and Degas, Richard discovers surprising revelations about the effect of impaired vision on many painters of the last 150 years and beyond. Michael Marmor, emeritus professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, explains how Degas and Monet used their disabilities in a positive and clever way. Georgina Kleege, professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, shares her thoughts on blindness and art as someone who lost their sight as a child. And Anil Seth, professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex, explains how we see with our brains and not our eyes.

Richard also meets contemporary artists Keith Salmon, Sally Booth and the family of the late Sargy Mann, along with sculptor Aaron McPeake and cyborg artist Neil Harbisson, all of whom use their disabilities in a positive and clever way. Richard looks at art and visual impairment but argues that any kind of disability changes our perception of the world, whether we want it to or not, and that a disability can both alter and add a fresh dimension to an artist’s work. Perhaps it is about time we reassessed our perspective on vision loss and disability in general.

58 minutes

Last on

Fri 6 Nov 2020 00:30

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:24

    Wayne Hill

    Left Bank Two ('Vision On Gallery' Theme Tune)

    Performer: The Noveltones.
  • 00:56

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Priest's Chorus O Isis Und Ostris


Role Contributor
Presenter Richard Butchins
Interviewed Guest Michael Marmor
Interviewed Guest Georgina Kleege
Interviewed Guest Anil Seth
Interviewed Guest Keith Salmon
Interviewed Guest Sally Booth
Interviewed Guest Aaron McPeake
Interviewed Guest Neil Harbisson
Producer Cesca Eaton
Director Richard Butchins


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